Spring Focus : Position Battles
Malik Generett
UConnFan.com Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2011


The Huskies head into Spring practice with a number of positions up for grabs. Here's a look at some of the key battles to keep an eye on.

Quarterback

Obviously the success of UConn's season will largely depend on who emerges at Quarterback. The Huskies have a young, but talented group. With a new offensive playbook being implemented the competition is wide open.

Sophomore Michael Box is the most experienced of the group, but he's only thrown 17 career passes. True freshman dual threat Michael Nebrich has been doing well in film sessions, and Redshirt freshman Scott McCummings and junior Johnny McEntee are also right there.

It's impossible at this point to handicap how this will play out, but I think Nebrich's ability to extend plays with his legs gives him an advantage. McEntee's accuracy and rapport with the existing receivers helps strengthen his case.

Running Back

Robbie Frey's early departure really affects UConn's depth at the position. Redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs, whose game has been likened to Noel Devine's, has a golden opportunity to grab a good chunk of the carries. Bigger backs D.J. Shoemate and sophomore Martin Hyppolite do as well. Hyppolite is still listed as an outside linebacker on the official roster, but according to a source he'll be in the backfield this Spring.

With freshmen Deshon Foxx and Max DeLorenzo not arriving until the summer, this position battle likely won't be settled until August. Senior Jonathan Jean-Louis, who may be the only back on the roster with an every-down type frame (5'11"-6'0", 195 lbs), should not be counted out, either.

UConn has a good mix of bruisers and scat backs, but all lack experience. Whoever emerges will have the benefit of running behind what should once again be a very strong offensive line.

Linebacker

With Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus moving on it's the end of an era. Each was a four year starter at their respective positions and both were extremely productive.

Redshirt junior Sio Moore burst onto the scene last season with a 16 tackle performance vs Buffalo and never looked back. He was second on the team in tackles with 110, which was good for fifth in the Big East. Moore is poised for a huge season.

New defensive coordinator Don Brown runs a base 4-3, but will mix in some 3-4, so there are plenty of openings at linebacker. Redshirt freshmen Mike Osiecki, Brandon Steg and Yawin Smallwood should all figure prominently in the battle. Steg is a skilled linebacker, but looks a bit thin on film. He's listed at 214, so physically he may not be there yet. Osiecki and Smallwood are both north of 225 lbs, which could give them a leg up.

Junior Jory Johnson had 28 tackles in 2009, but just seven last season. Experience wise he's got an edge on the young group ready to hit the field, so he'll certainly be in the mix. Another name to watch is Andrew Opoku. The redshirt freshman has good size at 6'4", 225 lbs, and could be an asset coming off the edge in blitz packages.

Safety

Redshirt senior Harris Agbor is the incumbent free safety. Although his play did improve as last season progressed, there is still room for better play at the position. Mike Lang is no longer with the team, which means redshirt freshman Byron Jones, who impressed the staff last summer, has an great opportunity to win the job. Jones is two inches taller than Agbor at 6'1", and has excellent leaping ability.

Redshirt junior Jerome Junior, who was fourth on the team with 59 tackles, is the leader in the clubhouse at strong safety. His play has been inconsistent at times, but he has shown steady improvement since his arrival at UConn.

Wide Receiver

UConn's wide receiving corps had a disappointing 2010 campaign, and took a lot of heat from the fan base and media. Some of the criticism was warranted and some was not. Michael Smith, who is entering his senior year, led the team in both receptions (46) and yards (615) last season, but did have his share of drops. To be fair to Smith and some of the other receivers, Zach Frazer's accuracy was poor last season, and rarely did receivers have the ability to catch balls in stride and make plays. With that said, receiver play must improve.

Redshirt junior Kashif Moore had 452 yards receiving and four touchdowns in 2010. Moore excelled at indoor track during the winter, something former Head Coach Randy Edsall did not allow players to do. He's a burner, and could prove to be the deep threat the team is looking for.

Dwayne Difton has yet to find his stride in Storrs, but with a new staff brings new beginnings, so he'll certainly have his chance to shine.

The future looks very promising for the young Husky receivers. Redshirt freshmen Malik Generett and Geremy Davis each have great size at 6'4" and 6'3", respectively. Generett, who also had an offer from West Virginia coming out of high school, had a team leading seven receptions at last year's Spring game. Davis is a physical specimen, weighing a chiseled 200 lbs.

Another redshirt freshman who the Huskies are very excited about is Tebucky Jones, Jr., the son of former Syracuse and New England Patriots star of the same name. Jones is still a bit slight, but he's got good hands and showed excellent run-after-catch ability in high school.

UConn opens Spring Practice March 15th, and the Annual Blue-White game will be held April 16th.


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