WILL IT, OR WON’T IT? – Only Yawin Smallwood knows for sure. Or maybe he doesn’t even know. Heading into Saturday’s season finale against Memphis, the redshirt junior linebacker, who’s on track to graduate in May with a degree in Sociology, might be playing his last collegiate game for the Huskies, especially with the shouts coming from the NFL experts that Smallwood could be a potential high draft choice.
“It could be (my last game) … it could not be,” Smallwood said Tuesday. “I’m just going to keep doing what I do every single game and that’s prepare and play my best football game. I’m just going to prepare the same way I always do, work hard, focus on the little things, and go out there and have fun with all my teammates, have fun with the seniors out here and try to get a win.”
This season, Smallwood leads the Huskies with 111 tackles (an average of 10 a game), along with posting 7½ tackles for loss, two sacks, eight pass breakups and an interception that he returned for a touchdowns with four minutes left to beat Temple. Overall in three seasons, he’s totaled 325 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 7½ sacks.
CBSsports.com has Smallwood the No. 4 rated ILB and projects him as a third-round selection while nfldraftscout.com has Smallwood as the No, 1 rated inside linebacker and also lists him as a third round pick.
So, will Smallwood take an extra long look around Rentschler Field on Saturday, knowing that it might be his last game?
“I always go out there and look around,” he said. “I look at the fans and the support that we get. Like I said before, I’m just going to prepare the same way I do each week, just going to go out there and play Iike I’m playing in the Fiesta Bowl, give everything I got and play as hard as I can.”
MAX A MILLION – In three of the last four games, backup tailback Max DeLorenzo has carried the ball more times than the starter, Lyle McCombs. Why? Easy, says interim head coach T.J. Weist.
“Everytime he gets the ball he does something with it,” Weist said Tuesday. “That’s all you want out of players is when they get the ball in their hands, they do something with it. They make plays. For a running back, you want him to make good cuts when (Max) gets the ball in his hands, he makes good cuts. He always ends up going forward and is always ready to go again and is always ready to keep making plays and is excited about it.”
DeLorenzo racked up 52 yards against Rutgers and scored two touchdowns from 12 and one-yard out. At Temple, he managed 61 yards and a touchdown while against SMU he added 62 yards and a touchdown to McCombs’ 103 and he posted 38 yards against Louisville to lead the UConn rushing attack.
“He’s playing with more confidence than he ever has because part of that confidence is making plays,” Weist said. “He’s always had a good attitude but it’s even more important to have a good attitude when you’re a player that’s a vital part of the offense, which he has become.”
INJURY UPDATE – Weist said Tuesday that guard Gus Cruz, who has missed the last six games with shortness of breath (cardiac issues) and cornerback Ty-Meer Brown, who has missed the last four games with a shoulder/nerve injury, will not play Saturday. Their seasons are over.
“With both of them right now, they’re both done for the season,” Weist said. “The injuries they have are more, they’re long-term. I’m not going to classify them as career-ending right now. We’ve ruled them out for the season because we don’t want anything to happen to them that could end their careers. They’re bad enough where we’re keeping them out of the rest of the season. They’re both getting better it just that we’re not going to allow them to play football for the rest of the year.”
Meanwhile, Kevin Friend, who’s sat out the last three games recovering from concussion-like symptoms, is still “questionable” according to Weist and is likely not going to play against Memphis.
“He’s (Friend) questionable … still,” Weist said. “We’ll see if he can practice today. He hasn’t been able to pass all the tests that he needs to pass from a concussion standpoint. It’s still day-to-day with him.”