LEADER OF THE PACK
Pasqualoni announces UConn football captains
Published: Monday, August 26, 2013
Updated: Monday, August 26, 2013 23:08
The UConn football team has been underwhelming over the past two years; that much has been well-documented. When the Huskies return to gridiron on Thursday, they will be looking to respond and at least climb back to the .500-mark.
But in order to bounce back, leadership is imperative and that’s why, on the eve of the season, Coach Paul Pasqualoni played the role of ballot-box keeper.
“We’re happy to announce the team voted for captains,” Pasqualoni said in a press conference Sunday. “Steven Greene will be a captain on offense, Shamar Stephen will a captain on defense and Yawin Smallwood – although he’s only a junior, the team voted for Yawin, so he’ll be our third captain.”
Despite his relative youth, Smallwood seems like a natural fit as a captain.
“The thing is, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do,” Pasqualoni said. “The three of them are good players and they lead by example, by how hard they work in the offseason and in practice. I think the players on the team respect those guys for their toughness and what they do.”
A 6-foot-4 linebacker, Smallwood has certainly done his fair share and was perhaps the most productive player on UConn’s stout 2012 defense.
His 120 tackles led the team and 15 tackles for loss placed him second on the squad. Combined with four sacks and two forced fumbles, the statistical line was attractive enough to earn him a nod as an All-Big East first teamer.
“It means a lot to me,” Smallwood said. “I’ve always thought about having the chance to be a captain and now that it’s here I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Keep trying to lead this team, try to push players to be the best they can be.”
And he’ll have help in leading the team on that side of the ball from Stephen.
After missing the first two games of last season due to injury, Stephen slid back into his starting spot on the defensive line without issue and recorded 26 tackles on the season, including a career-high seven tackles against Cincinnati.
The 6-foot-5, 313-pound tackle turned some heads in the process and was named to the Preseason Second Team in the American Athletic Conference entering this season.
The lone member of the threesome on the offense, Greene, will be responsible for anchoring an offensive line that struggled mightily, both to stay healthy and perform, a year ago.
Greene, who started all 12 games last season, was a bright spot in the otherwise dreary trenches for the UConn offense.
The offensive line helped the Huskies to just 87.92 rushing yards per game – which ranked No. 117 out of 120 in the nation – and allowed 33 sacks in 2012.
But hopes are high for development on the line during this campaign, and the Ebensburg, Pa.-native should be right in the thick of things.
“My evaluation is I think they’ve really improved,” Pasqualoni said. “I’m anxious to see it Thursday night. I think we’ve practiced well…so I’m anxious to see it in a game.”
When the Huskies burst out of the tunnel for the first time against Towson on Thursday, neither Junior Joseph nor Andrew Adams will be among the players available.
Adams, a free safety, had shoulder surgery following an injury on Aug. 17 injury and will likely be out for at least eight weeks, according to Pasqualoni.
For Joseph, things are far less grim, but he will be sidelined for “a couple weeks,” the coach said.
UConn will, however, likely regain the services of Sean McQuillan for the season opener.
McQuillan, the team’s first-string tight end, was concussed in the same practice that left Adams injured and had to be brought to the hospital for evaluation.
But he has since returned to practice, and Pasqualoni is optimistic about his status for Thursday night – assuming he clears all the necessary hurdles to play following a head injury.