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UConn Football Spring Game Takeaways

The Huskies concluded spring practice on Saturday.

UConn football head coach Randy Edsall gets fired up during the Huskies’ win over Tulsa on Oct. 21, 2017.
Ian Bethune - The UConn Blog

UConn football played their annual spring game, moving back to the typical Saturday afternoon time after playing on Friday night last year. An official score wasn’t kept but the first team offense faced the first team defense while the two second units squared off.

Here are some takeaways from the game:

Tarbutt Earns Some Trust

Kicker Michael Tarbutt kicked confidently on Saturday, hitting 12/13 of his kicks (9/10 PATs, 3/3 FGs), including makes from 43, 51 and 54 with room to spare. His sole miss was a block and all his extra points sailed through the uprights with authority.

While a high percentage is always good to see from any kicker, the key with Tarbutt was that he hit kicks in high-leverage situations — as much as you can get in a spring game. Last season, he missed a few critical kicks, namely a 33-yarder against East Carolina and a 35-yard extra point against Cincinnati — both of which would have sent the game to overtime.

In the waning seconds of the first half, Tarbutt lined up for a 54-yarder — one yard farther than his career-long. Before he got the kick off, Edsall iced him not once but twice. But it failed to shake the kicker, however, as he made it with ease.

Tarbutt had a chance to cap the day with a 51-yard kick at the end of the game and did so with more than enough leg yet again. A good performance in the spring game in front of a sparse crowd does not guarantee that Tarbutt becomes the next Dave Teggart, but it’s certainly a solid step in the right direction for the Canadian.

Walk-On Running Back Runs Wild

As good as Tarbutt looked, redshirt junior running back Donven O’Reilly stole the show on Saturday afternoon. The walk-on from Glastonbury, Connecticut saw the majority of the snaps on the second team with Kevin Mensah on the sideline due to academics. He ran for a team-high 130 yards on 18 carries (7.2 yards per carry) and a pair of touchdowns while collecting six catches for 49 yards and a score.

O’Reilly ran downhill and had great burst to get to the edge and beat defenders upfield. He eluded defenders well and once they finally got to him, he was still difficult to take down. With Nate Hopkins and Mensah as the lead backs, the Huskies lack the prototypical third-down/scat-back. If O’Reilly continues to perform, he’ll certainly earn meaningful snaps come August.

Buss Earns Gold

Last year was a bit of a lost season for Kyle Buss, who transferred to UConn from FCS-level Robert Morris. After catching 50 passes for 742 yards and two touchdowns, he played in just one game as a sophomore to take care of his ailing mother. Buss wasn’t cleared to play until late September and only appeared in six games, mostly playing special teams.

But Buss was electric on Saturday, showing incredible run after catch ability with 116 yards on just five catches. He slipped through defenders with excellent change of direction and quickness.

He is also a two-time winner of the gold jersey — given by Edsall to the best offensive, defensive and special teams player of practice — which he wore during the scrimmage. Buss is certainly highly-regarded by the coaching staff, now it’s just a matter of if he can translate his performance in practice to games.

Injury-Free Day

Arguably the most important takeaway from the spring game was that nobody went down with any major injuries. A few players hobbled off but the only player to leave with a trainer was RB/WR Zavier Scott, who limped off after running for 94 yards on 10 carries, including a fantastic 61-yard touchdown full of broken tackles.