In case you were wondering, the prescribed cure for the Huskies' recent case of pass drops won't be additional practice time spent catching footballs.
It will be competition.
Interim coach T.J. Weist has declared an open competition at wide receiver and tight end to determine which players he can count on in critical situations. UConn totaled 10 drops over their 13-10 loss to USF, a number typically seen after a handful of games. The most notable misses were courtesy of junior Deshon Foxx, who let a pair of touchdowns slip through his fingers.
According to Weist, all but one starting spot on the depth chart is now available to the team's pass catchers.
"I'm going to create some more competition from that standpoint. (Foxx) is a great kid. He works hard. He does everything I ask of him, but he knows he's got to make those plays," Weist said. "I have to find not just great players or guys who make plays, not just good kids, not just hard workers, but a combination of all three: players that are smart, players that work hard, and players that makes plays."
The former wide receivers coach declared that his young wideouts, particularly freshmen Dhameer Bradley and Brian Lemelle, should see more playing time. Weist lauded Bradley as "one of my smartest players". He also revealed that Bradley has already played each different receiver position in the system, despite his inexperience.
Geremy Davis was the only other receiver to receive any praise from the interim headman over the entire press conference.
"I'm pleased with Geremy," Weist remarked. "I think he's stepped up and made plays in critical situations, but I'm going to open up that competition for the rest of the wide receiver spots."
Fighting a familiar foe
Despite the fact he coached at Cincinnati over the last three full seasons, Weist said his preparation for Saturday won't be much different than that of a typical week. He noted the Bearcat offense employs a more spread system now than it did during his time there, as shown by the frequent use of four-receiver sets. The coach further detailed that many players currently suited up in black and red didn't play for Cincinnati a year ago, namely freshmen and transfers.
Nevertheless, Weist will be sharing all known player strengths and weaknesses with his new team, as it gets ready in the coming days.
Cincinnati is currently 4-2 under new head coach Tommy Tuberville, after a 38-20 win last Friday over Temple. The Bearcats are led on the field by redshirt senior quarterback Brendon Kay and a defense ranked fourth in total yards allowed per game. Weist remarked that the unit's linebacker group is its greatest strength.
Talk from the trainer's room
Defensive back Andrew Adams (shoulder) returned for 20 snaps against USF, and is expected to contribute more against Cincinnati.
Senior cornerback Taylor Mack is still progressing in his return from his own shoulder injury and could play this weekend.
A bad ankle continues to hamper linebacker Graham Stewart, who could see the field in a couple of weeks. Fellow linebacker Ryan Donohue is probable with a concussion.
Lemelle took a hard hit to the ribs last Saturday in the first quarter, but will be in practice this week. His status for Saturday is questionable.
Similarly up in the air is Shakim Phillips, who is still bothered by a tender hamstring. Phillips did some work in practice on Sunday.
Back-up safety Tyree Clark is questionable with an ankle injury.
The Huskies will wear a no. 77 sticker on the back of their helmets this Saturday in honor of Bearcat offensive lineman Ben Flick. Flick passed away in a single-car crash nearly one month ago at just 19 years of age.
Weist admitted that he can't go to sleep the night of a game without first watching the coaches' film. He has to affirm or discredit his initial impressions of the game by seeing what really went on. Then, and only then, can he go to bed before waking up the next morning to break it all down.
When asked about former player Kenbrell Thompkins reeling in the game-winning touchdown for the New England Patriots last Sunday with 10 seconds to go, Weist said he was not surprised. Weist coached Thompkins for the last three seasons at Cincinnati.