Thursday morning at the fourth annual Fairfield County Sports Commission charity breakfast in Norwalk, new UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni was the keynote speaker and he issued a “State of the Union” address on the Huskies after the team completed its recent spring practice schedule.
“No matter where you go, the conversation on football usually starts at the quarterback position and that’s where it starts at the University of Connecticut. We have a situation at UConn where we’re going to be inexperienced at that position this year. It’s the most unique position in sports to play, regardless of what level of football you’re at.
“At the end of the day, it’s all based on production. At the quarterback position, everything is based on production. It’s not height, it’s not weight, it’s not any of those things. It’s moving the chains, putting the team on your shoulders and scoring points.
“We’re fortunate in the fact that we have some athletes, we have some guys that are going to be good at the position, it’s just a matter of how fast can they become good? Michael Nebrich was the Player of the Year last year in the state of Virginia. He’s come into spring practice and really done very, very well. He’s a guy that reminds me of Tony Romo, he can beat you with his feet. He can move around, he can keep the play going and when he gets outside the pocket, you don’t know if he’s going to stop and throw it or if he’s going to run down the field. And that right now is probably the most productive style (of quarterback) in the National Football League. Michael’s got a long way to go but he’s a guy we’re excited about.
“Michael Box is a little bit older guy. From California. He’s played a little bit, been in some games but again, a little bit inexperienced. Scottie McCummings is from Massachusetts. He’s a big, strong guy, reminds me of a guy like Major Harris who was at West Virginia years back, for those of us that remember Major Harris. He can beat you with his feet. Very strong arm. Scottie’s got to learn to put some touch on the ball. He’s got to learn that he doesn’t need to throw it as hard as he can throw it every time. That’s an experience thing. And Johnny ‘Trick Shot’ McEntee, can get the ball out pretty quick. He’s pretty accurate with his throws and he’s working hard. So, we’ve got a nice group to work with. The issue is how quickly can we get to the point where we making good decisions on a consistent basis and we’re moving the team.
“The offensive line should be a solid group. We’ve got three guys that played who are tough guys. Our left tackle is Mike Ryan, a big guy, a fifth year senior. He’s a guy that in a year, if everything goes right for him and stays healthy, he’ll have a chance to play at the next level. Moe Petrus is our center. Another fifth-year senior that’s played a lot of football for us. It’s always important up the middle, you want to be good up the middle regardless of what the sport is and Moe will give us a chance to be strong at the center position and Adam Masters will be our right tackle. He’s a tough guy. Intense guy. He can block people. Three of the five really give us a chance to have a personality, a toughness up front.
“The tailback position is another concern. D.J. Shoemate, a transfer from USC, has really had a very productive spring. He’s been a very pleasant surprise. He’s smart, he takes care of the ball, he can block in protection, he knows what he’s doing, so that’s a positive. We’ve got another young guy by the name of Lyle McCombs, who is a quick, smaller guy. You can put him in the slot, you can throw the ball to him out of the backfield, he can make you miss, he’s got some burst and acceleration. We’re excited about Lyle.
“Ruben Frank … He can be a very good player for us.”
“We’ve got some experience. Ryan Griffin is a nifty receiver. He can get down the field, get into the seam and that’s the hardest thing to defend. Ryan can make those catches. John Delahunt will be our blocking tight end.
“We’ve got some experience at the wide receiver position. Isaiah Moore is a big guy, he’ll play the X for us. He’s quick, he’ll be in the slot. Michael Smith is coming back. Had a pretty good year last year. And we’ve got some younger guys. Tebucky Jones. Jr., I had a chance to coach his dad at Syracuse. He’s got some speed and can get down the field. We’ve got some talent there. We just have to get it organized.
“We’re going to be a little bit stronger. The defense, at this point, is clearly ahead of the offense. A pleasant surprise for me is that we have some talent at the corner(back) position. That’s so critical in the game. We’ve got three corners that we feel can play. Blidi Wreh-Wilson is one of our captains, Dwayne Gratz is another one of our corners that’s good and we’ve got another fifth-year senior that hasn’t played much named Gary Wilburn, who I’ve been really impressed with. To have corners that you have confidence in is critically important. And I think we’ve got three and that’s a lot.”