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.


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