News broke earlier today that Running Back Lyle McCombs is no longer with the team. He will remain at the University of Connecticut to complete his degree. Head Coach Bob Diaco was vague about the exact reason for his dismissal but there were a couple of lines that suggested it was a recurring character issue:
Attending school at the University of Connecticut is a special privilege as is being a member of the UConn football team, with that privilege also come certain responsibilities and expectations...It's an ongoing lack of meeting the expectations of a member of the student body and of the team...No matter who you are. It does not matter what your physical, tangible, on the field production is. It is irrelevant.
McCombs looked like the next great UConn tailback after a freshman year where he amassed over 1300 yards from scrimmage and scored 8 touchdowns. He also averaged 4.2 yards per carry and finished 2nd in the Big East in rushing yards. Unfortunately that would be the best performance from his time in Storrs.
It is typical with coaching turnover for players to leave the program. Although so far only a small handful of players, highlighted by McCombs and Shakim Phillips, have left UConn under Bob Diaco's watch.
With McCombs no longer on the roster, this opens the door for one running back who showed promise for UConn last year and another one who was torching high-school fields across the state of Connecticut.
The bruising Max DeLorenzo showed some upside in his Sophomore campaign, carrying the rock 99 times for 349 hard fought yards and five touchdowns. Now the team's leading returning rusher, he should see more touches as a result of McCombs' departure.
Incoming freshman Arkeel Newsome brings an element of excitement that can only come from a highly-rated homegrown product and Parade All-American choosing to play for the Huskies. The State of Connecticut's single-season leader in rushing yards could step into Mike Cummings' new offense to be a major contributor immediately.
Another back who might be a factor is Redshirt Freshman Joshua Marriner who apparently the staff thinks highly of. Incoming 2-star freshmen Ron Johnson (5-foot-11, 212 pounds) and Brice McAlister (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) have a shot to earn some time as well but are likely candidates for a redshirt.
I did speak with coach Bob Diaco today at length about the team and program. RBs, really does like Mariner.— John Silver (@JohnFSilver) June 4, 2014
Lyle McCombs didn't have a very good season for the Huskies last year, but to be fair our O-line and passing game didn't do him any favors. Ultimately, despite the fact that he was the leading rusher on the team, we should be able to replace his production.
When you're building a winning culture, certain things are more important than status and talent- Bob Diaco's concerns clearly trumped Lyle's standing atop the depth chart and his potential to repeat the productivity of his freshman season.
Other Football Notes
SNY beat writer John Silver had a chance to speak with Bob Diaco today. Here are some highlights:
Bob Diaco gave a deadline of sorts for making his QB decision
One more UConn FB tweet. Expect a QB to be named no later than 2 weeks before BYU opener.— John Silver (@JohnFSilver) June 4, 2014
Diaco also appears to have identified a couple of talented players in his secondary
Also, Diaco said Obi Melinfonwu is the most talented safety prospect he's every worked with. ANYWHERE.— John Silver (@JohnFSilver) June 4, 2014
Also some more morsels until later, : Byron Jones, athletically, one of top CB prospects in nation according to Diaco. they love him.— John Silver (@JohnFSilver) June 4, 2014
Just like the rest of us, HCBD has concerns about the O-Line.
Other highlights of talking with Diaco: Mateas at C and Richard Levy is going to be LT. O-line a problem. He's a realist there.— John Silver (@JohnFSilver) June 4, 2014
Both Diaco and new Offensive Coordinator Mike Cummings know the importance of owning the line of scrimmage. This may be a rough year for the line, but it will get better. Diaco has added size to the squad with his final touches on the 2014 recruiting class and Cummings is credited with the development of the 2013 NFL Draft's #1 overall pick Eric Fisher.
The McCombs news isn't great, but it is good to see the school honoring their commitment to the student-athlete and allowing the young man to complete his degree. Whether or not he pursues a career in football, Lyle McCombs will have options after getting his degree this summer thanks to his football scholarship.