STORRS - When he took over the UConn football program again, the one position group that head coach Randy Edsall was pleasantly surprised by during his first few months on the job was the team’s wide receiver corps.
Fast forward to fall training camp and those receivers are perhaps even better, thanks to the addition of another outstanding athlete.
On Monday the coaching staff moved Donovan Williams, a quarterback who started three games for the Huskies last season at that position, to wide receiver.
Williams came to Edsall Monday morning and inquired about the position switch after it became clear that he was unlikely to be the team’s starting quarterback this season.
“He likes playing quarterback but he could kind of see where some things were going,” Edsall said.
Monday was Williams’ first day in his new position. He participated in drills with the receivers but did not play in the mini-scrimmage that highlighted the practice.
Edsall told Williams last week that he hoped to use the 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore on some special teams but the full position switch was Williams’ idea.
Last season, former UConn coach Bob Diaco said that Williams “had more upside than anyone at his position in the nation.” That hyperbole didn’t serve the then-true freshman well, and the Husky offense became stagnant with Williams at the helm and the team suffered consecutive shutouts.
It was hardly all Williams’ fault, of course. The Huskies had a first-time offensive coordinator calling plays and an offensive line that was struggling.
Edsall made a similar move during the early days of his first stint as UConn’s head coach. He moved a young, athletic quarterback named Keron Henry to wide receiver when it became clear that Dan Orlovsky would be under center for the foreseeable future. Henry went on to be one of Orlovsky’s top targets and amassed 1,615 yards receiving.
Edsall believes Williams could be an outstanding receiver, too.
“I think he’s smart, he’s big, he’s athletic,” Edsall said. “He’s a great kid that wants to play. He sees this as his best opportunity to get on the field.”
Last season Noel Thomas, now trying to make the Detroit Lions, set a UConn record with 100 receptions and was at times the team’s only viable passing target. The team, under new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, plans to spread the ball around much more this season.
Junior Hergy Mayala is likely to be the Huskies’ top pass-catcher this season but there are seemingly many more viable options.
It could take Williams some time to adjust to his new role but one player who has shown the ability contribute immediately for the Huskies this season is Quayvon Skanes.
A 5-foot-11, 171-pound redshirt freshman from Chicago, Skanes has been working with the Huskies’ starters during training camp.
“I see a guy that’s a little more confident than maybe he was in the spring,” Edsall said of Skanes. “He’s got a chance to contribute quite a bit with what we’re doing.”
Skanes had initially hoped to get on the field last season as a true freshman but says now that he doesn’t regret his redshirt season in 2016.
“I came in, I was kind of small, so I figured during the season they redshirted me to get me bigger and stronger,” Skanes said.
This season Skanes will play receiver and likely return kickoffs for UConn.
“Right now I’m back there for kickoff return so that should be pretty fun,” Skanes said. “That’s a part of my game and I take pride in that.”
Among the other receivers in the mix for playing time this season is Keyion Dixon, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound redshirt freshman from Glastonbury.
“Keyion has his moments but consistency is the key for him, to do it all the time and believe in himself,” Edsall said.