Wednesday, December 23, 2015

UConn seniors bring sense of "calm" to defense

When doing a little depth-chart tabulation it is easy to notice that there are fewer seniors among the first 44 players listed on offense and defense than any other class.

However, what the senior class lacks in quantity certainly seems to be made up for in quality especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Seniors Andrew Adams, Julian Campenni and Graham Stewart have started all 12 games, Kenton Adeyemi has started 11 games and Marquise Vann has been in the starting lineup eight times. Taking it one step further, Campenni and Adams have started 37 and 32 games respectively while Stewart (26 starts), Vann (24) and Adeyemi (23) have more than 20 career starts. It has allowed UConn defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter to bring out the best of sophomores Luke Carrezola, Foley Fatukasi, Junior Joseph and Jamar Summers to emerge into stars despite coming into the season with 12 career starts between them.

"You have veteran guys who have been in the game, played a lot of snaps," Poindexter said after today's practice. "They can bring a calm to the rest of the guys when we were breaking in your guys. That has been a big benefit to have those veterans in there."

Players like Adams, Adeyemi, Campenni, Stewart and Vann as well as reserve safety Junior Lee who may see as much playing time as any non-defensive starter are reliable blue-collar types which fits well with their defensive coordinator.

"I am not flashy guy," Poindexter said. "I am a blue-collar guy and country boy so that is our makeup and we are just going to play it out."

There are some things that caught my eye at the last two practices. First, junior receiver Noel Thomas seems to be OK after getting taped up after leaving practice for a bit today. He did return towards the end of practice and ran some routes. I expect him to play with no restrictions on Saturday.

I also think you will see sophomore Trey Rutherford getting some snaps with the starting offensive line. He certainly has had his opportunities with the first unit during practice.

"He has continued to arrow up for us and looking forward, we are thinking he is well prepared to play very well on Saturday," UConn offensive coordinator Frank Verducci said.

While he won't be playing on Saturday, former Naugatuck High star Bryan Coney continues to impress. He has been working with the "look" team. Since UConn coach Bob Diaco arrived he began having his look team players wear the uniform numbers of the opposing team's best players so the UConn starters are better prepared for what is coming. Coney was playing the role of Marshall receiver Deandre Reaves. It seemed like each time I looked up Coney was making a play. At one point after a brilliant diving catch near the sideline, freshman receiver Frank Battle walked over and said "you are putting on a show today."

It should also be noted that injured defensive end Cole Ormsby and offensive lineman Ryan Crozier were going through agility drills and if you didn't know any better, they looked like they were both healthy enough to play.

Speaking of injured players, I won't break down who was seeing time at tight end/h-back/fullback in the continued attempt to replace the injured Tommy Myers but just seeing how many people have been used in practices and games since Myers suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the win over Houston is an indication of how valuable Myers was to the offense.

I asked Verducci if it took Myers' injury for him to fully comprehend how important of a player Myers was to the offense.

"We knew," Verducci said with a laugh. "Every week we thanked goodness those two guys (Myers and Alec Bloom) came through up until Houston. You saw how we started the Houston game, he went out and you saw how it affected us. Then Bryant (Shirreffs) going out compounding that so they are valuable pieces. Our jobs are to have the next guy ready and when those situations happen, everybody has to adapt and rise up."

Last but certainly not least, former UConn quarterback Shane Stafford was at practice today. I spoke to him for about five minutes and used some of what he had to say in my story running in tomorrow's paper. Look for more from that interview in a blog post probably coming tomorrow.


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