Tag:Michael Nebrich
Posted on: September 9, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: September 9, 2011 10:49 am
 

RB Shoemate (ankle) back in lineup for UConn

Posted by Chip Patterson

Connecticut running back D.J. Shoemate has waited a long time to step into the spotlight at the collegiate level. The former five-star recruit was regarded spent time getting shuffled between positions at USC before transferring to Connecticut just in time for Jordan Todman's breakout season. The senior entered the 2011 season penciled in as the starting running back, but missed the opener because of a tweaked ankle. Luckily, head coach Paul Pasqualoni does not penalize players for injury.

"A player here, in our system, does not lose his position because of an injury," Pasqualoni explained on Thursday. "So when that player is 100 percent healthy he comes back, he goes back to where he was when he got hurt."

Shoemate currently shares the No. 1 position on the Huskies' depth chart with redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs. McCombs made the most of his opportunity against Fordham, rushing for 141 yards and four touchdowns. Even considering the opposition, McCombs looked very sharp and comfortable carrying the load at running back. If Shoemate is 100 percent and can offer his projected production, the Huskies will have an opportunity to rely on the rushing game once again.

A good rushing game will be crucial for Connecticut, who still has not named a starting quarterback. Pasqualoni plans to rotate McEntee, McCummings, and Nebrich once again when the Huskies face Vanderbilt on Saturday night in Nashville.
Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:57 am
Edited on: September 4, 2011 3:07 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Sept. 3)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1) Connecticut finally has an answer at running back. Connecticut does not have a clear-cut answer for quarterback. That was obvious with head coach Paul Pasqualoni's use of Johnny McEntee, Michael Nebrich, and Scott McCummings during the Huskies opener against Fordham. However, the game might have answered the team's concerns about replacing 2010 Big East Player of the Year Jordan Todman. Senior transfer D.J. Shoemate was replaced last minute by redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs because Shoemate got "banged up" in practice late in the week.

The switch could end up having an effect on the Huskies season, because McCombs certainly looked like the best choice possible for starting tailback on Saturday. It was the first collegiate appearance for the Staten Island native, and he made the most of every opportunity. By the time all the damage was done McCombs racked up 141 yards on 24 carries with four touchdowns. Regardless of opponent, those are impressive numbers for anyone's NCAA debut. If McCombs can keep it up, Pasqualoni may have found a great building block for this new chapter of his seasoned career.

2) It's not always pretty, but the Orange get it done. Doug Marrone was celebrated by the Syracuse football community for returning to his alma mater and bringing them back to the postseason. The Orange's 8-win season was considered by many to be a sign of things to come for a once-storied program. However peeling back the shiny reviews of last season reveal a grimy, hard-nosed battle through the regular season. Syracuse simply found ways to win, and most of the time it was not pretty.

With only 20 letterman and over half of his defensive starters gone from that team, the gritty "find a way to win" style appears very much a part of Syracuse football. Wake Forest appeared to have Thursday's game won, and even fans in the Carrier Dome agreed and were heading for the exits as the Orange trailed by 15 points in the 4th quarter. But the fans that stayed got see Ryan Nassib and Antwon Bailey lead the Syracuse offense to 22 straight points in the final quarter + overtime to pull off the win over the visiting Demon Deacons. The Orange may have been slowly reversing the trend of their home struggles, but certainly not the one of winning ugly.

3) USF made a statement to the conference with upset of Notre Dame. Skip Holtz was forced to spend most of his time with the media this past week answering questions about playing at his alma mater and the school where his father spent 11 years as the head coach. But the story of the game ended up being mother nature, with two different delays due to storms in the area. But more than six hours after kickoff, a statement was made with South Florida's 23-20 victory over No. 16 Notre Dame. The Bulls, who have pulled off five straight 8+ win seasons, are ready to compete for a Bit East title.

The Fighting Irish had plenty of internal issues, including a mid-game quarterback switch during one of the delays, but USF showed up unintimidated and prepared. Holtz seemed excited about his defense heading into the season, and Saturday's performance legitimized his sentiments. The Bulls defense forced five Irish turnovers, and found a way to turn them into enough of a lead to secure a huge confidence-booster for a program looking to break through to the elite. Next for the Bulls will be three more non-conference games before kicking off the conference schedule with one of the most difficult challenges on the slate: a road test against Pittsburgh

4.) What the Dana Holgorsen era looks like at West Virginia. We will find this one out Sunday afternoon when the Mountaineers face in-state rival Marshall. Kickoff at 3:30 p.m., check back after the game because this is something we definitely want to learn.
Posted on: August 30, 2011 10:06 am
 

Paul Pasqualoni still not naming a starting QB

Posted by Chip Patterson

Connecticut football fans have spent much of the offseason debating what their team will look like when they take the field on Thursday to kick off the season against Fordham. They'll have a solid defensive line led by Kendall Reyes, Sio Moore will try to lead a young linebacking corps, D.J. Shoemate will try and fill the shoes of the conference's leading rusher Jordan Todman, and the Huskies return three of their top four receivers.

But we still don't know who will throw them the ball.

The Huskies entered fall camp with four quarterbacks competing for the starting job: freshman Michael Nebrich, junior Johnny McEntee, redshirt freshman Scott McCummings, and sophomore Michael Box. Box, the only quarterback with game experience in 2010, decided to transfer recently narrowing the race to three signal callers. When head coach Paul Pasqualoni met with reporters on Monday for his first game week press conference, he revealed no new information.

"What I would say is that we're going to have three quarterbacks ready to play in this game," Pasqualoni said. "Obviously it's a new staff, new system on offense, defense and special teams. Were very very anxious to get a good week in. I think we've had three good days so far this week and we need to have a real good day [Tuesday]. [Tuesday] is kind of our dress rehearsal for Thursday."

Desmond Conner, of The Hartford Courant, reported last week that Nebrich and McEntee had been receiving most of the reps with the first-team offense. But Pasqualoni believes the three quarterbacks remaining are all ready to go, and even has suggested that his decision won't be known "until pre game warm-ups."

The Huskies will kick off against Fordham at 7:30 p.m. at Rentschler Field.
Posted on: August 22, 2011 12:44 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 8:41 am
 

Nebrich, McEntee closing in on UConn starting job

Posted by Chip Patterson

Connecticut enters the season returning seven offensive starters from the squad that gave the program its first BCS bowl berth last season. But one huge question mark for the Huskies going into the 2011 season is the quarterback position.

New head coach Paul Pasqualoni did not name a starting quarterback at the end of spring practice, letting freshman Michael Nebrich, walk-on junior Johnny McEntee, sophomore Michael Box, and redshirt freshman Scott McCummings all compete for the job over the summer and into fall camp. With just ten days until the Huskies' season opener against Fordham, it looks like McEntee and Nebrich are starting to separate themselves from the competition.

Desmond Conner, of The Hartford Courant, writes that the two quarterbacks have been the most consistent in camp and - more importantly - have been getting the most reps with the first-team offense. McEntee, known by many as "Trick Shot Johnny" after his impressive YouTube video went viral, is a traditional pocket passer whose accuracy in camp has lived up to his video fame. Nebrich, on the other hand, was a touted dual-threat quarterback out of Virginia who opted to graduate high school a semester early to enroll at Connecticut in January. Conner writes that Pasqualoni has not ruled out the possibility of rotating two quarterbacks, and if he decides to Nebrich and McEntee should compliment each other well.

Just for the heck of it, here's Trick Shot Johnny one more time (over 6 million views and counting)


Posted on: May 16, 2011 12:23 pm
 

Michael Box named UConn starting QB (sort of)

Posted by Chip Patterson

As new head coach Paul Pasqualoni continues to get settled into his new gig at Connecticut, the veteran coach has been assembling the pieces to try and repeat the most successful season in program history. With a brand new staff, and missing all-conference running back Jordan Todman, the Huskies' expectations for 2011 have been a bit of a question mark. Another area of uncertainty this offseason has been at the quarterback position, where as many as four different candidates have been considered possible starters in the fall. At the end of the spring practice, Pasqualoni told Desmond Conner, of the Hartford Courant that the position would be decided by alphabetical order for the time being.

He wasn't kidding.

The final spring depth chart was released, and Michael Box is listed as the starting quarterback. Scott McCummings is listed as the backup, with Johnny McEntee in the third position. Michael Nebrich, who was also considered a contender this spring, is listed fourth along with Blaise Driscoll.

So the competition will extend at least until fall camp. Box is the only one of the bunch with any experience from 2010, though his 6-for-17 stat line in three games of limited exposure do not exactly make the job his to lose. All of the quarterbacks struggled during spring scrimmages, which is as much a compliment to the Connecticut defense as it is a serious concern for the coaching staff. The hope is that as these young quarterbacks continue to spend time in the film room and around the facilities they will get comfortable enough to seize control of the offense in August. They might not be the team they were a year ago, but after picking up the Big East bid to the BCS, they will still have a target on their back when conference play begins.

Since we mentioned his name, and things are kind of slow anyway, let us revisit Johnny McEntee's YouTube fame.

Posted on: March 14, 2011 11:34 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Connecticut

Posted by Chip Patterson

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Connecticut , who starts spring practice Tuesday.


Connecticut had their best season in program history in 2010. Can they continue that success with a brand new look in 2011?

After a bumpy start that included losses to Michigan, Temple, Rutgers, and Louisville, it looked like it might be another frustrating season for Randy Edsall and the upstart Connecticut Huskies. Sure, Connecticut had made plenty of rapid upgrades to the program since joining the FBS in 2002 and the Big East in 2004. But as October 2010 was drawing to a close, no one had Connecticut penciled in as their Fiesta Bowl pick.

Then something happened on a Friday night against West Virginia. Running back Jordan Todman ran 33 times for 113 yards and a touchdown, providing just enough of an offensive spark to compliment a Huskies defense that forced seven West Virginia fumbles. Connecticut recovered four of those fumbles and won 16-13 in overtime, their first victory against the Mountaineers.

That game seemed to change the entire path of the season. With new focus and determination, Connecticut finished the season with five straight conference wins and earned a share of the Big East regular season title, as well as the conference's bid to the Bowl Championship Series. It wasn't always pretty, but running on the shoulders of Todman and a playmaking defensive unit the Huskies found ways to win late in the season. It was the perfect year to steal the conference from perennial favorites like Pittsburgh and West Virginia, and that is exactly what they did.

Then we rang in 2011, sang Auld Lang Syne, and then it all changed for Connecticut.

Connecticut looked unimpressive in their 40-28 loss to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on New Years Day. While their arrival onto the BCS scene should have been celebratory, instead the media focused on the Huskies inability to move their allotment of 17,500 tickets. With a final estimation that the program actually lost $1.8 million on the trip to Glendale. To make matters worse, Edsall opted not to travel home with the team. The worst suspicions were confirmed in less than a day, Edsall was leaving to become the head coach at Maryland.

So now it is time to reload and reboot.

Edsall was the only coach Connecticut hired during their journey into Division I and eventually the Big East. With such a young program, they could not afford to take chances on their next head coach - they needed a sure thing. Connecticut got that by bringing in one of the most seasoned Big East coaches on the market. Paul Pasqualoni spent 14 as the head coach of the Syracuse Orange. In that time he was 107-59-1 with a 6-3 bowl record. But there will be no confusion as far as allegiances go, Pasqualoni is an in-state native, and this is a job he is taking personally.

Pasqualoni brought in George Deleone (Miami Dolphins) to serve as the new offensive coordinator, and Don Brown (Maryland) will coach the defense. With a new coaching staff in place, one of the challenges for spring practice will be learning new schemes and getting used to a new practice routine. Spring will also be a time to identify players to fill position needs, because there are plenty. None more obvious than the running back position. Not only has Todman, the Big East rushing leader, taken his talents to the next level, but backup running back Robbie Frey decided to transfer. Those two backs combined for 2084 of the 2271 team rushing yards in 2010.

"Obviously this spring is going to be a big, big spring for a lot of areas, and one of the big concerns on offense is the tailback position," Pasqualoni told The Hartford Courant in February. "We're going to work as hard as we can work in that area, try to evaluate all the potential that we have there with the skill guys on the offensive side of the ball. We've got two guys coming in. One [Max DeLorenzo] is a downhill, can-make-yards-after-contact guy. The other guy [Deshon Foxx] is a little bit smaller, puts his foot in the ground, makes a cut, makes people miss and outruns people because he's just got flat-out excellent speed."

But tailback isn't the only big-time position with a lot of question marks. Actually, the quarterback spot on the depth chart might as well be a big question mark. Spring practice will start with a wide-open race between four quarterbacks who combine for only one collegiate start (Michael Box). Box is competing against newcomers Scott McCummings, Michael Nebrich, and Johnny McEntee, of YouTube "Trick Shot" fame. With Nebrich enrolling early, he will join the Huskies in spring practice and the quarterback battle should begin from day one. For no other reason than experience, many are giving Box a slight edge in the battle. But there are no guarantees that he will be the starter in September.

One of the ways to gain an edge heading into the season will be developing a connection with Connecticut's wide receivers. The Huskies return all of their starters, and while they did little to impress anyone in 2010, they might be one of the most stable units on the field right now. The group will be led by Kashif Moore. Moore anointed himself as one of the leaders of this team when Edsall bolted for College Park. It was Moore who was texting the players, telling them things were going to be OK. Desmond Conner, of The Hartford Courant, also points out that Moore has decided to wear Jasper Howard's No. 6 this season. Which as you can assume, takes on far more meaning than just the number change.

On the defensive side of the ball, new coordinator Don Brown will have to find a way to replace senior linebackers Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson. They acted as the point-guard's of this playmaking defense, swarming to the ball and directing their teammates on the field. Instead of the leadership coming from the linebacking position, Huskies fans might see it come from up front.

Seniors Kendall Reyes (a captain in 2010) and Twyon Martin will anchor a defensive line that might be the most promising aspect of the defense. Rising juniors Jesse Joseph and Trevardo Williams are both returning from productive sophomore campaigns, and will be counted on for quality minutes as well.

While the end of spring practice may not give us all of the answers to the many questions for Connecticut, it is still arguably one of the most important springs for the program. Connecticut has a lot of holes to fill, and a lot of questions to answer in order to defend their Big East crown in 2011. It will come down to how quickly and effectively the team can buy into the new coach, and new systems in Storrs. One thing that the Huskies do have going for them in 2011? One of the easiest non-conference schedules in the league. Connecticut's only BCS opponents are Vanderbilt and Iowa State, so there should be plenty of opportunities to pick up the extra wins necessary to return to the postseason.

Paul Pasqualoni started his Syracuse career with a bang, going 20-4 in his first two seasons. Now we see if he can do it again, a decade later, with the flagship university of his home state.

Connecticut begins spring practice Tuesday March 15

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