Spring Football: UConn Practice Notebook

The offensive and defensive linemen huddle in a circle between the two hash marks on the 20-yard-line. At offensive line coach Mark Foley's command, two men come forward, drenched in sweat, the collective eyes of their peers watching on. A whistle, and they attack.

In a drill reminiscent more of a gladiatorial battle than a football game, the offensive and defensive player launch themselves toward each other, each one trying to push the other out of the circle. 

 Redshirt freshman tackle Jimmy Bennett explodes toward defensive end Mike Cox, accelerating so hard he loses his footing and falls to both knees. Even at a leverage disadvantage, Bennett keeps fighting, rising back to his feet and proceeding to build up momentum. He eventually shoved Cox to the ground to the cheers of his teammates. 

 "Way to keep your feet moving," shouts Foley encouragingly. "That's what we need to do out there." 

 Bennett, a three-star recruit out of Alexandria, Va., was the 41st-best offensive tackle in the 2007 class and the Huskies' highest rated recruit a year ago. Bennett received offers from seven Division I programs but finally decided on UConn. 

 After redshirting his freshman year, Bennett is ready to make an impact this season for the Huskies. 

 "There's a couple of guys ahead of me so I'm really just looking to get a whiff of the playing field," Bennett said. "But I guess you could say I'm really excited about getting out there and making a statement." 

 The position battle at offensive tackle is one of the more heated battles this spring. As of Tuesday, Edsall was reluctant to name who would be the starter heading into Saturday's Blue-White Spring Game, let alone the rest of the season. 

 "Every position is still open," Edsall said. "We'll talk some personnel as we head into the game Saturday, we talk personnel every day. For any kind of finalization, that won't come until at least Tuesday of next week. You got four months before we play a game, so the starters can change spring to fall." 

Howard back in check

 After being thrown out of Saturday's practice for diving into the end zone after an interception return, cornerback Jasper Howard was back in attendance at practice on Tuesday. 

 Less than five minutes into practice during special teams drills, Howard found daylight on a kick return and accelerated up the middle. Realizing that nobody was in pursuit, Howard put on the brakes and pitched the ball back to special teams coordinator Lyndon Johnson. 

 "You ain't gonna take that one to the crib, are ya?" joked a teammate. 

 Coaches named for spring game 

 Four alums of the UConn football program have been named honorary coaches for the 2009 Blue-White Spring Football Game. 

 Former head coaches will include Walt Nadzak (1977-1982) and Tom Jackson (1983-93). Nadzak led the Huskies to a 24-39-2 record in his five years at the helm. Jackson took over the reins from Nadzak and helped lead UConn to a share of the Yankee Conference Championship in 1983. Jackson was also instrumental in helping linebackers John Dorsey and Vernon Hargreaves become the first teammates in UConn football history to earn All-America honors. 

 Former players will include Ken Sweitzer of Madison, who played from 1978-1981, was a captain as a senior and was named the 1981 Yankee Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Rick Jackson, who lettered four years for UConn from 1988-1992, was also named. 

 Todman a no-show, Meme steps up 

 With Jordan Todman absent from practice, Kelmetrus "Meme" Wylie once again made a statement to be a premier back come fall. 

 After being sent out of practice early on Saturday for what would have been an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in a real game, Todman was once again absent on the field Tuesday. Edsall attributed it to Todman missing class. 

 "I guess he lost his GPS because it looks like he couldn't find his way to class," Edsall said. 

 Meanwhile, Wylie was all business. The redshirt sophomore looked as fast as ever, taking a 20-yard toss to the right, shedding two would-be tacklers and racing off into daylight. 

 Just a few plays later, Wylie caught a Zach Frazer slant across the middle and maneuvered his way through the linebackers and easily into the secondary. 

 Edsall has reiterated his confidence in UConn's stable of backs and made it clear that he will find a way to work everyone in on the offense if they show the dedication in practice and excel when they get touches in games. 

 The shoe's on the other foot 

 In the middle of practice on Tuesday, Edsall switched the special teams positions, with Dave Teggart handling punting duty and Desi Cullen taking field goals. 

 When asked if he was considering switching their duties, Edsall made it clear that he would do whatever was in the best interest of the team. 

 "If Desi turns out to be better at field goals he'll be out there on the field goals and if Teggart can handling the punting better he'll be our punter," Edsall said. "I think a lot of guys don't realize how these little things can help the team as a whole." 

 Quick hits 

 Bennett will not be playing in the Blue-White game on Saturday, as he has a funeral to attend … In addition to Todman, Marcus Campbell and Dwayne Gratz sat out Tuesday due to academic lapses … Scratches for the Blue-White game due to injuries include Anthony Sherman, Robbie Frey, Yianni Apostolakos, Jesse Joseph, Billy Ferrier and Alex Polito … Beau Brunelli and Brad Kanuch both left practice with injuries and didn't return. 

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