Thursday, April 30, 2015

BYU announces time of UConn game

BYU's schedule was posted on its official site including start times of five games including the Oct. 2 game against UConn.

The game will kickoff shortly after 8:15 p.m. MST (which is a deadline nightmare 10:15 p.m. kickoff here in Connecticut). The game will be televised on either ESPN or ESPN2.

BYU and UConn met in the 2014 season opener with the Cougars rolling to a 35-10 win.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

UConn unveiled new uniforms & helmets

Coming off a 2-10 season, the hope is that things will look much different when UConn hits the football field.

While it's too early to know what the final record is going to be, UConn did take one step towards a new look when it unveiled its new uniforms led by a different looking helmet.

For those interested in such things, here's a link to a photo gallery

Jones, McBryde look to add to legacy of 2012 UConn defense

Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Sio Moore lead list of members
of 2012 UConn defense who are playing pro football

The adage is that defense wins championships but during the 2012 season, a plethora of professional prospects on the defensive side of the ball wasn't enough to keep UConn from limping to a 5-7 final record.

When Byron Jones will be the seventh member of that defensive squad to be taken in the NFL Draft. B.J. McBryde has put himself in position to get into an NFL training camp as well. If that happens, 15 defensive players from that team would have had a taste of professional football. Perhaps safety Andrew Adams, defensive end Kenton Adeyemi and defensive tackle Julian Campenni, who will be seniors on the '15 UConn squad, can add to that list that is if Angelo Pruitt doesn't find his way into an NFL training camp this year.

It started in the 2013 NFL Draft when cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh Wilson and linebacker Sio Moore were all taken in the third round. Defensive end Trevardo Williams went in the fourth round.

Here's a breakdown of the defensive players from the 2012 team

Player                        2012 statistics           Pro team
Yawin Smallwood    120 tackles, 15 TFL  7th round pick by Atlanta Falcons, on Tennessee roster
Jory Johnson             95 tackles                  Leads Bemidji of IFL in interceptions and tackles for loss
Sio Moore                 78 tackles, 8 sacks    140 tackles, 7.5 sacks in 26 games with Oakland Raiders
Dwayne Gratz           53 tackles, 3 INTs    3 interceptions in two seasons with Jacksonville Jaguars
Ryan Wirth               51 tackles, 10 TFL    Was in rookie camp with Baltimore Ravens
Blidi Wreh-Wilson   47 tackles                  11 passes defended in 24 games with Tennessee Titans
Trevardo Williams    11/5 sacks                 5 tackles and sack in 3 games with Washington Redskins
Taylor Mack              28 tackles                 Signed by CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats on April 14
Shamar Stephen        26 tackles                  23 tackles in 16 games as rookie for Minnesota Vikings
Tim Willman            18 tackles, 3 sacks    Was in rookie camp with Jacksonville Jaguars
Jesse Joseph              12 tackles                  Drafted by CFL's Montreal Alouettes, took part in Chicago Bears rookie camp
Ryan Donohue           5 tackles                  Was in rookie camp with Philadelphia Eagles
Teddy Jennings          1 tackle                    Set Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul record with 11 sacks during 2014 season

Adam Mueller, a three-year starting long snapper, earned spots on the conference's all-academic teams in each of his four seasons at UConn. Now comes an even more impressive honor.

Mueller was the lone UConn player named to the National Football Foundation's Hampshire Honor Society which is limited to players who attained at least a 3.2 grade-point average throughout their college careers. Mueller was one of 817 players to be honored by the NFF.

There are also 11 players from Yale, seven from Wesleyan and three from Trinity College on the list including 2014 NFF National Scholar-Athletes Tyler Varga from Yale and Trinity's Mike Mancini from Rocky Hill. Looking very quickly at the list, I also saw Cheshire's Rob Bowman from UNH (the one in New Hampshire) and Wallingford's Brett Biestek from Fordham.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Former UConn products on NFL draft radar

There was a time when the idea of a former UConn player being drafted was a big deal.

More than a decade passed after Paul Duckworth was taken with the 190th pick in the 1994 draft. When Alfred Fincher and Dan Orlovsky were taken in the third and fifth rounds in 2005, it started a remarkable run for the Huskies as UConn had more than one player selected seven times in the next 10 drafts. This will be the ninth straight season that at least one former Husky will hear their name called and if the speculation proves to be true, Byron Jones would join Donald Brown as the only UConn players to be selected in the first round.

While Jones won't need to wait long to hear his name called, it is going to a more of a wait and see process for Geremy Davis and B.J. McBryde.

Davis is the third-rated player with ties to Connecticut on the NFL Draft Scout database at No. 232, eight spots behind former Yale running back Tyler Varga.

There are so many sites out there listing top draft prospects but NFL Draft Scout was pretty close in projecting where the top two Connecticut natives (Khairi Fortt and Kevin Pierre-Louis) would go in last year's draft. Even more impressive was that they rated former UConn defensive lineman Shamar Stephen as the 222nd rated prospect and he went with the 220th pick. The site lists 14 players with ties to Connecticut with Jones (No. 21)., Davis and Varga (224) the only ones falling in the top 256 meaning that they are projected to be drafted. It should be noted that Ryan Griffin was prospect No. 341 when he was taken by Houston in the sixth round back in 2013 so the ratings should not be taken as gospel.

Here's the breakdown of players with Connecticut ties with their NFL Draft Scout rating

 20 Byron Jones UConn CB: Stole show at NFL Scouting Combine and could become first state native to go in first round since Dwight Freeney
224 Tyler Varga Yale RB: Bruising runner scored two touchdowns in Senior Bowl and could be first Yale player taken in top five rounds since 1982
232 Geremy Davis UConn WR: Helped his chances of being drafted by running in 4.5 range at UConn pro day
365 Ryan Delaire , Towson DE: Former Windsor High star had strong showing at Towson pro day and  local prospect days held by Ravens and Redskins.
398 Gordon Hill Sacred Heart S: Had solid showing at pro day held in Tolland and his agent Joe Linta believes he will go in sixth or seventh round.
558 Will Tye Stony Brook TE: Former Xavier High star ran 4.47 (at 257 pounds) at Stony Brook pro day
651 Lyle McCombs Rhode Island RB: Former UConn running back had 4.49 time in 40. went 11-3 in broad jump with 37 1/2 vertical jump at a regional combine
656 B.J. McBryde, UConn DT: Opened some eyes when 300 pounder had 10-3 broad jump and ran a sub 5.0 in the 40 at UConn pro day. Kansas City Chiefs had him in for workout.
670 Tebucky Jones, Fordham WR: Son of former first-round pick of the same name, the Farmington native and former UConn receiver Jones got invitations to local workouts with the Giants and Jets.
634 Tyler Murphy, Boston College QB: Former Wethersfield High star could be one of fastest quarterbacks in the draft,
709 Shakim Phillips, Boston College WR: Former UConn receiver ran in 4.3 range at BC pro day, took part in Giants local pro day and reportedly worked out with Patriots.
724 J.D. Roussel Sacred Heart CB: Set Pioneers' career record with 17 interceptions and is reported to have worked out with the Colts
752 Keshaudas Spence Sacred Heart RB: The 235 pounder ran for 780 yards as a senior after running for 1,669 yards during his junior season.
913 Rob Hollomon CCSU RB: Speedy back not only ran for 1,000 yards as a senior but also had 35 catches in addition to returning 20 kickoffs and six punts.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pair of UConn signees at Penn Relays

UConn incoming freshmen Tyraiq Beals and Hergy Mayala were among the high school track stars who competed in the prestigious Penn Relays.

Beals was a member of the East Orange (N.J.) High School team which finished third in heat No. 7 in the boys' large school 4x100 relay. East Orange, with Beals running the third leg, finished with a time of 43.95 seconds which was 37th among 256 teams on Friday.

Mayala ran the second leg as Trinity-Pawling finished third in the high school boys' prep school 4x100 independent event. Trinity-Pawling finished with a time of 46.22 on Friday. The next day Mayala ran on the second-place 4x100 team and was second in the 200 in a four-team meet at Westminster.

UConn's Mateas No. 3 on final CFL Scouting Bureau list

Former UConn center and team captain Alex Mateas is the No. 3 rated player and former Yale running back Tyler Varga is ranked fourth in the Canadian Football League Scouting Bureau's final ranking before next month's CFL Draft.

Varga, who starred at the Senior Bowl and earned an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine, is focusing on the NFL Draft which begins on Thursday. Mateas is being considered a possible No. 1 overall pick in the CFL Draft. Calgary and Toronto both sent personnel to Storrs for the UConn pro day in late March.

Rice defensive lineman Christian Covington and UNLV offensive lineman Brett Boyko are the top two prospect on the CFL Scouting Bureau final list.

The CFL Draft is set for May 12 with Ottawa owning the No. 1 overall pick.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Report: Eagles staff returns to UConn

The appearance of Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly at UConn's pro day created quite a bit of buzz.

Well, it appears as if Kelly (or at least his staff) isn't done evaluating UConn prospects.

NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline tweeted earlier today that Kelly and other members of the Eagles coaching/scouting staff are up at UConn today to evaluate cornerback Byron Jones, receiver Geremy Davis and defensive lineman B.J. McBryde. Although he is now backing off the report of Kelly being in attendance although he is reporting that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, receivers coach Bob Bicknell and defensive backs coach Cory Undlin are up at UConn today.

Philadelphia Eagles brain trust, including Chip Kelly, at UConn this morning to workout Byron Jones as well as Geremy Davis & B.J. McBryde

Update:  Conflicting reports on Chip Kelly attendance at UConn today.  Shurmur, Azzinaro, Bicknell, Undlin there. Waiting for confirmation

There have been plenty of rumors about Jones being the Eagles' first-round choice. If he did go to the Eagles at No. 20, it would be the highest a UConn player has been drafted. Donald Brown is the only former Husky to be taken in the first round as he went 27th overall to Indianapolis in the 2009 draft.

Davis, who former Dallas Cowboys draft guru Gil Brandt reported was one of two receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine not to drop a catchable pass, and McBryde both helped their stocks during the UConn pro day. Davis ran sub 4.5 in the 40 which was the biggest question about him while McBryde went under 5.0 and his 10-3 broad jump certainly opened some eyes.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Report: UConn TE McQuillan arrested following on-campus fight

According to a report in the Daily Campus, UConn senior tight end Sean McQuillan was arrested earlier this month on charges of assault in the second degree and disorderly conduct.

Campus police responded the Celeron Square Apartments for a reported fight on campus. The story said that officers determined McQuillan assaulted another individual that the Daily Campus reports was his roommate.

McQuillan, a redshirt senior, started and had the only touchdown in the spring game on Apr. 11. McQuillan finished with a game-high 76 receiving yards, 41 coming on the touchdown pass from Bryant Shirreffs.

McQuillan had 16 catches, the second most among the returning Huskies, for 158 yards and a touchdown during the 2014 season. He has 41 catches and a pair of touchdowns in 24 career games at UConn.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

UConn's Women's Football 101 Clinic set for June 12

The inaugural Women's Football 101 Clinic was such a hit that the event will be returning.

UConn announced that the event, which features the current UConn football players and coaches working with women in a variety of football drills.

Moe details on how to sign up will be coming at a later date.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

UConn's Byron Jones headed to NFL Draft

Former UConn defensive back Byron Jones, who has been skyrocketing up the draft boards after his sensational showings at the NFL Scouting Combine and at UConn's pro day, is among 26 players who have accepted invitations to attend the NFL

The NFL announced the list of names today and Jones is one of three cornerbacks and four defensive backs heading to Chicago for the draft.

Jones had 24 tackles, two interceptions and six passed defended as a senior despite missing the last four games due to a torn labrum suffered in a loss to East Carolina. Jones, who spent his first two seasons as a starting safety, finished his career with 223 tackles and eight interceptions.

Recent mock drafts have Jones projected to be a first round pick. The only other UConn product to go in the first round was running back Donald Brown, who was taken with the 27th overall pick by Indianapolis in the 2009 draft.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Sophomores impress at UConn spring game

Bryant Shirreffs (4) and Brian Lemelle (18) both had solid showings
Finally wrapped up transcribing the quotes from Saturday's Blue-White game and time to wrap things up.

At first glance I thought the sophomore class made quite the impact and looking closer at the numbers and that is even more evident.

The top two tacklers were sophomores Junior Joseph and Vontae Diggs, who had nine and seven tackles respectively. Nearly half of the tackles were recorded by players who were freshmen a season ago (including those who redshirted). The class also combined for 18 receptions, 133 receiving yards and 114 rushing yards (that is going under the assumption that a 20-yard loss attributed to Josh Marriner was merely a mistake in the final stats because unless I was just zoning out at that point, I don't recall Marriner being hit 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage).

Unofficially four players led the way with five targets and all four are heading into their sophomore seasons (tailbacks Ron Johnson and Arkeel Newsome and tight ends Alec Bloom and Tommy Myers). Last but certainly not least, Bryant Shirreffs led UConn had a game-high 168 passing yards.

After the game I asked Diaco if he was impressed with the growth of last year's freshmen.

"Alec Bloom, Vontae Diggs, Jamar Summers, you watch Jamar Summers out there and it is easy to forget that he was a freshman," UConn coach Bob Diaco said.

If the season were to open today, nine sophomores would be starters on either offense or defense. On offense, it would be Shirreffs, Johnson, Myers, center Ryan Crozier and guard Tommy Hopkins while defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi, linebackers Luke Carrezola and Joseph and cornerback Summers.

Here are Diaco's thoughts on some of these talented youngsters

"Early you could see that he hadn't had the feel of a stadium in a few years. He was kind of gripping it and even some of the checkdowns he hit were coming in hot but after five/six minutes in, he settled into some form. Decisions, ball handling driving it, mechanic of running offense was there, pretty clean that way. He has a nice touch on his shallow passing game. It was nice to see him settle in and throw those nice touch passes. he throws great on the move and he can really move.

"(Myers) absolutely has been a weapon at the point of attack and we have been pleased with how he is finishing the blocking."

"There is a significant role for Josh. You are just looking at one situation. Josh would really be our third down back right now so the combination of pass protection, hands , speed, he does a lot of things well. Arkeel, we've got to get the ball in space, we just have to, kicking game, offense, all kinds of ways. (Senior) Max (DeLorenzo) is another guy who is a jobs guy, ran well today, soft hands, he has a real knack and he runs particular plays well. Ron's going to be a battering ram, a lot red zone, third down, critical down, black zone coming out kind of guy."

"He looks inside like you are supposed to look. He runs down, he has a sense of where the ball is going to enter, he is a heavy hitter, heavy hands, he can really strike and shed. I'd like to see him tackle (better) but he is running to the ball and we are very pleased with Junior Joseph."

"the young guys played well, Atkins, Lawley, Cole played on the white and blue, he has a motor that doesn't quit. We are getting good play out of our boundary outside linebacker position, both Carrezola and Cam Stapleton and Omaine Stephens, (there was) good play there, wasn't a lot of action happening over there. You can see a lot less moments of voids in the defense, busted coverages, ball outside the defense where we lost force hallmarks of how to play good to great defense, you have to play the force. If you don't play the force well, you are not going to play good defense. It was nice to see that there weren't many force issues."

The talk wasn't limited to the sophomores.

Diaco also had tremendous praise for senior defensive linemen Julian Campenni and Kenton Adeyemi.

"There is not a team who graded their center (well) after Jul played them last year so he is continuing his development. He is fighting through some nagging stuff. He played his guts out today. kenton played hard, he is moving his game forward.

"Think about Kenton, now is almost 290 pounds. He was 260 pounds when we met him and now he is 290 pounds, now he can push, he is just as fast as he was long speed and short so now he has another 30 pounds to knock people back."

He continues to rave about the play of converted fullback Matt Walsh, who has found a home at inside linebacker.

"Inside linebackers are hard for me because I have to watch them but I will be shocked if I am not very excited because for 14 practices (he was) great. He was a hard decision about most improved. We gave the nod to Javon Hadley but Matt Walsh was right in the conversation, almost a coin flip. He has been awesome, he is at the right position, it is his natural position. He honestly does not require a lot of coaching to see where the plays are going to happen, he's got a natural feel for
finding the ball. He has been an incredible, not a pleasant surprise, that to me less than it actually is. He is an absolute add, a big plus from the spring. Like Crozier, so is Matt, awesome."

Finally, it was good to see junior receiver Brian Lemelle involved in the game plan. He showed tremendous promise as a freshman. Lemelle was targeted four times and caught all four balls including an impressive catch of a pass near his ankles that he snared with both hands and then turned up field.

"He is a different guy from when I met him," Diaco said. "Purposeful, professional, every day he is a worker. He is not a rah rah guy but he is a guy that you can look to and say 'look at Brian.' Do it like Brian. Brian, get to the front of line and show them how to do this drill. He is one of those guys."


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Youth is being served on UConn's offensive line

As Ryan Crozier and Tommy Hopkins walked off the field in early December following the completion of rather eventful freshmen season, the two promising offensive linemen had no idea what the future had in store for them.

It is a safe assumption that Crozier, who had never played a snap at center, did not envision himself as the starting center throughout spring camp. Perhaps almost as surprising was that Hopkins, who saw time mostly as a reserve offensive tackle during his redshirt freshman season, would end the final week of spring camp as the starting left guard.

When the final statistics were handed out in the Blue team's 13-3 win over the White in the annual spring fame, there were no grades listed for the offensive linemen but the progress reports for the two youngest members of the starting offensive line have been pretty good.

"The offensive line is doing well," junior quarterback Tim Boyle said. "They have come a long way in a year. Crozier moving from guard to center, he is doing a great job. both of our tackles (Richard Levy and Andreas Knappe) are juniors right now and they are going to add a lot of experience and then Tommy Hopkins, first year starter and Tommy is one of those kids who is quiet, he wont say a word to you but once he gets on the field he will get after it and he does everything the right way."

Crozier started the final three games at left guard. The feeling was that redshirt freshman Daniel Oak and junior Kyle Bockeloh would fight it out for the job of replacing graduated three-year starter Alex Mateas at center. However, when the team headed into winter workouts Crozier was given an additional assignment.

"All the practice I put in during winter workouts I got ready to (play center) and I just kept working during the spring and I gradually progressed," Crozier said. "I just studied the playbook, learned all the plays quicker than the other guys so I knew all the calls."

So what was the greatest challenge in moving from guard to center?

"Just the snaps, knowing that I have to get the ball back and they rely on that so just take care of that first and get to your blocking assignment," Crozier said. "Secondly, the calls knowing who the Mike (middle linebacker) is, what the front is."

While Crozier's first time at center came during spring camp, Hopkins spent time working at both guard and tackle in previous spring and preseason camps.

"Last year I played some guard for a couple of weeks and as a true freshman I actually played some guard at camp so I kind o of knew what to expect," Hopkins said. "Obviously I have to make some adjustments and have to work on my craft to keep getting better and it wasn't that bad of a switch over.

"I just focused on improving and watching film and said I was going to be better day by day, I tried to fix some things I need to fix. I was focused on myself and when they moved me over there, I knew I had an opportunity so I focused on doing the best I could."

Sophomore Trey Rutherford began spring camp as the starting left guard but late in camp Hopkins moved into a starting role.

"I will play wherever the team needs me but obviously guard/tackle are a little different," Hopkins said. "I have to pull more and there is not as much space but wherever you play, you just have to play tough and do the best you can."

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Some observations from UConn's spring game

Bob Diaco's second spring practice came to an end with today's Blue-White Game.

Here are some thoughts from the game won by the Blue (featuring the starters on both offense and defense) 13-3 over the White. Early on starting quarterback Bryant Shirreffs looked pretty nervous in the early stages and like a player who is still shaking the rust off after sitting out last season following his transfer from North Carolina State. Five of his six passing attempts went to the running backs as the play calling was conservative to say the least. As the game went on, UConn got its tight ends more involved especially with passes down the seams which is something we have no seen since Ryan Griffin was suiting up for UConn. The only touchdown was a 41-yard pass from Shirreffs to Sean McQuillan. Alec Bloom had a 29-yard catch and Tommy Myers had a 23-yard catch. The trio combined for 12 catches in the game.

The run game was pedestrian and that is being kind. The four scholarship tailbacks averaged 2.6 yards per carry and there were too many drops in the game.

A season ago I thought receiver Brian Lemelle and cornerback Javon Hadley looked like two of the freshmen who showed the most promise in the 2013 season but both had relatively quiet sophomore seasons. I was impressed with what I saw from both of them. Hadley joined offensive lineman Brendan Vechery as the White team captains which was picked by the coaches based on the players who improved the most during spring practice. Joseph and center Ryan Crozier (much more on him tomorrow) were the Blue team captains.

The focus was predictably about the quarterbacks and in particular Shirreffs (13 of 24 for 168 yards) and Tim Boyle (14 of 24 for 118 yards) which overshadowed a solid effort by the defense.

The way the game was set up the first team offense went against the No. 2 defense, yet other than letting McQuillan get free, the game was dominated by the defense. The top three tacklers for the White team was Vontae Diggs, redshirt freshman DB Anthony Watkins and converted fullback Matt Walsh. John Green had a breakup in the end zone on a pass intended for Noel Thomas and Mikal Myers batted down two passes at the line of scrimmage. With Myers joining Julian Campenni, Foley Fatukasi and Kenton Adeyemi, UConn is going to be a hard time to run on especially with a vastly improved linebacker Junior Joseph in the middle.

Health wise, Diaco said the team came away rather clean. Tailback Ron Johnson did come out of the game but came back while reserve defensive lineman James Atkins had to be helped to the sidelines.

Walk-on running back Jason Thompson, a former Shelton High star, had a 40-yard run, the longest of the day, and also had a 28-yard catch. Ansonia's Arkeel Newsome led the White with four catches while Diaco continues to rave about Madison's Walsh who he said was in contention to be named game captain right down to the very end of the discussion.

There will be plenty more on the game once I transcribe the quotes from Diaco and the players.

Friday, April 10, 2015

More to UConn's spring practice than quarterback competition

It goes without saying that UConn has to get better quarterback play than it did a season ago so I get why there has been plenty of attention paid to the quarterback competition but there are other positions that are also pretty important as UConn wraps up spring practice with the annual Blue-White Game tomorrow at 3 p.m..

Let's start at center where sophomore Ryan Crozier moved from being the starting left guard for the final three games to become the starting center. Fellow sophomores Tommy Hopkins and Trey Rutherford have been competing for the starting left guard spot. With experienced returnees at right guard (Tyler Samra), left tackle (Richard Levy) and right tackle (Andreas Knappe), the development of the center/left guard tandem.

The group of young receivers also will have plenty of eyes on them following the graduation of Geremy Davis and Deshon Foxx.

At the last practice I went to there was some 11 on 11 and 7 on 7 work and Noel Thomas really impressed me. He will team with three players he came in with in fellow juniors Dhameer Bradley and Brian Lemelle and redshirt sophomore Thomas Lucas to give the starting quarterback a diverse group of wideouts.

On the defensive side of the ball, the only position where a graduated senior started all 12 games was defensive end/outside linebacker Reuben Frank. Sophomore Luke Carrezola has been working with the first team at the practices I have been at while classmate Cameron Stapleton figures to push for time at one of more important positions on the defense.

There will be a fanfest tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Rentschler Field while the members of the national champion women's basketball team will be on hand to sign autographs beginning at 2 p.m. With Breanna Stewart and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis in Los Angeles for tonight's Wooden Award announcement, I'm not sure if they will be back in time for the autograph signing.

Then comes the game which will be played like a true game except for kickoff returns and kickoffs. With no rain in the forecast and temperatures expected to be in the upper 50s, it will be interesting to see what the fan turnout is going to be.

The rosters for the spring game have been posted and it looks to me as if all the starters on both offense and defense are on the Blue squad with the second stringers suiting up for the White team which is a little unusual as it typically is the first team offense going up against the No. 1 defense.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Mateas draws CFL scouts to UConn pro day

Normally when counting the scouts and/or coaches at UConn pro day, the focus is on  how many NFL teams were represented.

However, with Alex Mateas the No. 2 rated player for the upcoming CFL Draft, there were a couple of teams represented to UConn on Tuesday morning.

"The more teams the better," Mateas said. "At this point the only thing I can do is focus on my own craft and wherever I end up, I will be happy."

I didn't get Mateas' times in the 40 and other running events but he did 22 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press, had a 30 1/2 inch vertical and went 9-1 in the broad jump. His broad jump was equal or better than 30 of the 36 offensive linemen at the NFL combine and his vertical would have tied him for 12th out 39 offensive linemen in Indianapolis.

"There is just excitement," Mateas said. "I feel like I performed best when I kind of clear my mind and let the work you did previously shine."

Mateas, a native of Ottawa, took part in the Collegiate Gridiron Showcase in Arlington, Tex. on Jan. 31 before returning to UConn to work out with former teammates Gus Cruz, Reuben Frank, B.J. McBryde and Angelo Pruitt to prepare for the pro day.

"It was awesome," Mateas said, "I really enjoyed it. It was nice to play against different guys, get a taste of what pro football is like and I loved it."

Mateas' graduation left a hole in the middle of the offensive line. Ryan Crozier, who started the last three games of the 2014 season at left guard, has moved over to play center with Trey Rutherford and Tommy Hopkins the top options to start at left guard.

"He (Crozier) is a great player, great guy and he has a lot of potential," Mateas said. "I am really excited to see what happens with Crozier and the other guys. It going to be awesome to see them play this season."


Observations from UConn's Dog Pound practice

The media got to see more than just the first 20 minutes of practice for the first time during spring drills as UConn hosted its "Dog Pound" practice when students are invited to watch the practice.

Rather than the normal positional drills we get to see, we did get to see plenty of 7 on 7 action and an entertaining 3 on 3 drill when the defensive players had to take on blockers and keep a running back from reaching a line of scrimmage designated as the goal line.

Let's start with the latter drill because it is the only one with real contact I have seen this spring.

Foley Fatukasi was absolutely unblockable, either shedding blockers or simply beating them off the ball to make three tackles in this drill. He blew up tailback Ron Johnson with enough force with one hit that Johnson needed his helmet readjusted by an equipment manager.

Sheriden Lawley also looked good in this drill while Jhavon Williams made a tackle as well. Offensively, it was a good drill for former Valley running backs as Ansonia's Arkeel Newsome broke free for a score as did Shelton's Jason Thompson. Max DeLorenzo gained some tough yards during the drill.

The offensive highlight on passing drills before the start of  the 7 on 7 portion of practice was a tremendous catch by Noel Thomas of a pass thrown behind him. The best way to describe the catch was that it was Geremy Davis like. Thomas also had one of the few catches down the field during the 7 on 7 drills.

It hardly seems a coincidence that when Bob Diaco had players pick out numbers for prizes given out to students in attendance, the first two players chosen were Fatukasi and Thomas followed by tight end Sean McQuillan.

The first portion of the 7 on 7 I saw was between the 30 yard lines.

Bryant Shirreffs was the first quarterback out and completed 3 of 5 passes mostly of the screen and short possession pass variety. Tim Boyle was 1 for 4 but one of the incompletions almost certainly would have resulted in a pass interference call against Graham Stewart in an actual game. Tyler Davis was 2 for 4 with both completions going to Thompson and a dropped pass mixed in there.

The next part of 7 on 7 work was in the red zone and it began with four straight incompletions before Davis hit Newsome on the 5 with Newsome spinning and racing untouched into the end zone. There were plenty of overthrown balls. A highlight came when linebacker Vontae Diggs picked off Shirreffs. Jamar Summers and Matt Walsh had pass breakups. I had the three quarterbacks going 3 for 15 in this portion of practice with at least five of those incompletions being uncatchable passes. That was a pretty horrendous performance with very little chemistry being shown between the quarterbacks and receivers.

There was no player access even though we were told that selected players would be available. Here are some thoughts from Diaco

"He's a talented player, aggressive player, fast, violent, heavy hands. He is working on his game."

"We are going to have some action on Friday. I could probably talk about some separation but I am not going to because it is pretty close. After Friday we will create separation."

"We added a two-minute drill. We were able to simulate the drill, the 1 (starting) offense methodically went down the field. They had some challenges, their backs were against the wall, I want to say on fourth down they converted. It wasn't contrived, it was legitimately executed. We went down the field and put the offense in field goal position and kicked a field goal. It was a nice drill, it was well done."

"Ron (Johnson) brings something that's completely different from Josh (Marriner). Josh is an every down back, he is a third-down back, he has soft hands, he can pass protect and he is fast. Arkeel  is a guy who has to get the ball in space. He has to get the ball often, a bunch during games from different spots doing different things. Ron and Max are our downhill runners, in between the tackles, tough yards, grind it out, knife into small windows guys."

"It is going to look like a game. It is going to be a game but we are not going to have live kickoffs and live kickoff returns."

"It seems like anytime I saw something the group comes out and has an average practice. I got to say the tight ends. Sean, Tommy, Alec and even Nick and the inside linebackers, I'd say those two groups have really come on and improved their work collectively this spring."

"Very good, he is in the right position. Walsh, he has a natural, instinctual eye for playing inside linebacker. He can see the plays, he is figuring the defense out and when he gets comfortable there he will be moving faster."

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Frank displays versatility at UConn pro day

Considering all the different position groups Reuben Frank was working with at yesterday's pro day at UConn, I was fully expecting Reuben Frank to be asked to attempt a 50-yard field goal or start taking five-step drops alongside Chandler Whitmer.

Frank, who started at 12 games as a senior at defensive end or outside linebacker as a senior, worked alongside fellow defensive linemen B.J. McBryde and Angelo Pruitt. However, a few NFL teams did their homework and realized that Frank began his career at UConn as a fullback, so they wanted to see him get some offensive work in. There was one problem, there were no running backs among the nine former Huskies working out for the pro scouts so Frank ended up doing drills along with receivers Geremy Davis and Deshon Foxx. Seeing Frank race 50 yards downfield to snare a pass from Whitmer with ease, it might have surprised some onlookers to hear that this was a starting collegiate defensive end and not a receiver or tight end catching pass after pass.

"They wanted me to play some offense because a couple of coaches wanted to see me play fullback, how I moved at fullback, how I could catch, if I could run," Frank said. "I played three different positions here so I am willing to do anything, I am not going to say 'no I don't want to do this.'

"I was willing to go straight from the offensive drills straight to the defensive drills without complaining or 'Coach, I don't know I can do it anymore.' The coaches said 'don't gas yourself, don't hurt yourself' but I am willing to do anything. I will die out here before I would walk away from somebody who wants to talk to me. I just want an opportunity."

Frank had strong showings in the workouts as well. He had 24 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press. As a point of reference, of the 30 running backs who did the bench at the NFL combine, only five topped that number. His 33 1/2 vertical leap matches what Miami's Duke Johnson did at the combine and was equal or better than 13 of the 32 players at the combine even though he is 20, 30 and perhaps 40 pounds heavier than some of those players.

Frank's upbeat approach to pro day is hardly a surprise to anybody who knows him.

"He doesn't look at anything negatively," said McBryde, Frank's former roommate. "He might say something . I may walk into the room and say 'workouts were crazy.' But no. Pretty soon the closer we got to pro day, it is not when I run this, when I bench this, when I finish with this time. It is 'I ran this time. I benched this many. I jumped this. I sprinted this.' It wasn't that we got through the drills, we finished the drills. We worked hard, we pushed ourselves. Reuben helped me a lot."

Frank was just grateful for the opportunity to work out in front of scouts and coaches from 29 NFL teams.

"You only have one shot at it and doing your best is all you can really do," Frank said. "I have been here for five years and played a lot of different positions so I just showcased that. I am willing to do anything in order to get the chance.

"It felt good. I dropped two balls but once I got warmed up I was good. It felt good to be out here with the teammates supporting me, everybody watching me so I could showcase to everybody. It is a dream of a lifetime and I really appreciate the opportunity I got today."

Perhaps nothing made Frank happier than to see Anthony Sherman, the starting fullback of the Kansas City Chiefs in attendance. Sherman was UConn's starting fullback when Frank was redshirting back during the 2010 season. He learned so much about playing the position as well as the work ethic it takes to succeed from Sherman.

"It was good to see him and have his support," Frank said.

Sherman is going into his fifth season in the NFL. The Pro Football Focus site, which breaks down every play in every game to rate players, said Sherman was the best blocking fullback in the NFL last season so who better to give an opinion on how Frank looked during offensive drills than Sherman?
"I always watch (UConn games) when I can on TV and he did great," Sherman said. "He did both defense and offense. I joked with him that you could do (both). The more you can do in the NFL the better chance you can keep a job or get a job. You see him out here and doing his thing."