What’s goin on?
Couldn’t miss 6 foot 5 317-pound defensive tackle Shamar Stephen riding up to practice on a golf cart with his right knee braced up Tuesday.
UConn Coach Paul Pasqualoni later confirmed a sprained knee.
Pasqualoni could not confirm how long Stephen would be out. He was scheduled for an MRI later Tuesday.
“But I’m optimistic that it’s not going to be a long, drawn out deal,” Pasqualoni said. “We’re going to miss him – but we’ll know a little bit more tonight, exactly what grade sprain it is, somewhere around a Level 2.”
Sophomore Angelo Pruitt (6-3, 296) got the burn (sorry, playing time) with the first team in Stephen’s place. Wreak-havoc senior Ryan Wirth (6-3, 271 and, who blocked a Chad Christen field goal attempt Tuesday), is the other first-team DT right now.
Pruitt and another sophomore, B.J. McBryde, had good spring seasons and were impressive in the spring game.
“Angelo is a young player,” Pasqualoni said. “He’s a work in progress. He’s got a lot of ability. He just doesn’t have a lot of experience. He didn’t play last year but he’s got a lot of tools and we’ve got to push him to get him ready to go.”
Look out here for the young guns, redshirt freshman Julian Campenni (5-11, 281) and big 6 foot 1 301-pound true freshman Mykal Myers from ol’ NFA, Newburgh Free Academy, N.Y., (know the school well.
“B.J. McBryde has been working,” Pasqualoni said. “We’ve got the two young dogs, Julian Campenni and young Mike Myers, who I’m encouraged with each day. Michael kind of handles his business, doesnt say very but I’d say after five practices has shown to be a dependable guy. We’ll continue to look at the two young guys, Campenni and Myers and I expect Ryan With, a senior, to act like one and play like one and will get Andreas in here and see what we can do; keep a lot of ice on Shamar and get him back as fast as we can.”
McBryde and Pruitt said they both saw Stephen go down and they both the same thing: “We want our teammate to get back as fast as he can,” McBryde said
“We have to step up in his place,” Pruitt said.
Other news items…
– Walk-on offensive lineman Drew Ghio from Bristol has left the program for the time being. He was having some difficulty recovering from a knee injury. A decision has been made to work through the injury and see where things stand in January whether or not Ghio wants to give it a go again.
– Sophomore quarterback Scott McCummings still has Pasqualoni’s blessings to take care of business at home. As far as when he returns – an Pasqualoni fully expects him to return – the coach said he’ll know within a couple of days.
– 6-9, 300-plus pound defensive tackle Andreas Knappe of Denmark was supposed to have touched down at 6 p.m. A visa issue prolonged his arrival which, was a little more anticipated with the Stephen news.
– Freshman defensive end E.J. Norris had his left arm in a sling. The injury? “It was an elbow,” Pasqualoni said.
– Also, some final take-home finals have to be recorded but Pasqualoni said he was pretty optimistic that there will be no academic casualties this season. He said he would be surprised if there was a problem. If there aren’t that would be two consecutive years for the second-year head coach here with everybody on board. Former UConn Coach Randy Edsall was really good with his players on this but the academic record of players under Pasqualoni was remarkable at Syracuse and, apparently, he hasn’t eased of the gas here. Good.
The Huskies were in full pads Tuesday but they weren’t in full crack mode, just Thud, where you’re going about three-quarters of the way but there’s no tackling and the quarterback isn’t live.
I wanted to hit the offensive line and its progress big and I will this week but here’s No.1 and No.2 on the list of important things to do up there according to line coach and offensive coordinator George DeLeone.
“I think No.1 and the players know this, we have to establish an atmosphere of competition,” DeLeone said. “We can’t have a situation where if a player plays poorly we can’t replace him because we have no one to back him up. We have to create competition. The only way we’re going to get better in the offensive line is if we create competition. If someone plays and plays well, he’s going to stay in there. If someone plays and doesn’t play well, we’ve got to develop enough depth that we can replace that guy and put pressure on him to perform better. So No.1, we have to create an aura of competition.
“No.2 we have to get a culture where players on the offensive line love to grind. I think we’re making progress in that regard. We’re not there yet but I think we’re better than we were last year. We need guys who can go the distance. We need guys who can answer the bell. We need guys that can go for 12 games and play hard so these are things we’re working on very strongly this camp. We had a situation today where we had to move some people around and I think we responded pretty well. We were able to function. I don’t know how great we were but we were able to function.
“Last year when we had injuries and we moved people around we never really could function well enough.”
Lastly, it appears Clemson transfer Bryce McNeal, who initially planned to come to UConn, is set to enroll at Louisville next week.
McNeal was unable to get in the graduate program at UConn.
Some around these parts are getting a kick out of the pedestal McNeal had reportedly been placed on recently. Sure, he may have been able to help UConn but the record clearly shows he is an unproven player but with potential.
“He didn’t play where he was,” senior Mike Smith said. “When Shak [Shakim Phillips] came it was like ‘he was this and that’ and I was like, ‘well, we’re gonna see’ but then Shak came out and as you see he’s making plays. My reaction to it, honestly is, I mean, you can’t say what we’ll be without him because we never had him. It’s as simple as that. We don’t know how good he was and we don’t know how good he was going to be on the field here. I don’t know if he’s a good player or not but I know there was a lot of, ‘is he coming? did he get in? did he not?’ He’s heading to Louisville so we’ll see if he’s good…because we’re in the same conference, right? So we’ll see if he’s good.”