Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Myers, Joseph, Thompson named game day captains for UConn's opener

When I received an email that Randy Edsall would be available via conference call today (and two days before every game) my first thought was that I didn't have much else to ask him since we had as much time with the UConn football coach as we needed on Sunday. Well, add that to the growing list of times when I was wrong.

There was quite a bit to come out of the conference call that ended not too long ago.

First, he said that Tommy Myers (offense), Junior Joseph (defense) and Jason Thompson (special teams) will be game captains for Thursday's season opener against Holy Cross. He also said that Kyle Buss was named the offensive and special teams scout team player of the week with Aaron Garland being named defensive scout team player of the week. Speaking of Buss, it's been on my radar to ask Edsall if he would be eligible this season after transferring in from Robert Morris. I finally got around to asking that question today.

"Right now no but we are trying to investigate every way possible to see if there is an opportunity for that," Edsall said. "He's a guy that has really shown me a lot so far in terms of what I've seen during preseason. We are trying to see if there is an avenue or possibility that maybe he could be eligible."

I happened to see Eli Thomas' tweet that he is enrolled at UConn not long before the conference call started. Originally the Lackawanna College linebacker was supposed to be a part of next year's recruiting class. Edsall confirmed that Thomas is indeed enrolled at UConn and has joined the team.

"He is here now, got in here a couple days ago," Edsall said. "We are excited to have him here now and have him part of the program. It is good to have him here."

The next question, of course, was whether he was considering playing somebody who wasn't here for preseason camp.

"He won't be playing this year," Edsall said.

I also saw a release about walk-on tryouts. Those took place today with nine UConn students taking part. Edsall said four of them are expect to join the team but since he hasn't notified the players yet, he wasn't going to reveal the names of the players to us and have them find out based on our social media posts. UPDATE: The Notre Dame (W.H.) Football Twitter account posted that former ND receiver Justin Morehead is one of the four. Morehead had 29 catches for 400 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.

Finally, nothing has changed in terms of who will be the punter so it sounds like a true game-time decision while there's nothing new in the injury department with linebackers Vontae Diggs, E.J. Levenberry and defensive lineman Philippe Okounam the players who will be out on Thursday.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

UConn football: Diggs making progress; starting punter TBA

The first of the weekly in-season press conference with Randy Edsall wrapped up a little more than 30 minutes ago.

Not a ton of news to report which I good news at this time of year because the only newsworthy items would likely be injuries or departures from the program.

Not much new on the injury front as defensive lineman Philippe Okounam and linebacker E.J. Levenberry have long term recovery time tables. True freshman Abiola Olaniyan is a recent add to the injury report as was mentioned on Edsall's first radio show of the year. The one player we need to keep an eye on is linebacker Vontae Diggs who injured his knee during preseason camp. I asked Edsall the earliest we might see Diggs back on the field.

"He could be ready for South Florida, could be I said, quote me on could be but don't quote me on anything else," Edsall said. "He is chomping at the bit to get out there. He did a little bit of individual work today. I will be anxious to see what Bob (Howard, UConn's athletic trainer) has to say about him after practice to see how Vontae felt doing some of those individual drills."

I also asked Edsall who the starting punter is going to be since redshirt freshman Brett Graham and true freshman Luke Magliozzi are listed as co-starters on the depth chart. Edsall took a coin out of his pocket and flipped it drawing laughs from the assembled media.

"I don't know right now," Edsall said. "That probably could be a game-time decision it could be a situation where we punt them both because right now it hasn't worked itself out where I can say that one guy is over the other. There are things I like right now, we just have to be a little more consistent and that is what I am hoping to see here in the next couple of days, who is the guy who is a little bit more consistent.

"Luke's done a good job of coming in but it has been tough on him with the whirlwind tour he was on to get here and also getting out there, getting with a snapper and holder for the first time in his career and all of those things. From that standpoint, I think he has done a fabulous job. I think he has the best upside in terms of strongest leg, height, hang time on his punts but I have to be smart when I make a decision to make sure I do what is right because I don't want to have somebody's confidence take a hit if they are not ready because sometimes that can backfire."

 As for the players who came in for interviews, I spent most of my time with quarterback David Pindell and quite a bit of time with true freshman cornerback/return specialist Jordan Swann. The stuff from Pindell will be featured in Thursday's advance while I have to figure out when to write about Swann. One thing he said that caught my attention is that he has worked with former Baltimore Ravens punt returner Jermaine Lewis who returned six punts for touchdowns in his nine-year NFL career. Twice Lewis led the NFL in punts returned, he led the league with 519 punt return yards in 2001. He also was the NFL leader with an average of 16.1 yards per punt return in 2000. In his career he averaged 11.1 yards on 295 punt returns in the regular season and 21.8 yards on 76 kickoff returns.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Murphy set to make an impact for UConn

There weren't many bright spots during UConn's season-ending six-game losing streak especially on the defensive side of the ball as the Huskies gave up nearly 200 points during that span.

However, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Kevin Murphy began to show glimpses of his potential recording seven of his eight tackles in the last five games. He shared a sack in the Nov. 19 loss at Boston College and in the regular-season finale had a career-high three tackles.

Based on the first few practices open to the media during recently-concluded preseason camp, that was just the start of things for 6-foot-1, 280-pound redshirt sophomore from West Chester, Pa.
In each of the last two open practices, Murphy was seeing plenty of first-team reps ahead of Foley Fatukasi.

"Murph plays hard," UConn defensive coordinator Billy Crocket said. "He is a better athlete than people give him credit for. I think he is a pretty good functional athlete and he's got some decent strength to him. He's been pushing (Fatukasi) right along and when he comes into the game, I don't think he'll miss a beat at that position."

On the first of Randy Edsall's weekly radio shows, he told Joe D'Ambrosio that he's looking for most consistency from Fatukasi and fellow starting defensive lineman Cole Ormsby. That could explain why in the recent open practice at Rentschler Field, Murphy was the first player I saw manning the three-technique (nose tackle) position in 11 on 11 drills. On Sunday, Murphy once again say significant time with the first team as did redshirt freshman AJ Garson.

"I go out there every day, I come out every day ready to play, running to the ball which is a huge part of our defense," Murphy said. "The other guys are doing it and pushing me to do it as well."
Murphy is quick to credit Fatukasi for helping him get comfortable at his position.

"I really learned a lot from Foley and the older guys,"Murphy said. "They come out every day and give a ton effort wise, teach us how to (practice). Foley is a great guy to look at, he works hard at the point of attack. I try to emulate him the best that I can when I get out there."

So what has he learned from Fatukasi as well as last year's captain Mikal Myers about how to make the transition from a four-year starter at West Chester East High School to becoming part of the defensive line rotation with the Huskies.

"I think it is the leadership, the older guys helping all of us out, showing the guys how to work," Murphy said. "The work they have done trickles down even to the true freshmen, you see them getting reps and they are doing a heck of a job coming with great effort and great attitude every day
"Foley has taught me how to be stout in the run game, I think that is what I need to work on the most. Foley is a big, physical guy, he has great footwork and technique, great hand placement. He has taught me how to do my job, how to take on the offensive linemen."

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

UConn's first two-deep chart of season has been released

There are plenty of familiar names leading the way in UConn's first depth chart of the 2017 season with 12 seniors listed as starters. However, the freshman class is also well represented with 14 players on the offensive or defensive two-deep chart.

Leading the way is Cam DeGeorge, a redshirt freshman slated to be the Huskies' starting right offensive guard.

DeGeorge worked mostly at right tackle during spring drills and also during his redshirt season. With the decision to kick former starting guard Tommy Hopkins out to tackle, DeGeorge quickly emerged as the top guard at right guard.

"I am bringing my effort every day, take everything I've learned and put into game situations," DeGeorge said. 

"There is a big difference (moving from tackle to guard), just the speed but I just have to do it. Coach Grimes has been a great coach to help me get there."

The other offensive line starters (tackles Matthew Peart and Hopkins), guard Trey Rutherford and center Ryan Crozier have previous starting experience with the Huskies. DeGeorge is being aided by having Crozier and Hopkins on either side of him.

"It is great, the senior leadership on the line is great," DeGeorge said. "They help me out, they try to give me some tips here and there and they coach me up too."

DeGeorge was a high-profile recruit and a player who originally committed to Syracuse but when Scott Shaker was fired in 2015, DeGeorge began to explore his options. In December he committed to UConn. It didn't take him long to get noticed by the previous coaching staff at UConn as he got some second team reps in practice. However, listed at 255 pounds on the 2016 opening day roster, DeGeorge was certainly not going to get on the field as an offensive lineman as a true freshman.

DeGeorge is now listed at 283 pounds and that number figures to grow in the coming months and years,

"We just like his athleticism," UConn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "We need to upgrade in athleticism in certain areas. He needs to put on some weight, get stronger. He is young, he's been playing some right tackle all spring and now he is at guard. There is a learning curve and we understand that but we think his upside is very good."

Other freshmen starters are receiver Quayvon Skanes and defensive back Tyler Coyle. Five of the 10 defensive backs listed are freshmen as Omar Fortt, Tahj Herring-Wilson, Ian Swenson and Jordan Swann are second stringers. Eddie Hahn, listed as a defensive back on the roster, is in there are a second-team linebacker.

"They are coming along, especially the guys getting a lot of reps," UConn defensive coordinator Billy Crocker said. "There is nothing more valuable than getting into a game, getting into a scrimmage or getting in practice reps. It is real comfortable in the meeting room when the air conditioning is on but when the bullets are flying that is when those young guys really need to step forward. They have shown some good things but the consistency level has to continue to improve."

Other freshmen on the two deep are RB Nate Hopkins, WR Keyion Dixon, WR Mason Donaldson, OL Nino Leone, OL Ryan Van Demark, LB Darrian Beavers. Beavers, Fortt, Swann, Swenson and Van Demark have made the depth chart as true freshmen.

Two positions don't have a declared starter as seniors Alec Bloom and Tommy Myers are listed as co-starters at tight end while the punter position lists Luke Magliozzi and Brett Graham as co-starters.

Looking at special teams, Arkeel Newsome is not listed among the kickoff returners as freshmen Swann and Skanes are the top players listed as the top two kickoff and punt returners. No holder is mentioned by Graham was handling those duties at the last practice I was at.

Some names I thought I'd see on the two-deep chart based on the last couple of practices I have attended are defensive lineman AJ Garson and defensive back Brayden Brown. Also, linebacker Vontae Diggs isn't listed as his status for the season opener against Holy Cross is up in the air.

Here's the offensive and defensive breakdown
QB: David Pindell, JR; Bryant Shirreffs, SR
RB: Arkeel Newsome, SR; Nate Hopkins, FR/Jason Thompson, JR
WR: Hergy Mayala, JR; Mason Donaldson, FR
WR: Tyraiq Beals, JR; Keyion Dixon, FR
WR: Quayvon Skanes, FR; Tyler Davis, SO/Aaron McLean, JR/Donovan Williams, SO
TE: Alec Bloom, SR/Tommy Myers, SR
LT: Matt Peart, SO; Brendan Vechery, SR
LG: Trey Rutherford, SR; Nino Leone, FR
C:  Ryan Crozier, JR; Dan Oak, JR
RG: Cam DeGeorge, FR; Steve Hashemi, SR
RT: Tommy Hopkins, SR; Ryan Van Demark, FR

DE: Cole Ormsby, SR; James Atkins, JR
NT: Foley Fatukasi, SR; Kevin Murphy, SO
DE: Luke Carrezola, SR; Sheriden Lawley, JR
LB: Chris Britton, JR; Darrian Beavers, FR
LB: Junior Joseph, SR; Santana Sterling, JR
LB: Cam Stapleton, SR; Eddie Hahn, FR
DB: Tre Bell, SR; Jordan Swann, FR
DB: Jamar Summers, SR; Tahj Herring, FR
DB: Tyler Coyle, FR; Omar Fortt, FR
DB: Brice McAllister, SR; Marshe Terry, SO
DB: Anthony Watkins, JR; Ian Swenson, FR

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Former Ansonia, UConn QB Luke Richmond returns to Storrs

It's not unusual to see a former UConn football player at the practices we're allowed to witness but it's very rare to see one of them serving in the role of an official.

Yet, there was former Ansonia High and UConn quarterback as one of the college officials UConn had at its Sunday morning practice.

"It is a lot different up here from when I was here," said Richmond, who played in 22 games at UConn from 1998-2000. "This practice field is the same. I lived in that dorm, Hale Hall for three years so I can see that but that building (next to Hale Hall) wasn't there, the indoor facility wasn't up here. When you come up here, it is big-time football, it is like going to a Penn State, it is like going to a Michigan."

Richmond is among the group of former UConn football players thrilled to see Randy Edsall back at the helm of the program after unsuccessful stints by Paul Pasqualoni and Bob Diaco.

"I felt like we needed stability," Richmond said. "I was not able to see many games but the ones I did see, was pretty tough to watch. When I heard he was coming back, I was very happy and I know that his track records shows he can improve and develop a program, win games, win the right way and academically graduate kids."

Richmond lives in Hamden now and admits that he doesn't get back to Ansonia very often but he does keep up on how the Ansonia High football program is doing. He is also rather thrilled that former Ansonia High star Arkeel Newsome has played well enough to rank fifth on UConn's career list with 4,211 all-purpose yards and ninth with 1,695 rushing yards.

"I have a sense of pride in where I came from," Richmond said. "I might be on the road in Toledo and I'll check Saturday morning to see if they won. Growing up in that area, that is what it is about, you grew up loving football. To see what Arkeel has done in three years, it is fantastic. He is on track for his degree which is the most important thing."

As Richmond mentioned, he does quite a bit of traveling during football season as he has worked his way up as an official. He is currently an official in the Mid-American Conference.

"It has turned into a passion, something I really love to do," Richmond said. "It is like being on a team. There are eight of us on the field, we all have strengths and weaknesses but we all gel just like when you play football.

"The kids are great, it is not a big difference. I love talking to the quarterback before the game, talking to the center. It is an emotional game so if a coach yells at you like Randy just yelled at them ... These guys out here they put in a ton of hours and this is their job, this is their

livelihood. My job is to go out there and do the best possible game that I can do for  myself and the guys on the field."

Edsall joked that Richmond is in better shape now at the age of 39 than he was when he played at UConn.

"He is doing well moving up from high school to college and now he is a referee in the MAC and they are with the Big 10," Edsall said.

As for today's practice, Edsall called it the worst so far in preseason camp from an offensive standpoint. There might have been more dropped passes than ones being caught during the 11 on 11 drills. Edsall unloaded on the offense after the 11 on 11 portion of practice wrapped up which was the focus of the story I filed for tomorrow's paper.

As for news, time ran out during last week's access before I was able to ask Edsall about the severity of the knee injury suffered by defensive lineman Philippe Okounam. I did get around to inquiring about it today.

"He tore his LCL but he is probably done for the season," Edsall said.

Speaking of defensive linemen, Kevin Murphy continues to push Foley Fatukasi for first-team snaps at nose tackle while A.J. Garson saw quite a bit of time with the starting defensive line at defensive end.

Freshmen Omar Fortt and Tyler Coyle continue to see first-team reps.

Quarterback David Pindell was made available for the first time since being named the starter.

I asked him if he has reached out to his former junior college teammate who completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,665 yards with 26 touchdown passes as a sophomore at UMass last season.

"I talked to him a couple weeks ago, he is a good guy," said Pindell, who backed up Ford as a freshman at Lackawanna College before becoming the starter as a sophomore. "I think the most I learned from him is how to prepare for a defense. The biggest thing I learned sitting behind him is learn how he controls a huddle, how he ran the offense."

Pindell admitted that he wasn't expecting a starting quarterback to be named until the end of camp but that happened a week ago. Considering that Pindell wasn't done with school at Lackawanna to take part in spring drills at UConn, it is rather remarkable that a decision came so quickly.

"I was pretty shocked," Pindell said. "I didn't say too much about it. I learned that is was my role so I wanted to go  from there

"It had been only two weeks, I thought he was going to wait it out until the end of camp but they made the decision early.

"There were no grudges or beefs, we all stayed the same, keep working with each other."

Freshman linebacker T.J. Gardner could take part in practice on Thursday. He's was dealing with injuries coming out of Windsor High School and recently was dealing with a concussion

I also spoke with Murphy and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Cam DeGeorge so look for more from them in the coming days.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Former UConn DB John Green signed by Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys are hoping to strike gold with another former UConn defensive back.

Byron Jones, drafted by the Cowboys in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft, recorded 88 tackles in his second NFL season. Now he will be joined in training camp by former teammate John Green.

Green was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in April but placed him on injured reserve before cutting in late July.

Green was brought in on a tryout and was signed by the Cowboys, a team lacking depth in the secondary. The Cowboys haven't posted the move on its official site but those who cover the team reported that he was one of two defensive backs signed by the Cowboys and Green also posted the news on his Twitter account.

Officially a Cowboy! God works in mysterious ways, trust in the plan #DallasCowboys

Green came to UConn as a receiver and had five catches for 40 yards as a freshman in 2013. He moved over the defense before the start of his sophomore season. He finished with 50 tackles and 13 passes defended. He had a career high seven tackles with a PBU in a win over Cincinnati on Oct. 8, 2016. That game was Green's start of his senior season as Jamar Summers was moved to safety for about half the season. Green might have helped himself the most during UConn's pro day as he was reported to have run a 4.34 40-yard dash. He also had a 36 1/2 inch vertical and a broad jump of 10-3. His 40 time would have been second among defensive backs had it come at the NFL scouting combine and would have been in the top 15 among DBs at the combine in vertical and broad jumps.

The Cowboys host Indianapolis on Saturday so Green will need to get up to speed pretty quickly in his bid to make the team. There's a chance three former UConn defensive backs could see time in the Aug. 26 preseason game when Dallas hosts Oakland since the Raiders' second-round pick is Obi Melifonwu.

It's the first good news on the NFL transaction front in a few days as Richard Levy and Deshon Foxx were recently cut by the 49ers and Jets respectively.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

David Pindell is UConn's starting quarterback

While this won't go down as a surprising revelation, UConn coach Randy Edsall announced that junior-college transfer David Pindell has been named UConn's starting quarterback. Pindell certainly looked like the guy at the first practice I attended so expected this but wasn't thinking Edsall would make it official this quickly.

Also, he said redshirt freshman Cam DeGeorge has earned a starting spot as at offensive guard. With DeGeorge with the first team, redshirt freshman Nino Leone and true freshman Ryan Van Demark with the second team at left guard and left tackle, three of the top 10 offensive linemen are freshmen.

I appreciate the understate manner with which Edsall went out making this announcement. It was in stark contrast to the bizarre way that Bob Diaco brought in four quarterbacks even one (Bryant Shirreffs) who had to sit out following his transfer) to announce that Casey Cochran earned the starting job. I remember expressing my thoughts on how silly that over the top presentation was which certainly did not endear me to Diaco. My only wish was that Pindell was made available to the media but hopefully that will happen a week from today.

Here's what Edsall had to say

"David Pindell is going to our quarterback, he is the starter. Cam DeGeorge is going to be starting at right guard. Those might be the two things that you see on offense. Defensively not a whole lot different than what you would expect."

 Matt Peart and Tommy Hopkins are the starting tackles, Trey Rutherford is the other guard and Ryan Crozier the center on the starting offensive line making up the first team offensive line.The second team consists of tackles Brendan Vechery and Van Demark, guards Steve Hashemi and Leone and center Dan Oak.

Some other news, defensive lineman Philippe Okounam is out with a knee injury. I don't have a time frame of when he will be back. Also true freshman Marvin Washington due to what was referred to "obligations" that he needs to tend to.

Vontae Diggs said his knee surgery went well and he is still hoping to return in time for the season opener against Holy Cross although he admitted that shooting for the AAC opener vs. South Florida might be more reasonable.

"Everything is fine, I am starting physical therapy so I am moving pretty fast right now," Diggs said.T"hey are going to refrain from giving me target dates because whatever they say, I am going to give them a week earlier. I want to back for the opener but the biggest thing I told the training staff is USF, I won't miss that game for anything.I am going to do everything in my power to make sure I am back for that game. Obviously I want back for Holy Cross but that might be pushing my luck."

Some players seeing first team reps that I feel are worthy of mention include defensive lineman Kevin Murphy and defensive back Tyler Coyle. Also,tight end Tommy Myers was the third kicker up after Will Rishell and Michael Tarbutt and he promptly booted a 40-yard FG followed by Tarbutt hitting from 50. Also of note was that the top two holders were Brett Graham and Brandon Bisack and not Tyler Davis, who was named to the national watch lists for holders. Nick Zecchino is the top long snapper followed by Brain Keating.

Edsall announced that offensive linemen Crozier and Peart, linebackers Diggs and Junior Joseph, cornerback Tre Bell, receiver Hergy Mayala, defensive end Luke Carrezola, tight ends Alec Bloom and Myers as well as running back Jason Thompson were named to the team's leadership council. All of the players have started multiple games at UConn except Bell, a transfer from Vanderbilt and Thompson.

Thompson came to UConn as a walk-on out of Shelton High School and it was an incredible honor for him.

"It means the most to me especially growing up as a Connecticut kid, coming in here as a walk-on means so much to me," Thompson said. "I am grateful that I am able to be here, proud that my teammates selected me and will try to do the job to be best of my ability.

"I try to come in and be the same person every day, give it my all. I am trying to be more and more vocal every day. Some days are harder than others but in these last two years I have been  blessed to play this game, I love it. It makes it easy when you have the teammates that I have."

Thompson was already on scholarship when Edsall arrived so that is how he looks at Thompson. Few players have practiced as consistently hard as Thompson since Edsall took over the program.

"There is a guy that just goes out and does his job," Edsall said. "He works and does his job as good as anybody, he has earned it. His teammates see that so it is a credit to him and sends a message to people that it doesn't matter how you came into this program, if you do things the way they are supposed to be done, there can be rewards for you. Don't worry about your status, just work hard each and every day and if you do that good things will happen. Since I have been here, he has been impressive to me in terms of his attitude, his work ethic and just how he has gone about his business."

I'll end with this nugget from Myers when I asked him if he was losing the battle of the beards to Crozier.

"He has four months on me," Myers said with a laugh. "He also doesn't have a girlfriend I don't think so I've had to shave a couple (of times). I am going to try to compete with him in that aspect."

Monday, August 07, 2017

Top tackler injured, QB changing positions and other notes from UConn's practice

Suddenly there's not such a logjam at quarterback.

When preseason camp started, there were seven quarterbacks on the roster not including Will Rishell who is focusing on kicking. But during the 11 on 11 portion of today's practice that I witnessed (and I missed the first hour of practice finishing up my story UConn women's basketball story), David Pindell, Bryant Shirreffs and Marvin Washington were the only quarterbacks to get reps. Pindell was the first one out and looked very comfortable running the offense. I wouldn't want to make any grand proclamations after seeing one hour of one practice but Pindell certainly looked like the guy. He was confidently firing the ball around the field and when he decides where he is going with the ball, it doesn't take long for the ball to get out of his hands.

One person who won't be pushing for playing time at quarterback is Donovan Williams, who started the last three games of the 2016 season as a true freshman.

Williams and UConn coach Randy Edsall had a conversation early in camp about Williams being used on special teams if he isn't either the first or second-string quarterback. Williams took it a step further by meeting with Edsall on Monday and asked to move to receiver.

"I wasn't pushing, this morning he came in, he still likes to be a quarterback but he wants to get on the field so he asked about moving to wide receiver and being involved with the special teams so that is when he made the move."

Edsall felt like it would have been too much, too soon to use Williams at receiver in the 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 portion of Monday's practice but he will begin working in with the receivers on Tuesday.
Williams, who was not among the players made available to the media after Monday's practice, does have some experience catching passes. When he was a sophomore at Hylton High School in Woodbridge, Virginia, he had 11 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown while playing for former NFL defensive back Tony Lilly.

"I think he is smart, he is athletic, he is big," Edsall said. "Watching today on some of the special teams stuff, I saw him run in there and be physical. He's a great kid and he wants to play. He sees this as his best opportunity to get on the field, contribute and play which is a great credit to him."

True freshman Jordan McAfee is currently in concussion protocol while Brandon Bisack went from seeing first-team reps at time in spring drills to not even being among the top three quarterbacks a week into camp.

The other big news is that Vontae Diggs, whose 84 tackles a season ago is tops among the returning players, could be out for the next few weeks due to what he termed a Grade 2 MCL tear. Surgery is set for Thursday and he is hopeful to be back for the season opener against Holy Cross.

Center Ryan Crozier was dealing with a stomach ailment but Edsall is hoping he'll be back at practice tomorrow.

Dan Oak was the starting center with Crozier out with Kyle Schafenacker seeing second-team reps. The rest of the first team offensive line featured some familiar names (Matthew Peart, Tommy Hopkins, Steve Hashemi, Trey Rutherford) but plenty of newcomers were getting work with the first or second teams including redshirt freshmen Cam DeGeorge, Nino Leone and Harrison Newman as well as true freshman Ryan Van Demark.

Players were being moved in and out with the first and second teams so quickly that I won't read too much into the player rotations from today's practice although I did see true freshmen Brayden Brown and Ian Swenson getting first team reps in the secondary with redshirt freshman Ryan Gilmartin also getting out there quite a bit.

Luke Magliozzi, a freshman punter from Australia, is not here yet as he continues to fill out some paper work and is currently in Canada. There's a chance he could arrive later this week.

Tre Bell and Marshe Terry had interceptions today while receiver Quayvon Skanes (more on him in the next day or two) had a strong practice.

Edsall feels like this could have been the best practice to date in preseason camp.

Just a reminder that there is an open practice scheduled for Sunday at 3:15 p.m, at Rentschler Field although there is a 60 percent chance of rain that day so stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

3 UConn returning starters among those recognized for earning degree

Starting defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi, tight end Tommy Myers and quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, reserve offensive lineman Kyle Schafenacker and Will Rishell, who is competing to become UConn's starting kicker, are among 952 players honored by the National Football Foundation for having already earned their degrees before their final college football season.

Fatukasi, who has started 23 career games and enters his senior season with 125 tackles and 10 sacks, was named to the preseason watch lists for the Outland Trophy, Nagurski Trophy and Wuerffel Trophy.

Myers has 27 career receptions and has been used mostly as a blocker especially during the 2016 season.

Shirreffs ranks in the top 10 in UConn history in career passing attempts, completions and yards as well as being 83 yards shy of becoming the fifth Husky with at least 5,000 yards of total offense.

Schafenacker appeared in nine games during the 2016 season while Rishell is a former walk-on who is competing with Michael Tarbutt to be the No. 1 kicker following the graduation of Bobby Puyol.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

It's (mostly) all hands on deck as Edsall returns to UConn

When Randy Edsall was hired for his second stint as UConn's football coach the thing I was most curious about is what the roster is going to look like when the Huskies take the field later this month.

When he arrived at Maryland after his impressive run at UConn, the attrition rate in Edsall's first couple of seasons was downright staggering. If my math is correct, 28 players on the 2010 Maryland roster with remaining eligibility were not on the team in 2011, Edsall's first season at Maryland, including 11 players who took snaps in '10. Taking it one step further, there were 65 freshmen or sophomores on the Maryland roster in 2010 but only 39 stuck around through 2012.

Looking at the roster in the games notes for the 2016 finale, I count 13 players with remaining eligibility who are no longer here including just four (Teddy Allmendinger, Ron Johnson, Chris Lee, Jalen Stevens) who saw playing time in Bob Diaco's final season. Stevens went through Senior Day festivities so that decision was made before Edsall arrived. Legal problems played a role in the departures of Felton Blackwell and Nazir Williams while seven of those aforementioned 13 players were walk-ons when they arrived at UConn so when taking all factors into consideration, there wasn't an outrageous amount of attrition.

That could bode well for the upcoming season since there are seniors in key positions on both offense and defense. Edsall has been challenging his veterans to take on leadership roles.

"I am trying to provoke some thought and also trying to get them to understand what they really need to do," Edsall said. "I am not so much worried about the talent level, I am more worried about them taking ownership. The other thing I told them is this, I know we can be a good team because I know as coaches we are going to hold you accountable but if we are going to be a great team, they are going to have to hold themselves accountable. I am not worried about the talent, what I am worried about is getting guys to play as a team. If we can play as 11 every time we are out there and guys are going to hold everybody accountable, all the other things will take care of themselves.

"There is enough talent here to win but are we going to do these other things were we aren't going to be individuals, we are going to be unselfish, we are going to hold each other accountable. If we do that, we will win. If we don't do that and I don't care how much talent we have on the team, you are not gong to win anyhow. Yes, there is enough talent to win here but are we going to do these other things to allow us to put ourselves to be the best that we can be not just be good but to be the best we can be, to be great. That is the challenge that we have ahead of us as a group. If we as coaches have to do it all, we will be OK at a certain point but we will never get to the top of the mountain."

Speaking of departures, Bristol's Ben Pryor, a redshirt freshman defensive back who was announced as one of the late additions to the program by Edsall on media day, is no longer on the roster. I've been able to confirm that he is no longer a part of the program.

Fans who don't want to wait until the Aug. 31 season opener against Holy Cross to see the Huskies in action will have that opportunity as the Aug. 13 practice at Rentschler Field will be open to the public with a BBQ for season-ticket holders. Practice is set to start at 3:15 p.m.