Edsall says UConn football players must adapt fast

Published on Wednesday, 5 September 2018 20:22
Written by Neill Ostrout

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - College students these days, specifically football players, don’t know how easy they have it.

Well, that’s basically what UConn football coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday morning while recalling tales of his youth.

In the midst of preparing his team for its second game in two weeks against a ranked foe - Saturday night’s clash at No. 20 Boise State - Edsall briefly turned storyteller.

With a dash of “back in my day” and a sprinkle of “get off my lawn,” Edsall tried to show that the generational gap between some of his coaches and the Husky players can translate to the latter’s performance on the field.

All of his players, for instance, have grown up with cell phones. That in itself makes certain aspects of life too easy.

“When we had to pick up the phone and we wanted to ask that girl to go out, and that dad answers the phone … you know what I’m saying,” Edsall said. “You had to deal with talking to the father. You didn’t have to just text her ‘Hey honey, how are you? Can I go out with you?’ ”

Edsall’s point, it seems, is that most of his players have never been forced to overcome certain obstacles when they arrive on campus.

“They’ve never had to face adversity,” Edsall said.

“And now all of a sudden they come here, and they’re going to be uncomfortable,” Edsall continued. “Because they’ve never done anything like this.”

With a plethora of true freshmen playing significant time this season, mainly on his defense, Edsall felt the story was appropriate.

The Huskies (0-1) met a few annoyed fathers in Week 1 in the form of the Central Florida Knights, and they beat the stuffing out of the Huskies as if they were vastly unfit to date their daughters.

Their 56-17 loss to UCF in their opener didn’t have the Huskies panicking too much. The Knights are perhaps the best team in the American Athletic Conference and Edsall admits he knew heading into the game it would be a difficult matchup for the Huskies.

Besides, a few of his players were able, to borrow his metaphor, chat with their sweetheart’s father for at least a few minutes.

“Some adapt quicker than others,” Edsall said.

The middle of UConn’s defense is being manned these days by a pair of young Joneses. Linebacker Kevon Jones of East Hartford and nose tackle Travis Jones of New Haven acquitted themselves well in their debuts despite the lopsided score.

Travis Jones made 5 tackles and Kevon Jones had 5½. Neither started, though both are likely to start this week against Boise (1-0).

For his part, Kevon Jones says his status as a true freshman should be irrelevant to evaluations of his performance.

“As soon as you step on a college field it’s 11 on 11,” said Kevon Jones, who grew up a mere five-minute drive away from Pratt & Whitney Stadium. “Nobody really cares what grade you’re in.”

For the most part, Edsall was pleased with Kevon Jones’ performance.

“He was productive. He wasn’t always as sound as you would have liked him to be,” Edsall said. “But the one thing is he has the ability to come up and take a blocker on, get rid of him, and make a play. Which we don’t have a lot of that.”

Kevon Jones essentially shared the middle linebacker role with UConn senior Santana Sterling in Week 1. Sterling started but Jones appeared to take the majority of the snaps.

“He’s aggressive. Good player, gets his nose on the ball. He may not be lined up all the time in the right spot but he gets his nose on the ball,” Sterling said. “He’s an athlete and he can definitely play downhill. When we get him learning the plays exactly as he’s supposed to, he’s going to be great player for us.”

Sterling’s guidance has been a great help to Kevon Jones in his quest to get on the field quickly.

“Santana was guiding me through as soon as I set foot on campus,” Jones said. “He’s a great guy.”

Both of the Jones boys will be playing their first-ever game of football outside the state of Connecticut on Saturday. They’re not the only Huskies who will be playing for the first time in the state of Idaho, however.

UConn’s 2,498-mile trip to Boise will be the farthest west the program has traveled to play a game. The Huskies have never played in the Pacific time zone and their last trip to the Mountain time zone was a 2015 game against BYU.

Mensah’s message

After Thursday’s loss, UConn running back Kevin Mensah told a handful of reporters that he didn’t think some of his teammates “bought in” to the coaches’ message and felt too many of them were hanging their heads during the game against Central Florida.

Edsall said Tuesday that he didn’t exactly have a problem with what Mensah said, but he wishes his sophomore tailback would have delivered the message straight to the players.

“I love Kevin to death and I know what his message was, but Kevin has to learn there’s certain things that you say to you guys (reporters) and in a public forum. And there’s things you just say in the locker room,” Edsall said. “That’s something that should be said in the locker room.”

The coach admonished Mensah not to “air the dirty laundry” of the team, but admitted he probably wasn’t far off base with his words.

“There could be some truth to that,” Edsall said.

Extra points

There were a few changes to the team’s depth chart for this week. Ryan Carroll will start in place of fellow freshman Keyshawn Paul at one cornerback. Mensah has moved ahead of Zavier Scott at running back and will start this week. Also, all four of the team’s projected starters on the defensive line (UConn has relented and listed its defense as a 4-3, which it has mostly been since the start of training camp) are freshmen: Travis Jones, Jonathan Pace, Caleb Thomas, and Lwal Uguak. … Cornerback Tahj Herring-Wilson, one of the few defenders to receive praise from Edsall for his performance in the opener, left Tuesday’s practice with an apparent injury. Edsall said later the sophomore’s departure was likely heat-related and that he would be ready to play on Saturday. … Defensive end James Atkins will not practice on Tuesdays and Thursday this semester because of a class conflict. Edsall said he will still be able to play in games each week. … UConn quarterback David Pindell leads the American Conference in rushing after one week thanks to his 157 yards on the ground against UCF.

Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Wednesday, 5 September 2018 20:22. Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2018 20:24.