Terry Caulley, Cornell Brockington, Donald Brown, Andre Dixon, Jordan Todman.
Those may not be household names beyond the Nutmeg state, but lead back for the Connecticut Huskies has been a prolific post in college football this past decade, and Lyle McCombs is poised to continue the tradition. However, unlike many of his predecessors, he lacks a legitimate back-up option to serve as a change of pace and keep him fresh. Some bad luck has gotten in the way- D.J. Shoemate should have been the one last year, but he was forced to quit football due to injuries. Joe Williams was a leading candidate for the backup role this season, but he was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
McCombs is a proven commodity, but behind him are a bunch of question marks. There’s some potential, but lack of depth could bite us in the behind if something were to happen to no. 43.
Lyle McCombs- After a brilliant 2011 as a redshirt freshman (1,323 yards from scrimmage, 4.2 ypc, 8 TD), McCombs took a step back in 2012 (1,090 yards from scrimmage, 3.5 ypc, 6 TD). Though it wasn't a terrible season, McCombs was disappointed in his performance and his team’s outcome on the field. "We’re excited to be feared offensively this year," he said in a recent interview. "We’re doing whatever we can to get over the hump and get this (league) championship and get to a bowl game."
With a new offensive scheme and good returning core of players, we have reason to believe him. Opposing defenses won’t be able to put everyone and their brother in the box as they did in 2012, so McCombs should have some running room. And if all goes well, maybe he joins that list at the top and things open up in the passing game, too.
Max DeLorenzo- Listed second on the depth chart, DeLorenzo will be first in line for McCombs' scraps and hopefully he can spell him as necessary. He’s a redshirt sophomore from Berlin, Conn., who got his first taste of action last season. DeLortenzo finished with 119 yards, 91 of which came in the loss to Temple at home. As stated above, it would be great if he could contribute in a supplementary role, especially as he's shown improvement in practice. If nothing else, maybe we could start calling him Mad Max.
Martin Hyppolite- Martin has been moved back and forth between linebacker and running back during his time at UConn, but seems to be settled now in the backfield. In the off-season, he was the leading candidate to become the no. 2 guy, but missed significant spring practice and workout time while recovering from a serious car crash in February. He’s practicing fully now and could end up being a solid contributor down the road, but for now, DeLorenzo appears to be a step ahead.
Joshua Marriner- The first thing that stands out about this freshman is his measurables. At 5-foot-8, 197, Mariner is one sturdy dude. But even with his thickness, the first-year back showed excellent agility at times during the team's practices made open to the public. At this point, he stands clearly behind the veterans, but the talent is there for him to have as good a shot as any back-up runner to gain some carries.
Matt Walsh- This true freshman hailing from Daniel Hand High School in Madison, CT (hometown of yours truly) has been officially named the starter at fullback. Prior to coming to Storrs, Walsh captained a team that went undefeated in back-to-back seasons en route to consecutive Class L state titles. Now, he’ll be in charge of clearing the path for McCombs and therefore, perhaps a trip to a bowl game. Surprisingly, Walsh mostly played linebacker in high school, but was recruited as a fullback. According to Pasqualoni, Walsh will have a chance to carry the rock, thus avoiding the tag of being a "glorified guard" out there.
UConn freshman fullback Matt Walsh previews Towson (via uconnhuskies)
Jazzmar Clax- A redshirt freshman out of Freehold, N.J., Clax came to UConn as a linebacker, projected to eventually man the middle. Buried on the depth chart, the coaches decided to try him out at fullback where he came into camp this summer as the starter—which he lost to Walsh. However, the physical build and tools are there, so we’ll probably see him a lot on special teams this year and in the backfield soon enough.