LINE THEM UP – With starting right tackle Kevin Friend still listed as “questionable” with a high ankle sprain, UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni said that he’s working both Xavier Hemmingway and Dalton Gifford at that position heading into Saturday night’s game against No. 15 Michigan at Rentschler Field.
“We’re optimistic about Kevin,” Pasqualoni said Thursday afternoon in a pre-game conference call with reporters. “But we’re working Dalton over there and we’re working Xavier Hemmingway, so we’re working two guys over there.”
Despite getting several solid reps in the Maryland game from Tyler Bullock at guard, Pasqualoni is not planning any drastic changes to the offensive line.
“I think right now we’re staying with Tyler as a guard and center,” Pasqualoni said. “Obviously, (left guard) Steve Greene is staying where he is, (left tackle) Jimmy Bennett staying where he is, so we’re working the combination of Dalton Gifford and Xavier.”
CATCHING ON – Receiver Shakim Phillips, who caught 10 passes for a career-high 178 yards and a touchdown, is also listed as “questionable” with a strained hamstring suffered when finishing a 75-yard TD pass and run late in the Maryland game.
If he can’t go, look for redshirt freshman John Green (two catches, 22 yards against Maryland) to start in Phillips’ place.
“He did pretty good last week,” said Pasqualoni of Green. “We’re working a bunch of people, Dhameer Bradley, Noel Thomas, Thomas Lucas (all true freshmen). We’re trying to bring him (Lucas) along as well. He’s tall (6-foot-2), the same kind of build as Shak, so we’re working those guys, it’s just a matter of how much they can get ready to do something by Saturday.”
There is the possibility that both Friend and Phillips – linebacker Graham Stewart is also batting an ankle injury – could all play against the Wolverines, depending on how their rehab goes over these next 48 hours.
“We’re going to look at them again today (Thursday). They’re moving around,” pasqualoni said. “Shak’s moving a little better, Kevin’s moving a little better. Graham is coming along but right now I would say that they’re questionable as of right now. Considering we’ve got all day Saturday. We have our meeting and all that so we’ll get a real good evaluation of them by Saturday game time.”
NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT – The Huskies will stand in the prime-time spotlight Saturday night when ABC-TV broadcasts the Michigan game across the half the nation (ABC is also televising Texas- Kansas State). It marks the sixth time since 2009 that UConn will be shown on either ABC or NBC.
Previous ABC games were Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in 2009, Michigan in 2010 and Cincinnati in 2012. The 2009 UConn-Notre Dame was aired on NBC.
“We excited to play. It’s still early in the season. We don’t have much to show for it but we are improving,” Pasqualoni said. “It’s Saturday night at the Rent, probably be the largest crowd that’s ever seen a game at the Rent. It’s on ABC and it gives up a chance to have that kind of exposure for the program. For a college football player, it doesn’t get any better than this. Playing at home, great crowd, playing a real quality opponent and a chance to show what you can do. The kids are excited.”
So is the Huskies athletic director Warde Manuel.
“This is a big game for UConn,” Manuel said in a conference call Wednesday. “It’s a great opportunity for our fans and for our team to play against one of the top teams in the country, the program that’s won the most football games at this level in the country. It’s a great opportunity for us.”