Wednesday, March 09, 2016

UConn's first spring practice in the books

Practice No. 1 of the spring wrapped a little more than 30 minutes ago.

Here are some of my thoughts

First, Ryan Crozier is back, healthy and was UConn's starting center. He will be the focus of the story I am writing for tomorrow's paper because there might not be a more important piece on this UConn team than Crozier.

Bryant Shirreffs did work with the first team offense but UConn is going to limit his reps to allow him to get healthy.

Redshirt freshman Matt Peart was the starting left tackle over two-year starter Richard Levy and to say the coaches are excited about what he brings to the team would an understatement of incredible proportions. Trey Rutherford and Tommy Hopkins were the guards while Andreas Knappe started at right tackle. It is dangerous to read too much into who is working with the first team on the first day of spring but I did notice walk-on Tom Tabur at guard with the second team.

Tight end Billy Williams, a transfer out of Northern Iowa, will make an impact on the offense this season. He made a few catches down the field and I also caught up with him and fellow transfer E.J. Levenberry.

Defensively, Vontae Diggs at linebacker and Anthony Watkins at safety were with the first team along with the usual suspects (Cole Ormsby, Foley Fatukasi, Mikal Myers, Luke Carrezola, Matt Walsh, Junior Joseph, Obi Melifonwu, Jamar Summers and Jhavon Williams). Diggs brings plenty of speed to the UConn defense and he flashed that at times today. Summers also got in some work at punt returner.

The safety position intrigues me. Melifonwu is going to continue to make plays but I am curious who will line up next to him. Redshirt freshman Marshe' Terry and former cornerback Brice McAllister were the second-team safeties.

With no long snappers in camp following the graduation of Dom Manco and the departure of walk-on James Bedell, Walsh and Alec Bloom are being schooled in how to handle that role. Tommy Myers, when he is fully cleared, could be in the mix as well. It will give UConn options rather than just expecting incoming freshman Nick Zecchino to come in and be the long snapper.

"It was the first time I tried it," Walsh said. "Obviously we are setting up (for a good season), our standards are higher every year so if I can help long snapping, I will do that too."
The practice ended with 11 on 11 work and the highlight was Connor Freeborn's interception of Tyler Davis which was brought back for a TD.


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