Sheriden Lawley looks to continue his ascent up UConn's depth chart
Even before he received that honor, I remember last year's defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter raving about Lawley's development.
Lawley's numbers (five total tackles, one shared sack) aren't going to jump off the page but Lawley was part of a young group of defensive linemen who helped spell Foley Fatukasi and Mikal Myers. Now Lawley is looking to take the next step and he is pushing for a much more significant role as a junior.
"I don't think I was a guy that the coaches really had on their radar at the beginning of the season," Lawley said. "I showed at each practice and throughout the season that I could be in the games, I could play so throughout the year they trusted me more and more.
"I think each week I got more and more reps, I got more comfortable and felt like I was making more plays and this year I wanted to capitalize on that. The most important thing is just being comfortable and getting reps. Until you get into the game, as much as you practice you don't know what it is like. The more and more reps I got, the more I enjoyed (success)."
Lawley came to UConn as a 238-pound tight end. He was listed at 275 pounds as a redshirt freshman, played at 290 pounds a season ago but is back at 275 pounds on the most recent roster.
Although he wasn't credited with any tackles, Lawley points to the 2016 season opener as the time that he knew he belonged on the field.
"I think the first game, we played Maine, it was first real game of live action," Lawley said. "I was pretty nervous at first but as soon as they snapped the ball I remember I pushed the quarterback, made a play so I thought this wasn't that bad."
Players like Foley Fatukasi, Luke Carrezola and Cole Ormsby are something of known commodities among the defensive linemen. However, how players like Lawley, Philippe Okounam, Kevin Murphy, A.J. Garson, Connor Freeborn, Noel Brouse and James Atkins develop could go a long way in determining how successful the Huskies defensive line is going to be.
The 286-pound Okounam and 275-pound Lawley provide size playing next to the 315-pound Fatukasi and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them either earned a starting role or played nearly as many snaps as a starter this season especially if Carrezola (who is still being held out of spring drills) shifts back to linebacker with the loss of E.J. Levenberry to a torn ACL.
"I think I am going to have a large impact on this team," Lawley said. "Our job is to rush the quarterback, stop the run and I think I do a good job with both of those things. It is all go, let's go and sack the quarterback whereas before we were more hesitant, reading plays and now it is all go.
"It is a clean slate. You just have to make a positive impact on them (the new coaches) because they don't know who you are, they don't know what you did last year.
"Everybody is getting the same amount of reps during spring camp because they want to evaluate everybody so it is an equal playing field."
Lawley credits 2016 captain Myers and Fatukasi, who I would think will be one of this year's captains, for showing him the ropes.
"Mike Myers was a huge help for me, a big mentor for me," Lawley said. "I talked to him a lot. Him and Foley told me that you've been doing this your whole life, this is football, don't overthink things. That really helped me calm down and realize that is not that big of a deal."
Lawley has the size and speed to play both inside and outside and he believes he could see snaps at a myriad of positions.
"We play inside/outside, we play wide, we play nine (technique, lining up outside the offensive tackle)) so everywhere," Lawley said of the position/positions he could play this season. "I think there are a lot of guys on this team that can do a lot of things so just because one person is in one spot today doesn't mean they are going to be there for the rest of the year."
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