Friday, September 09, 2016

UConn's Tony Watkins excited to be back in Maryland

The last time Tony Watkins stepped onto a football field in his native Maryland, his Fort Meade team was falling to eventual state champion Wise in the 2012 Maryland Class 4A semifinals.

After a season at season at Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, a redshirt season with the Huskies and then seven games at UConn last season, Watkins is set to play in front of friends and family yet again when UConn plays at Navy on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.,

"I haven't played in Maryland since I was in high school so it will be great to be back to see my family,' Watkins said.

"My mom's already asking for tickets so that will be fun for my family getting to see me play."

Watkins grew up about 20 miles from the Naval Academy's campus so it is only natural that he got to see his share of Navy games.

"They were on TV when I was younger watching (football) on the weekends so it will be fun going back home for the first time in my college career," Watkins said.

Watkins was also part of a Fort Meade team that was 2-0 against teams from Annapolis when he was a senior as Fort Meade thanks to a 41-0 win over Annapolis HS and 14-0 victory against  Broadneck.

While there may be an extra jump in the step of Watkins and fellow Maryland native Chris Lee, his main focus is on having a stronger effort against Navy than he did in his first career start.

Watkins was beaten on the game-tying touchdown pass and missed a tackle on a 48-yard catch and run in a 24-21 win over Maine.

"There are plays I wish I could have had back, I know I could have done better but overall it was a great first game for the team, a lot of learning lessons for me," Watkins said. "It just requires more film study, get better every day.

"I look at it as I can get better on each and every play. I am just trying to get better each day."

Watkins learned of the importance of film study from Andrew Adams, the player he replaced in the UConn starting lineup. With Navy coming at UConn with its challenging triple-option offense, it will be even more important than normal that Watkins makes the right pre-snap reads.

"It is all about the preparation for it," Watkins said. "Drew basically lived in (the film room) during the entire year. He could read plays just because he watched a ton of film during the week so it is all about preparation."

UConn coach Bob Diaco, who is rarely critical of any of his players in his dealing with the media, admitted that other than safety Obi Melifonwu that the play of the other three starters in the secondary was "average."

Watkins' teammates are confident in his ability.

"He's played before," UConn senior linebacker Matt Walsh said. "He is a really hard-working kid, a hard-nosed guy and a great student of the game so he is kind of learning everything and picking it up fast. He feels like one of us out there."


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