INJURY UPDATE – It sounds like there might be some hopeful signs in regard to starting right tackle Kevin Friend getting back into the lineup for Saturday’s game against South Florida.
“Kevin has practiced basically all week,” interim head coach T.J. Weist said on his Thursday pre-game conference call. “He looks better as far as being able to go. He’s still day-by-day but he’s practiced well.”
In addition to the possibility of Friend getting back into the lineup, receiver Kamal Abrams (who had knee surgery on August 30) and cornerback Taylor Mack (shoulder) are listed as starters on this week’s depth chart and could play – if there are no setbacks with them over the next 48 hours.
“Taylor Mack practiced but he’s still questionable from that standpoint. He looks a little bit better, so we’ll find out how he does today,” Weist said. “Kamal … he’s practiced. He’s almost full-go for us. He’s done a good job in practice, he’s really ready to go.
“(safety) Andrew Adams, had a little bit of contact yesterday (Wednesday), he’s truly questionable. Coming off surgery, he’s just starting back into contact. (linebacker Graham) Stewart … is not probable. He hasn’t practiced for us this week.”
And receiver Shakim Phillips?
“He practiced yesterday but he’s still questionable because he didn’t go full speed,” Weist said. “We still day-by-day with him. We’re expecting him to practice today and see how he feels.”
NEW WEEK, NEW EXPECTATIONS – Paul Pasqualoni’s out, Weist is in, and hopefully along with that coaching move is a new sense of determination for the players and coaches on the UConn football team.
Trying to put the sting of four straight non-conference losses behind them, the Huskies – led by Weist – are working toward focusing their attention to the American Athletic Conference portion of the schedule and making something positive happen over these final eight games.
“It’s been a tough week for us last week with the transition, starting out 0-4 and not reaching our expectations,” Weist said. “It’s always tough going though change and figuring out who’s going to take over, but our players have responded well from that standpoint. We look forward to getting back to playing football against a good South Florida team. They really did a good job last week. Our guys are excited for the fresh start. It’s a new perspective.”
Especially for Weist, who in January came to UConn as the new offensive coordinator. Nine months later, he’s the head coach, trying to right the ship.
“It’s not difficult, it’s challenging. I’ve been in this business long enough to understand it,” he said. “I’ve listened to and watched head coaches my whole career, trying to develop my style to be a head coach some day, so it’s not like I’m surprised by it or not ready for it. You have to go through a process and see how you’re going to react and how to accept the challenges and meet them head on.
“It’s more handling all the other things a head coach has to do. I don’t want to say that the football is fairly easy, but it’s natural to me. It’s juggling all the other things, the press conferences, the radio shows, everything else that a head coach has to do that a coordinator doesn’t have to do. That a position coach doesn’t have to do. And still being able to coach football and study the game and develop the players. It’s more time management.”
GROWING UP FAST – Last year, Tim Boyle was leading Xavier High to the Class LL state title. On Saturday, he’ll be the starting quarterback for UConn against South Florida.
How time flies.
“Tim’s ready. He’s looking good,” Weist said. “He’s done a good job. He’s shown maturity. Physically, he’s done a good job handling the offense and getting the football off and handling all the schemes. The kid is well beyond his years from a maturity standpoint. And now it’s just a matter of getting him game experience and you never know how a kid’s going to react, you never know how a player is going to react out there when there’s pressure and under the fire and that’s going to be the case. Obviously, we’re going to put him in those situations in practice and get him to react this week to speed and pressure and then go from there. We’ve been pleased with him.”
Along with Boyle’s maturity, Weist has been impressed with other facets of his new quarterback’s game.
“He shows a presence on the field, in practice and in game situations,” the coach said. “He has a command of the offense, not just from a mentality standpoint, but from a decision-making standpoint. It’s about him making plays. And he’s intelligent. Can he handle the amount of game-plan that he have? That’s what we been looking for and that’s what he’s been able to do.”
ABRAMS RETURNS – While warming up for the Towson game, Kamal Abrams injured his knee. The next day he underwent surgery and spent the last month rehabbing. He’s listed on the two-deep depth chart as the starting receiver alongside Geremy Davis (replacing Shakim Phillips) against South Florida.
If Abrams can play, he brings an extra weapon to the receiving corps.
“Right now, I feel 100 percent,” Abrams said this week. “The bye week was good for me to get back in the rhythm of practice because I’ve been out for the past four weeks. I used last week to my advantage to go full speed and this week I’m going to continue to do the same thing. It feels great right now, no worries, no doubts. I’m ready to get back on the field.”
Said Weist: “He’s such a good leader. The players respect him. When you’ve got a guy like that that has a lot of experience and has played a lot of football he gives you that solid force that you need in the secondary. He adds that maturity.”
JUST, RUN, BABY – They are dead last among the 123 I-A programs in rushing offense (45.8 yards a game) and 119th in total offense. And if the Huskies are going to do anything positive over these last eight games, they have to run the football.
“It is imperative that we prove something … even to ourselves, that we can run the football and be successful at a major part of our offense,” Weist said. “We have to play better (on offensive line). We’re not re-inventing anything, we just have to play better. We have to be balanced and to do that, we have to be able to run the football and throw the football. We have to go out and execute. With a new quarterback, we’ll see how it goes.”