Spring Football Notes: Practice 13
April 18, 2017
As he stepped to the podium, head coach Randy Edsall made it perfectly clear he was not satisfied with his team's performance on this Tuesday morning.
"Too many balls on the ground," he said.
To any player, whether QB, RB, WR or TE, a fair warning, those are not words you want Edsall to mutter at any point. Need an example? Flashback to the season opener during his final season in Storrs in 2010 as the Huskies opened up the season at the Big House in Ann Arbor. There was a sentiment that the Huskies were the favorites heading in that day until they ran into Michigan QB Denard Robinson, who even Bill Belichick would have been unprepared for in the first half that day. But as with any Edsall team, there was no quit and quietly, the Huskies crawled back from a 21-0 deficit and found themselves in the game midway through the second half, down two scores (24-10).
Driving and with a fourth and short inside the 10, Edsall rolled the dice and brought on the highly touted USC transfer RB DJ Shoemate, who took the handoff, bounced off left tackle and picked up the first down inside the 5, but there was only one problem. A Michigan helmet had knocked the ball free and the Wolverines recovered. Shoemate was in the dog-house and saw only 25 carries over the final eleven regular season games, plus the Fiesta Bowl, an average of just 2.08 carries per game. Despite philosophical changes by Edsall on the offensive side of the football, one change he won't waiver on and shouldn't, are turnovers.
"I told them after practice, I was disappointed," Edsall stressed. "It wasn't as good as what I would expect it to be at this point in the spring. These are learning experiences. Where we are kind of at, when you see certain things, I want to see who the guys are who are going to step up and take ownership and take the lead on putting the breaks on the thing and get it going in the other direction. That's sort of what I'm still searching for with this team, who are those guys at each position that will lead."
As discussed earlier in the spring, Edsall won't have typical captains, but rather a leadership council, a group of guys, likely one from each position group, that he will rely on for the pulse of the team.
"[That group] won't be decided until we get closer to game time, but you need to have a group of those guys that know when this isn't going the way it should for us, they need to get it turned around on their own," Edsall said, stressing the importance that spring football is quickly winding down. "Now, as we end up getting done on Friday night, over the next three months, they need to lead because as coaches, we aren't involved. This will be good for us and a teaching moment to discuss tomorrow morning. Today wasn't one of our better days this spring."
Was there a chance the team was looking ahead to Friday's spring game?
"This is on me, I need to make sure they stay in the moment," Edsall said. "That isn't until Friday. We need to focus on what we need to do today, on Tuesday. Friday will get here soon enough, but if we don't take care of the things we need to do on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Friday won't be what we want it to be. That's no different than during the season. Everyone loves to play in the games, but it's that preparation that you need to put in to make sure that you can be successful in that game. They didn't have the kind of preparation today and ultimately, that rests with me."
QB ROTATION ON FRIDAY & THE OVERALL PLAN FOR THE SPRING GAME
Edsall confirmed during today's media session that he expects to rotate some of the quarterbacks through with the first team on Friday night.
"More than likely," Edsall confirmed. "That's what we've been doing. It's an evaluation, it's not the end product that we are looking at on Friday night. There's nothing that will be decided with anyone. I'm not going to have a two-deep at the end of the spring, it will be an alphabetical thing because it doesn't make sense to have a two-deep right now. There is so much that can happen in the next three months and then the month of August and all these other guys that will be joining our team. The depth chart will matter when we get into game-week and we play Holy Cross, that's when it will matter. It might matter to other people, but it doesn't matter to me."
As for the game itself, Edsall wants it as close to a game as possible.
"We'll go first team offense, second team defense and 1st team defense, 2nd team offense, so we can get one's against one's and two's against two's," he said. "I just want to see who are those guys that can go out, perform and execute the things that we want to execute. I don't want to see a lot of penalties, I want precision on both sides of the ball. I'll probably put the punter out there, have a snapper and have a guy fair catch it with no one else on the field. We won't kickoff, we will do PAT and field goal and then just play 12 minute quarters. We'll play it like a game, have a halftime and have pregame like we normally do so guys can get used to it. We'll put coaches in the box, coaches on the sidelines and get a chance to work out some of those kinks with communication on both sides of the ball. It's going to be another evaluation for us to take a look and get a better feel for the guys that we have."
SEVERAL POSITION CHANGES AS SPRING WINDS DOWN
There are three position changes to announce as Tyler Davis, who arrived at UConn as the lone quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class and was subsequently moved to TE a year ago, has moved again to wide receiver. Windsor's Tyler Coyle has moved slightly from CB over to safety and Nazir Williams moved inside to the Mike linebacker spot.
"It's still a work in progress, but it gives the kids another opportunity to show what they can do and gives us another opportunity to evaluate," Edsall said.
On Davis, Edsall expanded on the move.
"I just think right now, he's not strong enough to play tight end," he said. "I think he's athletic, he runs well and in terms of what we do in our offense, I think he fits better there right now and that's what I told him. He'd probably be fourth in terms of where we are at tight end. Now we move him to WR and he has a chance to challenge to be a starter or be a backup. These are some of the frank conversations that we have and I'm worried about putting the best team together for this coming year. As we evaluated and took a look at it, I just felt that would be the best spot for him for 2017."
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