Notes, quotes from UConn’s first spring practice

EARLY RISERS – The wake-up call might have come far too early for the average college student but for the student-athletes that make up the UConn football team, 6 a.m. couldn’t have come soon enough.
The first official spring practice of 2013 took place in the Shenkman Traning Facility early Monday morning and for head coach Paul Pasqualoni and his players, it was their first chance to get the bitter taste of last season’s disappointing 5-7 finish out of their mouths and start anew.
“It was early but we were here working, so it was fun,” junior quarterback Chandler Whitmer said. “It was good. There was a lot of energy out here, even though it was early in the morning. It was good to get back out here and play real ball. That was fun. And we’re excited about this spring and ready to get some work in.”
Added defensive end Jesse Joseph: “It’s finals week, so we haven’t gotten that much sleep. I was up all night so, the rest of them? (the team), they’ve probably been up all night too. My roommates been up all night. It’s football, we all love being here.”
IT WAS A GOOD MORNING – Considering the early hour and the fact that the offense, the defense and special teams were all learning from brand new coordinators, Pasqualoni was pleased with the first practice.
“It was very good. A lot of energy. And I thought they did a good job for the first day of not flattening out. Not letting up,” the head coach said. “It seemed from the beginning to the end, people were trying hard. Now, we made a few mistakes and it’s the first day, there’s a lot to improve on but I was happy with their attention and how fast they practiced. The level of energy by everybody, including the coaches. It was the kind of environment you want to be in.”
New offensive coordinator T.J. Weist and new defensive coordinator Hank Hughes – along with new special teams coordinator Kermit Buggs, spent the morning working to get the players familiar with the new philosophies.
“You’ve got two new voices installing and coaching it and making the points, so I thought on both sides of the ball … and we might as well include Kermit on special teams,” Pasqualoni said. “So, all the way around, three new coordinators, first practice, 6 a.m., I thought it was good.”
And the 6 a.m. start time? Would Pasqualoni consider more of those?
“I would,” he said. “If … we had the registration issues resolved and we could not have any interference with class, then I would very much consider practicing in the morning. I like it. I think it’s really good. I think the kids are up, they’re awake, they’re attentive, I would do it, it’s just a matter of school first.”
SLOWLY BUT SURELY — Joseph suffered a torn Achilles tendon against Maryland in the third game of the season and was granted a redshirt season. He said that he’s taking things as slowly as he can but is “making pretty good progress.”
. They don’t want to push me as much, they just want me to stay on track so in that way, my Achilles stays good.
“I’m doing some field work, I’m starting to run on the field a little bit. I’m getting a feel for that, so I’m slowly getting back into that,” he said. “I just do as much as I can and when it starts bugging me I just bring (ease) it up. But so far, nothing’s been bugging me.”
Aside from the light field work, Joseph’s primary work has been mentoring the other defensive linemen.
“I think the best thing I can do is just help out a lot of guys because I’ve been here for a while and with my experience and what I know, the best I can do is just help out the young guys,” Joseph said. “Last season was disappointing but at the same time, I’m not really trying to weight in on that and always think about it, I just want to move on and do what I can do at the moment.”
SHINING STARS – Four Huskies, defensive end Trevardo Williams, linebacker Sio Moore and cornerbacks Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz, went into the NFL Combine in Indianapolis recently with very little fanfare. When it was over, a lot of people were talking about the charge all four apparently made up the draft boards.
“I was very proud of what they did, but what I’m proudest of was, through the combine, our players acted the right way and they performed the right way,” Pasqualoni said. “And the level of respect that they were looked at. The guys in the NFL that I’ve talked to and a lot of people called me because I coached linebackers, I coached defense and some of these NFL coaches that called me, I know these guys, they’re friends of mine. I’ve worked with them and just to hear them say their comments on how the kids behaved and how they went through the drills and what their knowledge was, I think everyone here should be proud of what they did.
“The way they performed and the way they prepared for that day. They prepared like it was the biggest interview of their lives and that was how they were supposed to go into it. And that’s how they handled it.”
HYPPOLITE HEALING – He walked about the Shenkman Training Center on crutches but senior running back Martin Hyppolite is making progress after recently being involved in an automobile accident in New Hampshire.
“It was nice to see him. I had a long talk with him the other night,” Pasqualoni said. “He said he was feeling a little better. He’s in the rehab mode and it’s going to be a while but he’s getting everything together mentally. Just because you’re injured doesn’t mean you miss the mental reps. Whether you’re hurt or not, you’re out here paying attention and you’re learning and you go from there.”
Hyppolite injured his hip in the accident and Pasqualoni thinks it could be as late a June before they know a definitive timetable for his return.