Thursday, August 11, 2016

A more physical Watkins eyeing starting spot for UConn

There were no questions about who would be the starting field safety heading into preseason camp in Bob Diaco's first two seasons at the helm of the UConn football program.

However, with the graduation of Andrew Adams who could make his NFL debut tomorrow when the New York Giants play Miami, there is a major hole to be filled at one of the most important positions in the UConn defense.

Sophomore Tony Watkins, who made his one career tackle in last year's upset of Houston, was running with the first team throughout spring practice and continues to be the starter in the early part of camp.

"Him and Brice (McAllister) are in competition for the field safety position, they are both still in competition but Anthony had a great six practices," Diaco said after Wednesday's morning practice. "I'm very pleased and I can see him running the defense."

UConn knew that Adams and Junior Lee, the Huskies' top reserve safety, would be graduating but the Huskies also lost Ellis Marder and Jordan Floyd who did not return for their senior seasons. McAllister and Aaron Garland were moved from cornerback to safety while redshirt freshman Marshe' Terry was being viewed upon as another possibility to figure into rotation at safety.

Watkins is embracing his role whether it is as a starter or reserve.
"I am getting a better feeling, just seeing the game better and play faster," Watkins said. "I am just trying to help the team win. I want to me to be a positive for the team. Whatever role I have to play for us to win, that is all I want to do."

Watkins got to learn from Adams, Lee and Obi Melifonwu during his redshirt season as well as during his freshman campaign and he tried to use that time as best he could.

"I would stick around Andrew, Obi and even Junior Lee, they just took me under their win and I just stuck with them through film study," Watkins said. Coach Dex (defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter) really helped me out a lot during this  process.

"Being under the wing of Obi and Andrew, seeing how they run things, Coach has that confidence in me and I have that confidence in myself."

If there was a point of emphasis for Watkins to focus on to move into a key role for the Huskies it was to become a more physical player.

"We all have (things) we want to get better at so (during) the spring it was (Watkins bringing) more physicality so it was really an emphasis for me in the spring."

Fans can check out Watkins and the rest of the Huskies when UConn hosts an open practice on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Rentschler Field.

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