Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘A.J. Portee’

STORRS, Conn. — At 6-foot-5, Ted Jennings is hard to miss. So when he broke through the offensive line on a 3rd-and-six play during practice Thursday morning, the quarterback knew he had to get rid of the ball quickly.

Jennings had other plans.

Racing with both arms extended above his head, the redshirt sophomore defensive end deflected the pass, ending the play.

“I just cranked up that pass rush and not jump offsides,” Jennings said. “I was watching the ball, came on the ball hard — a little slap, rip — and used my height to my advantage.”

UConn hopes to see much more of that from Jennings. After sustaining two losses at the position, the Huskies will look to younger players to step up and fill the void. Along with Jennings, Trevardo Williams and A.J. Portee will be expected to contribute immediately.

The most recent setback occurred last week when Marcus Campbell sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament during a non-contact drill. He had surgery Friday and now begins the rehabilitation process.

But before the Huskies lost Campbell, who missed last season due to academic concerns, they lost Greg Lloyd Jr.

Lloyd will sit out this season while he recovers from a knee injury. Even if he were to play, coach Randy Edsall said Lloyd will move back to linebacker before he ever sees a snap at defensive end.

At first blush, it appears a sage move. Because of injuries, the defensive ends are a young group that will gain plenty of experience. The top four players are sophomores. Meanwhile, UConn will lose two starters at linebacker and Lloyd’s experience will be needed at that position.

It’s not quite a baptism by fire for Jennings and Portee, but they getting closer to the flame.

“What we’ve been able to do is have A.J. and Teddy exclusively run with the twos,” Edsall said. “They’re getting more reps because they’re up with the twos and we’re not having to alternate anybody.”

For now, the defensive line will be led by its one returning starter, Jesse Joseph. Joseph started all 13 games last season. The first true freshman to start for the Huskies in the program’s NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision history, Joseph had two games with seven tackles.

“These guys are doing a great job,” Joseph said of his D-line teammates. “As every day progresses, they get their skills up. They’re ready for the season. I can tell, everyone can tell.”

Opposite Joseph will be Williams. Like his counterpart, Williams played in every game, including one start. But life as a regular starter, Williams said, is more challenging.

“By moving up, the offensive line is really bigger and more experienced,” Williams said. “Moving from second defensive to first defense really takes a lot of focus. The second defense can slack a little bit because the guy across from may not know what he’s doing sometimes, he’s learning at the same time. Moving to the first defense is like picking up at another pace.”

The Huskies aren’t fools. They know teams will do their best to test their defensive ends until they prove they can hold their own.

That, they say, means there is more pressure than ever.

“Expectations are a lot higher,” Joseph said. “People are looking at us now, saying they wonder if the D-line is going to be as good or worse with Marcus out. We’re just going to prove them wrong. Our defense is going to be up there and our defensive line is going to go hard. We’re going to show everybody what we can do.”

Read Full Post »