Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Center Ryan Crozier to miss rest of season and other changes to UConn's two-deep chart

Some of it was due to injuries and in other occasions it was the quality of play but there are plenty of changes to UConn's two-deep chart.

The biggest news is that starting center Ryan Crozier suffered his second season-ending knee injury since arriving at UConn. UConn coach Randy Edsall said he will undergo surgery on Friday to repair a torn ACL and MCL.

Crozier missed the entire 2015 season after getting injured in between the end of spring drills and start of fall camp. He has started the last 15 games at center and was the starting left guard for the final three games of the 2014 season to become the first true freshman to start on the offensive line at UConn since 2002 when the Huskies began playing at the FBS level. He will share that distinction with Ryan Van Demark after Saturday's game at SMU as he is now the starting right tackle. With Crozier out, junior Dan Oak is now the Huskies' starting center.

"He is a competitive, get after you type of guys," Edsall said of Oak. "He is like a gnat sometimes that you keep smacking away. I thought he did a good job when he went in there for Ryan (against East Carolina), I expect him to do a good job.

"Ryan Van Demark is a guy who has been gifted to play this game, he has to get stronger and put weight on. He picks everything up out there, he can bend, he can run and when you take a look at the things we want to do, he is the guy who is best suited to do those things. Tommy (Hopkins) has to be ready to go, he is one pay away from being in there. With every rep that Ryan Van Demark gets, he is going to keep getting better and better."

With Crozier's injury and Hopkins no longer starting, the Huskies top two offensive linemen in terms of career starts won't be with the top unit on Saturday as each of them have started 18 career games. Reserve tackle Brendan Vechery has made 15 career start, most of them at center. This makes redshirt sophomore left tackle Matt Peart the most experienced among the first team offensive line based on career starts.

Edsall estimated that a high-ankle sprain could keep top receiver Hergy Mayala out for 4-6 weeks meaning that redshirt freshman Mason Donaldson should make his first career start on Saturday. A concussion likely will sideline kickoff/punt returner and reserve cornerback Jordan Swann meaning that Kyle Buss, who just received a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately following his transfer from Robet Morris, becomes the top kickoff return with Quayon Skanes handling the punt returner duties. A calf injury could keep reserve defensive end James Atkins out for 4-6 weeks according to Edsall.

No position has changed as much as the secondary. Although Tony Watkins should be able to return to action this week, true freshman Ian Swenson could make his second career start. Former starters Tre Bell and Tyler Coyle have been replaced by redshirt freshman Tahj Herring-Wilson and senior Brice McAllister.

"You had people maybe not play as well as you expect them to play and you put somebody in who went in and basically did the job," Edsall said of Herring-Wilson. We felt he deserved the opportunity to start based on what you are seeing from some other people in the first few games."

McAllister started the season opener against Holy Cross but when I watched warmups before Sunday's ECU game, he wasn't even working with the second-team unit. There will be more about McAllister moving back into a starter's role in my advance which should be up on the Register's site at some point on Friday. With former Hamden Hall star Kyle Williams now a second-string cornerback, that makes 13 defensive backs who have cracked the two-deep chart although some positions have three players mentioned. With all the moves, senior cornerback Jamar Summers will be the only defensive back to start every game after Saturday's contest.

One of the more interesting things to come out of today's press conference might have been Edsall finally saying what has been insinuated even before the season began as he stated that Arkeel Newsome, UConn's top rusher in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, is not viewed by the coaching staff to be an every down running back.

He is very good in the open field and that is the one thing that we have been trying to do is get him the ball in the open field because he does have quickness and he can make some people miss, that is really his game. Running the ball between the tackles is not really his game and he is doing a good job. Some people are going to do some things to try to take him away so that is where we have to be creative and do some things so we can make sure we can get him some touches because he does have the ability to make some yardage and make some big plays in the open field

"What he reminds of is a third-down back in the NFL, a guy who can come out of the backfield and catch the ball but I am not going to sit here and put pressure on him naming names of this is who I compare him to or anything like that because I don't think that is fair," Edsall said. "He is one of those guys that as a third down back can create problems for the linebackers or even on first or second down, to me is not your first down, second down, every down back, he is not that guy. He doesn't have this physicalness, the body type and body structure to allow that so what you do is take a guy like him and incorporate the things we are doing with him so we can be successful with him."

With the changes, just eight offensive and defensive players will have started all four of the games when the SMU game get here - Peart, guards Trey Rutherford and Cam DeGeorge, defensive linemen Luke Carrezola, Foley Fatukasi and Cole Ormsby, Summers and linebacker Junior Joseph. A year ago eight offensive players and 11 players on defense started each of the first four games.


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