Spring Football: DJ is on the Move

STORRS – The D. J. Hernandez era at quarterback for the University of Connecticut football team came to an end on Tuesday afternoon. Hernandez, last season's starter at quarterback, was moved to wide receiver by head coach Randy Edsall after falling to third on the depth chart at quarterback this spring.

Redshirt sophomore Dennis Brown and JUCO transfer Tyler Lorenzen both moved ahead of Hernandez and in a move that surprised no one, officially lined up at wide receiver during Tuesday's practice.

Hernandez was officially moved on Monday afternoon to wide receiver, but the move has been in the back of Edsall and Hernandez's mind since the beginning of the spring semester.

"He wanted to contribute whether it was at quarterback or the possibility of going to wide receiver," Edsall said. "As a competitor he wants to play. He felt that if he was going to be third guy, he wanted to have the opportunity to get on the field and play. He felt that wide receiver would be the opportunity to do that."

Hernandez wasn't available for comment to the media after practice, but Edsall said that the junior from Bristol, Conn. was in favor from the move from the beginning. Edsall gave Hernandez, who threw for 849 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games, an opportunity to keep his starting job at quarterback this spring. The plan was to revisit the situation after five practices and a scrimmage and with Hernandez running third, both agreed that the move to wide receiver was best.

The continued improvement of Brown, who sat out last season as a redshirt, and the addition of Lorenzen made the move a no brainer for Hernandez.

Hernandez will maintain his role as third string quarterback for the Huskies with Edsall's desire to redshirt incoming recruit Cody Endres next season. Hernandez won't take anymore reps this spring however, and would just be used on an emergency basis.

Hernandez has good size for a wide receiver at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds and more importantly won't have his athletic ability wasted at the end of the bench. The Huskies could use help at wide receiver with Brad Kanuch and Terrence Jeffers pegged as starters after ending the year as starters as true freshmen. Senior Brandon McClean is coming off injury and senior Larry Taylor is the only other player with experience.

Redshirt freshman Kevin Poles is slowed by a hamstring injury and junior Ellis Gaulden is out for up to six months with a foot injury adding to the dearth at wide receiver. Edsall said the injuries had nothing to do with the move, but Hernandez's move will only strengthen the wide receiver corps.

"It's the right move for him and for the football team," Edsall said.

"D.J. has pretty good hands. For one day being out there without a ton of coaching, you could see the natural athletic ability."

Hernandez had some ups and downs his first day at wide receiver. He made several catches on slants and made tacklers miss. That is the good.

Then there is the bad.

One pass went right through his hands and hit him in the helmet. As the ball was up in the air, cornerback Darius Butler leveled him to the ground flat on his back. The ball was intercepted.

Hernandez got up and went back to the huddle. It's a familiar place for Hernandez, but in many ways it was very different. 

Lorenzen coming along

While Hernandez won't be the starting quarterback the jury is still out on who will start at quarterback for the Huskies. Lorenzen and Brown both worked with the first team on Tuesday and there doesn't appear to be a resolution anytime soon.

Lorenzen is finally starting to feel comfortable at quarterback and Brown continues to showcase a strong arm and a nice ball.

"It's a transition," Lorenzen said. "It takes time to get a good feel for it. The hardest adjustment is the verbiage and language. You have to reprogram your mind."

Lorenzen has struck up a friendship with Hernandez, who has helped him learn the offense. Hernandez's move to wide receiver is something Lorenzen knows well. He was moved to wide receiver at Iowa State before transferring to Palomar Junior College to play quarterback. 

"D.J. knows the offense and where to go," Lorenzen said. "He knows the protections. He is a step ahead of a lot receivers. D.J. is a tremendous athlete. He will do fine. I don't think it will be a problem at all." 

Spring notes

Gauldon's foot injury appears to be more serious than originally thought as he will be in a cast for at least eight weeks. With the rehab Gaulden will be out six months…Center Trey Tonsing is also out for the spring after breaking a bone in his right foot last Thursday. Starting center Keith Gray is also out for the spring forcing Edsall to move Alex LaMagdelaine back to center. LaMagdelaine will be headed back to guard for the fall…Starting defensive end Cody Brown will sit out Tuesday and Thursday practices for the remainder of the spring as he concentrates on his academic work.

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