Two UConn football players earn Big East weekly awards
Smallwood wins National Defensive Player of the Week
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 00:09
Two members of the UConn football team received Big East Player of The Week honors, as well as national honors after the Huskies defeated Maryland 24-21.
Sophomore linebacker Yawin Smallwood was named Big East defensive player of the week. This is the second time this season that Smallwood has received this honor. He was named defensive player of the week after his seven tackle performance against UMass in week one.
Smallwood was also was named Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Terrapins. Against Maryland, Smallwood matched his tackles from the previous week with 14, which also included 2.5 sacks. Smallwood is tied for first in the nation in tackles for a loss at 3.0.
UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni attributes Smallwood’s success to his preparation before the game. “He’s been so productive, he’s made a lot of tackles, sacked the quarterback and got the fumble out,” said Pasqualoni. “He’s been doing a good job at preparing and I think he’s got a good feel for what he’s seeing.”
Senior wide receiver Nick Williams earned Big East Special Teams Player of The Week honors for his 112 all-purpose yard performance against Maryland. His performance was also highlighted by a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown in the 1st quarter against the Terrapins. Williams was also named ECAC Special Teams Player of the Week on Tuesday.
Huskies bitten by injury bug
Earlier this week it was announced that senior defensive end Jesse Joseph will miss the rest of the year with a torn Achilles tendon. Coach Pasqualoni announced on Tuesday that Joseph will undergo surgery sometime this week. It is also expected that Joseph will be limited in his participation in the spring.
There have been no further updates on injured quarterback Casey Cochran, who is still suffering from a thumb injury. “It’s a week by week thing right now,” said Pasqualoni. “We’re still waiting for total clearance; we haven’t gotten total clearance on the thumb yet.” Cochran has been with the team at practice and will continue to sit out until trainers give him a clean bill of health to return.
Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury. When asked about his participation in this week’s game against Western Michigan, “Blidi is getting better and he’ll do a little bit more today,” said Pasqualoni. “We won’t go full boar with him today as he is still in the questionable category.”
Special teams has ups and downs
On special teams, the Huskies have had some success and some setbacks. Redshirt junior kicker Chad Christen has gotten his 2012 season off to a good start. Christen has made four of the last five field goals he has attempted, his longest being a 47 yarder against UMass.
One setback on special teams was the performance of the coverage units last week against Maryland. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs recorded 98 yards on kick returns and 68 yards on punt returns against the Huskies. Coach Pasqualoni will make coverage units a focus of practice this week.
“Special teams has been real important, it’s always going to be,” said Pasqualoni. “The thing I was disappointed in last week was our coverage units. Our coverage units did not meet the standard last week. They had a terrific returner in Sefon Diggs but we have got to do a better job with our coverage units, so we’re going to work real hard on that this week.”
The quotable Paul Pasqualoni
“He’s about four ham sandwiches from about 255 and he’s going to be 260 pretty soon, he’s going to be a big fast guy.” Coach Pasqualoni on the progress and development of freshmen defensive end Elijah “EJ” Norris.