STORRS - Brice McAllister is in a somewhat unique position to view Randy Edsall’s return to the UConn football team.
McAllister, a veteran safety with the Huskies, is a former star at Suffield Academy who has taken a pulse from the area fans.
“There’s a lot of buzz,” McAllister said. “Back home, I’m from Springfield, Massachusetts, so a lot of my friends and family, they knew Coach Edsall when he was here before. So they’re all excited. They’re all texting me and asking me for tickets to the games.”
McAllister, speaking after UConn finished the seventh workout of its 15-practice spring schedule Tuesday, has been pleased with the transition from Bob Diaco’s staff to Edsall’s new group.
“Everyone has a clean slate. Everything’s been put in the past and everything’s forgotten,” McAllister said. “We see a lot of guys stepping up and taking advantage of that opportunity.”
A 5-foot-11, 197-pound senior, McAllister was a key contributor and part-time starter for the Huskies in 2016. He and teammate Anthony Watkins split time at safety for much of the season opposite Obi Melifonwu.
McAllister played in all 12 games, made 18 tackles, and also returned five kicks for an average of 18 yards.
His play this spring has gotten the attention of his head coach, as well.
“I like him. I mentioned his name the other day in the staff meeting,” Edsall said of McAllister. “To me, he’s a football player. You just see him doing some things that you really like.
“He goes hard, fights through things You put on the film and you see guys, he’s one of those guys that has kind of a knack, has good football instincts.”
UConn’s offensive line, a unit that struggled mightily at times in 2016, continues to be a work in progress this spring.
Edsall was asked if the group had made any strides through the first half-dozen practices.
“Small,” Edsall said responded plainly.
Is there at least potential that the Huskies will have a solid group there when the 2017 season begins?
“I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of things they have to work on,” Edsall said.
The linemen themselves are apparently feeling the pressure to perform, not that they necessarily mind.
“We’re graded very hard, harder than we ever have been before,” senior guard Trey Rutherford said. “All the missed assignments are going down.”
Many fans are still wondering who might be starting at quarterback for the Huskies next season, but it’s perhaps a less-important question than who will be starting up front.
“That group has to be right for us to have any kind of success at all offensively. So we are putting more pressure on them,” Edsall said.
Levenberry in limbo
It’s unclear if the torn ACL that senior linebacker E.J. Levenberry suffered on Saturday will keep him out for the entire 2017 season.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen there. You’ll just have to wait and see how somebody responds to the surgery, how the rehab goes,” Edsall said. “If it happens, it happens. It’s not one of those things that you count on.”
Levenberry, a transfer from Florida State, was an experienced player and likely starter for the Huskies who suffered something of a freak injury.
“He was just running down the field. Nobody was within 10 yards of him,” Edsall said.
Rose ready to return
School officials wouldn’t confirm Tuesday that tight end Jay Rose has returned to the team, but it appears the former Southington High standout is ready to do exactly that.
Rose was one of the crown jewels of UConn’s 2016 recruiting class but he left the team and the university during preseason practice.
He shared a picture from inside the Shenkman Center during a recent UConn practice on his twitter account with the caption “Oh, how I missed you @UConnFootball.”
DJ in the house
Former UConn quarterback D.J. Hernandez paid a visit to the Huskies recently, one of a number of ex-players to return this spring now that Edsall is back at the helm.
“I’ve stayed in touch with D.J.,” Edsall said of Hernandez, the brother of convicted murderer and former NFL star Aaron Hernandez.
D.J. Hernandez is a former head coach at Southington High School and a former assistant at the University of Iowa who has recently returned to coaching. He’s the new head coach at Ledyard High School.
“I think D.J.’s an excellent football coach. He’s a great competitor, he’s smart, he’s passionate, he’s driven,” Edsall said.
“I’m glad to see him back and glad to see him in the area,” Edsall added. “I know he’ll do a great job.”
The coaching staff put together a depth chart on Monday, though Edsall didn’t discuss the specifics. “Nothing is settled until about 7-10 days before the first game,” Edsall said. … Wide receiver is where the Huskies have “the most competition on our team,” Edsall said. The coach said he doesn’t want his quarterback to have “a crutch he can lean on” and that the Huskies will spread their passes around in the upcoming season. “We can be better if we have three or four guys in there that we can throw to,” Edsall said.