Football: Huskies prove themselves to coaches and fans in spring finale

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The UConn Football team kicks off the annual Spring game at Rentschler Field Saturday afternoon. In a game of Blue vs. White, 10 touchdowns were scored by the offense. The season begins Thursday, August 30, at Rentschler Field, with UConn playing against UCF (Nicholas Hampton/The Daily Campus)

Going into your typical spring game, you know what to expect: a glorified practice taking place in front of slightly more people, with players switching teams, a wonky points system (or none at all), coaches on the field and a lot of basic day-one plays.

That’s exactly what we got in the annual Blue-White UConn spring game on a beautiful Saturday at Rentschler Field, where there was no official winner or loser in a contest that pitted the first team offense against the first team defense, and likewise with the second teams.

Through all the chaos however, UConn still looks much like a team adjusting to a new offense while replacing some key players on defense. The spring practice finale is just another piece that allows the coaching staff to see what they have on both sides of the ball.

“It’s just another opportunity to evaluate all these guys to see where they are, to see what we can and cannot do with them,” Head Coach Randy Edsall, said. “Now we know we’re gonna have some guys in the freshman class who are probably gonna get some more opportunities than maybe we thought, or maybe they thought.”

UConn’s kicker Michael Tarbutt was the star of the afternoon, kicking field goals of 43, 51 and 54 yards on the day. Tarbutt, who had a rough freshman year kicking the ball, said that he draws from his favorite basketball team for inspiration when things aren’t exactly going his way.

“Bet on yourself, from the Toronto Raptors, my home NBA team, it’s actually their motto this year” Tarbutt said. “I love the idea that, regardless as to what people think, I’m gonna bet on myself to put that thing through.”

With the ball at the 44-yard line going into halftime, Edsall wanted to test that resolve and iced Tarbutt, calling time out right as he was kicking the ball twice in a row. Tarbutt nailed the kick regardless, going into the locker room on a high note.

“He didn’t pass those types of tests during a couple of other scrimmages we had, but he passed the exam today, and now he’s gotta take that and do that all the time,” Edsall said.

Quarterback David Pindell is still seemingly the favorite to helm the Huskies this fall, taking all the snaps with the first team offense.

The junior college transfer recovered from a shaky first drive where he threw four incomplete passes and an interception to go 15-27 on the day with two touchdowns and one more pick.

Pindell showed off a pretty deep ball on more than one occasion, with two deep ball TD passes to wide receiver-turned-tight end Aaron McLean of 40 and 29 yards, something that he’s been working hard on all offseason.

“He’s been a guy that works very diligently,” Edsall said. “If you tell him there’s something he’s gotta work on, he’ll go do it. You don’t have to worry about him slacking off or not doing what he’s supposed to.”

Pindell also looked to take off and run with the ball on more than one occasion, but his skills in that department were limited by the two-hand touch rule in effect on the quarterbacks.

Brandon Bisack and Jordan McAfee split the second team reps at quarterback, throwing for 142 and two touchdowns and 17 yards and two interceptions, respectively.

Despite missing Kevin Mensah, the frontrunner for the starting spot, the Huskies’ running back unit showcased its depth. First team starter Nate Hopkins ran for 106 yards on 16 carries while redshirt freshman Zavier Scott had 10 carries for 94 yards, but walk-on Donevin O’Reilly stole the show.

The redshirt freshman who transferred from Merrimack a year ago had 130 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 18 carries, getting multiple reps with the first team in the Huskies’ spring finale.

“He’s very quick, very shifty and he’s a young man that has a big heart and a big want-to,” Edsall said. “He’s somebody that you know if you put him in a game, he’s gonna do everything that he can to be successful.”

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It’s just another opportunity to evaluate all these guys to see where they are, to see what we can and cannot do with them
— Head Coach Randy Edsall

The biggest position group in need of improvement, according to Edsall, were the Huskies defensive backs.

“We’re not anywhere close to where we want to be in the secondary,” Edsall said. “We’re gonna have freshmen that come in and challenge for play time.”

Another area in need of work was the team’s discipline, or rather the lack thereof. This was highlighted early on in the game as a couple of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties had Edsall on the field yelling a bit, but despite that the game served as a good springboard into offseason workouts.

“All in all, it’s a great day, some great weather, nice turnout, we’ve been blessed,” Edsall said. “Now what we need to do is have a great summer: we need to get bigger, faster, stronger and make sure we pay attention to the little things.”


Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at luke.swanson@uconn.edu.

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