Shirreffs impresses during UConn Spring Game.
EAST HARTFORD: There were glimpses of what might be on Saturday afternoon at a sun drenched Rentschler Field as the UConn Huskies football team held their annual Blue versus White football game.
A season ago, the Huskies finished a disappointing 2-10 and featured one of the worst offenses in the entire country.
Fixing the “O” has been a high priority for brain trust of the Huskies, led by second year head coach Bob Diaco and first year offensive coordinator Frank Verducci.
To that end, several positives stuck out on a day in which we saw a limited version of what the Huskies might look like when they throw down for real on September 3 when they host Villanova.
Let’s start with the position that caused the most grief a year ago, the quarterback.
Red shirt sophomore Bryant Shirreffs (a North Carolina State transfer a year ago) looked like the man to beat in the signal calling department having separated himself from junior Tim Boyle.
Shirreffs, after a shaky first couple of series, settled down and completed 13 of 24, good for 168 yards and a 41-yard touchdown to tight end Sean McQuillan who caught four good for 76 yards.
Sitting out a year after transferring didn’t seem to bother the righty signal caller who is mobile in the pocket, has an accurate touch on his in-between throws and can turn on the jets when forced to run.
Shirreffs was the leading rusher on the Blue team, thanks to a 26 yard scamper in the second quarter that took his team inside the 10, where they would come away with points when Bobby Puyol (2-2 in FG tries) hit a 20-yarder.
Boyle, who looked a great deal more balanced after suffering through some nagging injuries a year ago that never allowed him to look quite comfortable, played on the White team in the first half and the Blue in the second, completed 14 of 25 but 4 of 5 in the second half.
The tight ends ruled the day on the offensive side of the all with the effort of McQuillan, Alec Bloom (4-48) and Tommy Myers (1-23) sticking out.
Tight ends being involved has been sorely missed and takes UConn fans back to the Randy Edsall days where they were featured more often than not.
The run game was okay, returners Max DeLorenzo (11-40), Ron Johnson (4-10) and Josh Marriner (12-37) showed signs but will need to do even more as the campaign moves along.
Shelton High School’s own Jason Thompson turned heads in the second half with a 40-yard run that got his team out from inside their own 5-yard line.
Freshman quarterback Tyler Davis saw time late in the final quarter and completed 6 of 14, good for 53 yards and a pick.
On the defensive side, Vontae Diggs led his White team with seven tackles while Junior Joseph (9) and Jha Williams (6) led the Blue effort.
Shirreffs led his team on an 8-play, 85 yard march in 3:51 and was capped by the McQuillan 41-yard hook up, a good looking play.
Right before the half, Shirreffs marched his team 77-yards in 13 plays and only time stopped what might have been another touchdown before the Blue team settled for the Puyol chip shot.
In all, the Blue team outgained the White team by a 295-213 margin. Most of the presumed first string played on the Blue throughout at least the first half.