UConn's Edsall pleased with team's depth despite abrupt conclusion to spring practices

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Last summer, the UConn football program made the decision to not play the 2020 season due to health and safety concerns around the pandemic.

However, in the Huskies’ last week of spring practices those concerns became a reality causing the program to shut down its spring sessions due to positive COVID cases within the program’s Tier-1 personnel. As confirmed with UConn on Monday, the Huskies will not reschedule the final three spring practices they canceled this week and will wait to regroup until June.

“Spring ended up culminating an unusual year to say the least. Some of the challenges that we had in the fall we ended up having in the spring, but still feel very, very fortunate that we were able to get 12 of the 15 practices in this spring,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said during Thursday’s media availability. “I thought the time that we did have on the field this spring was very beneficial and very rewarding for the players and for the coaches.”

With 91 players participating, the most Edsall said he has had in the spring, he said the team’s competition within the roster is the highest it’s been during his second era coaching the program. On Thursday, he called the depth “a luxury” in helping coaches evaluate potential starters.

Each player got time this spring to learn the playbook and participate in live-action play within scrimmages. Edsall said every player will get virtual one-on-ones with their position coach these next few months, along with one-on-ones with himself in June.

“For me, spring practice is about developing people and I think the more guys that you have the more you can develop them,” Edsall said. “And now what you see is this, who really wants it because who’s really going to take what we did this spring and listen to what the coaches have told them, ‘Here’s the things that you’ve got to do and now go work on them,’ ... So, now there’s no excuses because everybody is going to know and everybody is going to have the past, those repetitions.”

Despite no one on the roster having played a game last season, and some with over a year without live football action, Edsall has been impressed with how much the team has committed to improving over the course of its extended offseason last fall.

He said the time away from the field, and the extra time spent in the weight room during the fall, ignited players’ energy for spring practices and that has shown within the depth of competition in position groups.

In its 12 spring practices, UConn held two live scrimmages with officials and pads, but the team missed out on the chance to play a third which was scheduled for later this week. While Edsall is pleased with where the team is at after this abrupt conclusion to the spring, he said having those three extra sessions this week would have given them more time to experiment with new plays and enhance the ones they’ve already learned.

“I think they were anxious to go out there and compete,” Edsall said. “We’ve got kids who are competitive, we’ve got kids that know that they have to go out and compete each and every day and each and every practice in order to secure a position, which maybe we didn’t have that until this year. I thought the sense of urgency was really good and I thought the approach and attitude was good throughout the whole spring.”

Esdall said the team is still “nowhere near ready” to announce a front runner on who will take over as starting quarterback and most likely won’t be until closer to the season opener. Meanwhile, he said with so many seniors returning and taking the extra year of eligibility, the Huskies’ defense and special teams corps have improved with the depth of experience between players.

“We have more depth and more bodies available to play for us now than we’ve had in the time that I’ve been here in this second go around,” he said.

“We know as a coaching staff who we are, what we have available to us and how we’re going to have to go about using that talent to be the best that we can be.”

Edsall said the majority of the team has already returned home since the cancellation was announced earlier this week and will return to campus on June 1. Ten incoming freshmen will join the program, along with three to four walk ons, in mid-June ahead of summer courses.

“If they can go and make the strides that they made from last fall and through the winter to when we started the spring, if we can make those same strides this summer and these next basically four months to go into August, we’re going to be in pretty good shape as we get into August.”

Preseason training won’t begin until July, when the team will have 25 practices before its 2021 season opener on August 28 at Fresno State.

maggie.vanoni@hearstmediact.com