Sept. 6, 2011
STORRS, Conn.- The UConn football team returns to action on Saturday, September 10 when the Huskies travel to Nashville, Tenn. to face the Vanderbilt Commodores in a 7:30 p.m. EST contest. Saturday's game will be televised locally on SNY and can also be heard on WTIC, the UConn Radio Network.
For a look at UConn's weekly media release, CLICK HERE.
Head coach Paul Pasqualoniheld his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, below are quotes from coach Pasqualoni along with selected student-athletes.
Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni
"We are finally into a normal week, and it feels good to be into the season and trying to get into a normal week routine. We started our preparation for Vanderbilt yesterday and we had a good day. We are looking forward to having a good week, and we will need to have a good week. Vanderbilt had a very productive opening day, they scored 45 points, made some big plays, had a defensive touchdown for a score and two picks. They did well on their kickoff return game, they had some explosive plays of 22 and 35 yard returns. They have a pressure defense, and I really like Chris Marve, the middle linebacker, Casey Hayward the corner who also substitutes as their wildcat quarterback. That is always a problem for you. Trey Wilson is another good corner, I like Sean Richardson their strong safety who is an impressive looking guy. They are rolling big guys in up front on defense, so they have plenty of depth on the defensive line. They have a collection of fairly tall wide receivers, which at any level of football is always a challenge for you. Larry Smith, their quarterback, had a good game at Connecticut last year. Their backs our stout, they run hard. I really like the size of Fitz Lassing, their fullback. He can hurt you catching the ball as well as blocking. We will have to have a good week and we will have to be prepared to go down there and play.
How are you going to prepare your team for a road game in a hostile environment this week?
"There isn't anything special that we can do, other than focus on the intensity and competiveness of practice. We try to create as intense an atmosphere day in and day out that you can, and keep that tempo part of who we are. I think you need to rely on the foundation of what you have been doing. When you get into these road games, it's going to be hot and it's against a quality opponent. We are going to have to depend on the way we approach the game."
What strengths does Ted Jennings bring to the defense?
"I'm still really getting to know Teddy, with Jesse Joseph being out, he has had a chance to come on strong. Last week was a game against a team that had a zone read, where those defensive ends have to stay within the instruction of the defense, they just can't go and ride their horse and do their own thing. They have to play within the structure of the defense and Teddy did that. Trevardo Williamsdid that also, both ends were critical for the success that we had in terms of defending the run game. I also thought that Teddy was good technique wise, I thought he played off blocks well, took on blocks well and I thought he saw the ball well. The intangible things that you look for in a guy to be a real player at the position he showed. He is still young and that was just one start for him and he needs to get better every week, but he had a good first showing."
What were your thoughts on the quarterbacks after the Fordham game?
"First I was impressed with that we didn't make a bunch of mistakes. We weren't perfect, we made some first game misreads, a couple, not many. All three did well which was encouraging. What I saw was all three have to improve their footwork, their timing of the throws and they have to continue to get sharp on the accuracy of the throws. I thought those were positive things that we can build on. Maybe what I was most pleased with was that the game wasn't too big for any of the three. They handled it pretty well, there was no anxiety, and they were well prepared. I thought they showed that confidence and they worked hard going into the game."
Is there a point in the season when you want to have a decision on who the quarterback will be?
"Well, there was a point that I would have liked to make that decision three or four months ago. So as soon as it's clear we will go in that direction. There is nothing like playing in games to develop the skills that you need at the quarterback position. They can improve in practice and improve in a game, and hopefully we will go another step in that direction."
Do you have a specific prototype for a college quarterback?
"That is a great question. The prototype quarterback is the guy that is extremely productive, he doesn't come in any particular size, shape or form. When you look at the real good quarterbacks right now, Drew Brees is barely six feet tall, but he is unbelievably productive. Right now, if there is a guy that you could say it would be nice to have a guy like that, it would be Aaron Rodgers. He can beat you dropping back and sitting in the pocket, he can beat you avoiding in the pocket, he can beat you scrambling, he can beat you by running with the ball. In my vision he is the perfect quarterback right now."
"I think what you do, you have a big playbook and you install the playbook during spring football and preseason. Then when you really figure out who the quarterback will be, you take from that big playbook and you reduce the size. We have three smaller playbooks working at once right now. We are trying to feature and focus on what all three of their strengths are. To their credit, they are doing a great job of what we are asking them to do. The ideal guy for me, isn't based on anything particular other than production. At the end of the day that is how you select the right guy."
How much does it help to open with Fordham this season?
"We were in a position where we should have dominated up front, and we did dominate up front. Offensively we had 11 drives and we scored on five of them. We got the ball down the field so that the defense went out with at least 70 yards behind them so that we could play a little bit of a field position game. We said early on that we would have to help the quarterbacks during the game and I thought we did that."
There are a number of areas on the depth chart that are uncertain, how much of that is waiting for a step up in opposition to make a decision?
"Obviously the higher the level of competition the more important production and how well you play becomes. As we work our way through the early portion of the season I think some of those decisions will come pretty quick. We are still trying to get all of the pieces in the right place in regards to the offensive line, and we are rolling guys in and out on the defensive line. As we go, we will just keep working and the better players will rise to the top and I think that will happen in the next few weeks."
What does Coach Brown bring to the team?
"Coach Brown brings a really sound, fundamental style of defense along with pressure. Coach Brown is just a heck of a football coach. We can line up and play base defense and at the same time we can apply a pressure defense. He has a well thought out and sound, fundamental defense that the kids love to play. Everyone is excited to work with him because he is all in and he is excited every day. He has a tremendous passion for the game, he is a special guy."
How did the fullbacks do during the first game?
"I thought from an assignment standpoint they did very good. There are a couple things that we certainly have to do better, but I thought that they were functional and I thought they contributed to the win. We need to do better on pass protection, but that will come with time. I was happy with the start we had, but we do need to get better."
What did you think about Cole Wagner's performance?
"He has to improve. Cole knows that, he didn't punt the ball as well as he can and some of it is on me. I'm asking him to pooch punt as well, which he did and he got it on the 20 yard line, but if he kicked it into the endzone it would have been on the 20 yard line so we would have been in the same place. He is capable of really being a top punter, he is capable of being a good directional punter and an all around punter. Our problem was that we practiced too many times indoors. When you get outside you have the wind that you are trying to punt with which makes things completely different."
What did you like about Trevardo Williams' performance?
"He played with excellent leverage, he took on blocks very well. He played good structured defense, and got off the ball. I thought for his first outing he played a pretty solid game and I was pleased with how he played the run game."
Defensive Coordinator Don Brown
On the 2011 season:
"We've gotten a lot done in a short period of time. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. The reception from the players has been great. Obviously, I've been very impressed with the quality of the student athletes here. Working with Coach Pasqualoni has been a pleasure. He is a great football coach and I have learned a lot from him in a short period of time."
On why the players have taken so well to him:
"I don't know. You'd have to talk the players. From my perspective, the day I walked in and started talking about concept and theme the guys have been on point and very positive. We made some significant changes about how we deal with things. The transition has been pretty smooth."
On his defense being player friendly:
"Well, you've got to make it difficult for the quarterback and the offense that you are playing. At the same time you have to simplify it for the players so they can grasp a scheme and be able to play fast. It's a balancing act. The one thing the players hit on the most is that football is an aggressive game for tough people. We take the approach we are going to play on the balls of our feet not our heels. It plays out well on our defensive scheme."
Quarterbacks Coach Joe Moorhead
What do you take away from Saturday's game with the quarterbacks?
"I think the first thing you take under consideration is that going into the game, among the three guys there were three total snaps in a collegiate game. To get those three guys live game experience was a good thing for all three of them."
Did they do everything that was expected of them during the game?
"I think our approach from a coaching standpoint, when you enter the meeting room you are preparing all three like they are starting. You have to coach them that way and prepare them that way and you hope that their approach shares a similar philosophy. All three had to be ready to go and all three knew that they were going to play in the game in some capacity."
Is it more difficult for them to get into the flow of the game when they are coming in and out?
"Having played the position, there is something to be said about the continuity of being in there and getting into the flow of the game. The way we have it set up, Scott McCummings has a predetermined package of plays that he practices during the week and he knows what his role will be. From Johnny McEnteeand Mike Nebrich, they are both preparing the same package of plays as if they are the starter. They just need to be ready to go in when their number is called and make the most of it."
#18 Johnny McEntee, RS Junior, QB
What do you do now that you have a solid game under your belt?
"Nothing really changes in terms of preparation, if anything we have less time than we did for the Fordham game. Because of that we need to do more this week and really study our opponent."
Are you enjoying this process, and all of the competition?
"It is a lot of fun, I think it adds a lot to our offense to have all of these different options at quarterback with people who can do different things with their game."
Can you still get in a rhythm during a game when you are going in and out?
"Every once in a while it's tough to get in a rhythm, but I think our offense keeps rolling that way and keeps the defense on their toes."
Are you thinking about how things will start to separate themselves at the quarterback position as the season goes on?
"We aren't giving too much thought to that, at practice we still have the same rotation and we do the best that we can do with the plays that we are given."
Do you think the way Coach Brown runs the defense here will help you during the Vanderbilt game since they run a similar defense?
"Facing our defense throughout spring and camp I think has prepared our offense for the season, because we never knew what they were doing. I think Vanderbilt and other teams, that is what they will do with their defensive strategy."
#24 D.J. Shoemate, Senior, TB
How difficult was it Saturday when you couldn't play?
"I am a competitor, so it was very difficult to see my team out there playing. It was a big game for me since it's my last year and I really wanted to be able to go out there and contribute and help my team win. At this point, I understood what they told me before the game and think of it in the bigger picture. I was bummed, but at the same time I was pleased with the win that we got."
Do you have any idea of what your role will be this Saturday?
"Honestly, with the rehab and everything that is going on, our main focus is trying to get me to as close to 100% as possible. The game plan, I'm going to do exactly what people have seen in me and I'm trying to get back to that point. I'm feeling good and I'm confident going into game week."
Are you anxious to get out there and play now?
"It is going to be the first game of the year for me, so I am very, very excited. In my mind it's just another game, I'm just going to go out there and help my team win."
#5, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, RS Junior, CB
On his performance against Fordham:
"I did a lot of things that Coach Brown told me to do. The game plan for them was fairly simple and we executed it well."
On the impact of Coach Brown:
"His aggressive style forces me to hold my own. I'm on an island out there. He has prepared me all spring and preseason for what I need to do. He is the cornerbacks coach so he has been working with me a lot. He knows what we are dealing with. Coach Brown has forced to me to step my game up to a higher level. He trusts us and believes in our capabilities."
On the three quarterbacks:
"McEntee is very accurate and the ball comes out quick. I call him the gun slinger because he is going to test me in practice no matter what. McCummings is a big kid. He runs the ball pretty well and tackling him is not fun. Nebrich is a young kid, but a talented kid. He can extend plays by running and make the big play. I like all three of them and I like the way the coaching staff handled the situation last week."
On trying to tackle Lyle McCombs:
"Lyle is a quick shifty kid. He's fast. He's patient. He is only a freshman and is already a force to be reckoned with."
#57, Moe Petrus, RS Senior, Center
On different lineups at offensive line against Fordham:
"The coaches are just trying to find the right combination with the young guys and you have to move them around to find it. It's important to get the younger guys game time experience, watch film on them and see who is best for each position."
On UConn's offensive line performance against Fordham:
"I think we did well. The first game is always a trick because you don't know what the defense is going to be running. You learn a lot between week one and two."
On what he wanted coming out of fall camp:
"I just hope for no mistakes, no mental errors and make our assignments. It's about giving the running back and quarterback the opportunity to make plays."
On the difficulties of working with three different quarterbacks:
"We worked all of them all preseason and all spring. I am comfortable with all of them. The coaches want to evaluate what they are going to do on the field and make a decision on game performance rather than just in practice."
On stepping on McCummings foot:
"Yes, that was me who stepped on his foot. I was trying to cut the defense off and ended up stepping a little too far back. Thankfully, his knee hit the ground before the ball came out."
#85, Geremy Davis, RS Freshman, WR
On one or two catches against Fordham:
"It felt good getting the first college catch after missing all of last year."
On what he can do for the team:
"I will do whatever the coaches need me to do. I can block, I can go deep and I can catch short passes."
On playing a SEC team:
"It is a huge difference. It is the best conference in the country. I have to up my play when I get my opportunity to get on the field."
On feelings of the team being prepared against Vanderbilt:
"The coaching staff is doing a great job teaching us and getting us ready for this level of competition."
#16, Byron Jones, RS Freshman, DB
On nerves for first college game:
"I guess I was the opposite of what normally happens. Heading into the game I was not nervous, but during the entire game I was shaky."
On the mindset of playing a team in the SEC:
"Well, with practice you want to always stay consistent no matter who you are playing. For a SEC teams you do try to turn it up a little, but you stay focused and try to not get wrapped up in that kind of stuff."
#2 Michael Nebrich, Freshman, QB
On the three quarterbacks:
"I think everyone did a good job on Saturday. We all brought something different to the table. The offense gelled with all three quarterbacks. Now it's up to the coaches to decide who they want as the number one guy."
On playing a SEC team:
"It will be a tough test for a team. We will see how far we have come since spring practice. Yesterday we started working on the game plan right away. It is a tough crowd at Vanderbilt. It will give a lot of experience to our team and really see how we will do going forward."
On the blitzing defense of Vanderbilt:
"I think playing against our defense for so long is really going to help us out. This week will go through all the different progressions. I think it will give us that edge to make sure we know what we are doing against all their different blitzes."
On slowing the game down:
"The biggest thing is to go in relaxed. You can't worry about the different elements and just be confident in yourself. The game is eventually going to slow down but everyone needs to just come in relaxed and prepared."
#11 Scott McCummings, RS Freshman, QB
Is there any difference in your position among the quarterbacks after watching game film and having a game under your belt?
"Everyone's kind of still in the same position. Everyone's wondering what's going on. We are all still getting lots of reps. Same old, same old as of now."
You are running a lot of option/running packages. Are you still throwing in practice so that you can run this whole thing if they asked you to?
"Oh yeah. I'm paying attention to everything; taking down notes when everyone else is out there. Just because my packages may be limited as of now, I'm not going to stop myself from learning. I'm going to know what I need to know to play in the game full time. Even though I'm not getting a ton of reps, mentally I'm prepared."
On the step up in competition set for this week against a team from the SEC:
"I really have no idea right now. I'm kind of nervous, but at the same time, I'm excited to play against an SEC team."
Do you get any indication that the QB decision rests in the change in talent you face this week and to see how you perform against a quality team?
"Oh yeah, definitely. Every single week, what we do matters. If we do well, you'll probably get more playing time. If you don't, you'll probably get less. That's how it always is. I don't have any indication of what it will mean for the starting spot though."
How do you feel about going on the road for the first time in a hostile environment?
"It will be a lot different now that I'm playing in it. Last year, I traveled to those big games at Michigan and USF. But I'm playing now. Things seem pretty intense, it will feel completely different now that I play. I'm really excited. I don't think I'll get rattled or anything."
When you broke down film following the game, did you look at what the other guys were doing and how they ran their plays?
"I just watched my plays to see if I did everything to the best of my abilities. I'm not really worried. Everyone's critiquing the performances, I don't have time to worry about anyone else. I have enough I need to worry about."
Is it a weird situation for the quarterbacks? Is it a friendly competition?
"Yeah it's still friendly. Everyone is out there laughing, trying to get better collectively. There's no ill feelings towards anyone."
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