Practice Report: Offensive Line

Practice Report: Offensive Line

Jimmy Bennett knows his time is coming. The 6-foot-8 tackle out of Alexandria, Va. was a sought after recruit that UConn desperately needed to reel in. He has no experience playing in college, but he has spent much of camp locked in a heated battle with senior Dan Ryan (6-7, 316 pounds), a veteran starter and backup who has been in and out of the lineup since he was a redshirt freshman.


Right now experience is winning out as Ryan has moved slightly ahead. But, don't count out talent, which Bennett is blessed with plenty of in his massive frame. 

"It's experience and repetitions in the system," Edsall said at what separates the two. "Jimmy Bennett is going to be a very good offensive tackle for us. It just doesn't happen overnight. Dan Ryan has been in the battle before. He's got experience playing in games. Jimmy is one of those guys that has to be ready to go."

Bennett and Ryan's battle is typical what is going along across the offensive line. UConn may have lost left tackle William Beatty (second round pick of the Giants) and center Keith Gray (in camp with the Carolina Panthers), but talent and competition is even more abundant than it was a year ago. 

The current first team includes Ryan at left tackle along with senior Mike Hicks at right tackle, junior guards Zach Hurd and Mattieu Olivier as well as Mo Petrus at center moving in from guard. 

What stands out however is the second team anchored by Bennett. Sophomore tackle Mike Ryan is pushing Hicks while redshirt freshmen guards Erik Kuraczea and Adam Masters are equally as talented. Center runs three deep with Alex LaMagdelaine a veteran of the starting lineup and talented sophomore Gary Bardzak

"We got 11 guys that if we had to put them in, we won't feel too bad," Edsall said. "We might want to get some of the younger guys experience. But right now, we are blessed on depth on the offensive line."

There is no room for slacking off anywhere on the line. 

"Right now, we are a solid two deep across the board," tackle Dan Ryan said. "That's a much better way to have a football team. Competition really makes the best come out in you. Knowing that you have Jimmy (Bennett) behind you pushing, that really makes you get out there and compete and stay hungry. No one can be satisfied. You have to go out hungry every day and compete."

The battle at left tackle is the most heated. Dan Ryan has three years of experience under his belt and that has been the difference so far in camp. Bennett still has a lot to learn but he knows he is going to have to take the job away from Ryan, no one is going to give it to him.  

"The want to play is ridiculous," Bennett said. "I want to get on the field, I want to be out there. But, I understand if I don't earn it, there is no reason to whine. 

"He has playing experience and I have none. He has the upper-hand in that. I really want to get out there. But, the competition is an every day kind of thing."

Ryan can feel the young buck breathing down his back. There is no comfort on the offensive line, and that's a good thing. 

"Right now, we are a solid two-deep across the board,"  Ryan said. "That's a much better way to have a football team. Competition really makes the best come out in you. Knowing that you have Jimmy (Bennett) behind you pushing, that really makes you get out there and compete and stay hungry. No one can be satisfied. You have to go out hungry every day and compete."

It may not be this year for Bennett to crack the lineup, but it isn't going to be much longer. Ryan is sure of that. 

"He is a hell of a player," Ryan said. "I love that he pushes me day in and day out. In the back of my mind I know if I slip up he will be there."

HOWARD TAKES A SHOT

New hotshot freshman receiver Dwayne Difton got a message sent from fellow Florida native corner Jasper Howard on Thursday during practice.

Difton caught a pass on a crossing pattern and immediately laid Howard out with a stiff arm as he picked up extra yardage. 

Howard, a Miami native who has taken the Ft. Lauderdale native Dixon under his wing, took a hit at Difton out of bounds and the two engaged in some friendly trash-talking. 

"Yeah, I told him I owe him. And you can put that in the paper. ‘Jaz owes you Dwayne,'" Howard laughed after practice. "I like to compete and I like to have fun, especially with him. I know if I go hard with him he will go hard back. He will give me my work."

Howard and Difton have become close during camp. 

"I call him my little brother, and he has called me big brother since the first day. I took him under my wing like (New England cornerback) Darius (Butler) did with me. We are all from the same area and I don't want to leave him hanging and feel like I did at first until Darius grabbed me. I treat him how Darius treated me."  

Howard is the Huskies top corners and one of the better cover men in the Big East. While he won't say it to Difton's face, he likes what he sees from the freshman receiver. 

"He is nice to be a freshman to be honest. He is living up to whatever they have him and is doing a tremendous job. He is picking it up quick."

DABNEY INJURED

Linebacker depth for the Huskies took a hit when backup strong-side linebacker (called Husky) injured his shoulder in a non-contact drill Wednesday and is out indefinitely. Dabney will be replaced on the two-deep by true freshman walk-on David Kenney, who started camp as a safety…Right tackle Hicks missed the second half of practice after his right ankle was fell on. He had it wrapped in ice and a bandage, but it doesn't appear serious…Defensive end Lindsey Witten hobbled off the field injured but it doesn't appear to be serious. 

UCONNPlaybook.com Recommended Stories


Up Next


STORRS – It has become a ritual of fall to ask questions about Jimmy Bennett's health. Maybe that's…

Forums


10 Fans online
    Join The Conversation

    Tweets