Tuesday, March 21, 2017

One player departs, three players limited at UConn spring practice

UConn coach Randy Edsall listens in on a drill run by the linebackers
One of the most interesting story lines from spring practice was likely going to be Chris Lee's transition from tight end to offensive line.

Well, there is some other news to report about Lee as UConn coach Randy Edsall said he has left the program, the school and is done with playing football.

"I came back on Sunday, sitting here in my office getting some work done," Edsall said in the press conference after the first spring practice. "All of a sudden I am sitting here looking at my phone and I have a text message from Chris saying, 'Coach, I would like to meet with you either today or tomorrow.' I texted him back and said I am free all day tomorrow. If I get a text like that, I know something is not right. I've been in this too long to know there's not something going on.

"He proceeded to tell me he went home, it had nothing to do with him being moved to the
offensive line. He went home, talked with his parents. His dad was a Navy Seal and he
said, 'Coach I tried to do something to live up what my father accomplished and that was
through football.' Basically what happened is he just lost the love for football. I told
him, I've never met you dad but I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, being a
Navy Seal that is probably a top 1 percent of what somebody could do but if your heart
is not into it, you are going to move on, you are making the right decision for

The conversation could have ended there but Edsall encouraged Lee to join him in his office to talk about the decision.

"Come up stairs, 'no, I don't want to waste your time.' I said, 'Chris, I am not going to try to talk you into it. I just want to sit down with you. I wanted to sit down with him to make him feel like, 'OK, this didn't work out for you but you can still go and be successful in the rest of your whole life and whatever you want to do.' We had that conversation. He said, 'Coach it had nothing to do with the position. I am thankful that you guys were going to move me and thought enough of me to put me in a situation where I could end up being a starter.' Those things are unfortunate as a coach but for
the young man, if that is that he felt was best for him then I respect that. h said he was done playing football, said he was going to go back home and try to enroll in a school back home in Maryland, he didn't mention where but try to go there and work to finish his degree."

Edsall said "we are good from that standpoint" when I asked him if there were any other players on the way out.

The quarterbacks typically wear red no-contact jerseys but there were some other prominent players wearing no-contact jerseys - linebacker Luke Carrezola as well as offensive linemen Ryan Crozier and Tommy Hopkins.

"They are cleared for everything other than contact so you see the red jerseys but they
are coming along," Edsall said. "They are getting better, Ryan and Luke are improving with their
shoulders," Edsall said. "Tommy, we have to get his confidence level up. That is something we are
working on. We don't want to rush him in there. We felt like right now he is not ready to go through that contact and the one thing I see I am not a doctor or a trainer but the one thing I do see is a young man that is really not confident right now (with his knee) and I've been around long enough, if guys aren't confident there is no sense putting them in situations where they have to go full speed, it is just not going to work for them."

Crozier and Hopkins are two of UConn's most experienced offensive linemen so their absence will help give the younger offensive linemen a chance to get more work during spring drills. In the "for what it is worth department" the starting offensive line consisted of left tackle Matthew Peart, left guard Brian Cespedes, center Dan Oak, right guard Trey Rutherford and right tackle Cam DeGeorge.

"Any reps you can get on the offensive line is a bonus," Edsall said. "One area that we really have to
work on is with the offensive line. Those guys have been willing and they have been doing things and we will get the guys in there to play. We have to get some guys to step up so every rep those guys get is going to be good for them and good for us."

A few other items

Plenty of alums were there including some of the 12 members of the 2016 team expected to take part in tomorrow's pro day (former defensive lineman B.J. McBryde may also work out for scouts). Mikal Myers was among those back and he made it a point of coming over to say hello to the media. I've been covering UConn sports since 1999 and if I had to list the number of times a football or women's basketball players did something like that without prodding from us, it would be a very, very short list.

Former UConn stars Dan Orlovsky and Yawin Smallwood were among the alums here and there's a reason, they are both finishing up taking classes and will be serving as student assistants this spring.

Edsall said the receivers were a very impressive group during preseason conditioning drills.

When the first-team defense took the field, familiar faces Foley Fatukasi, Cole Ormsby, Vontae Diggs, Junior Joseph, Jamar Summers and E.J. Levenberry were joined by Philippe Okounam, Marshe Terry, Omar Fortt, Brice McAllister and Tony Watkins. Once again let me state that it is hard to read too much into who was out there on the first day especially with a new coaching staff in place but I tend to concern myself with such things so I am staying true to my nature.

Much more to come


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