Lyle McCombs was one of the Huskies' biggest surprises last season. The rising sophomore, listed at 5-8, 166, rushed for 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns and was named to the FWAA Freshman All-American team. We're midway through spring practice and it's clear his role will again be critical to any offensive success UConn has next season.
The player who was supposed to be the Huskies' workhorse running back, D.J. Shoemate, only had eight carries last season and missed time with a bum shoulder. The same shoulder that currently has him sidelined, perhaps for good.
"If his shoulder is not right and if there's going to be chronic problems, it certainly is [over]," head coach Pasqualoni said Saturday via the Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner. "So we've got to see what this shoulder [injury] is. We're hopeful that he's going to be OK, but if he's not he's going to have a decision to make so we'll see how that goes."
McCombs, meanwhile, is looking to add a few more pounds and maintain his durability.
"I think being a freshman last year, I was not as much of a leader as I need to be," McCombs told ESPN.com Big East blogger Andrea Adelson recently. "I want to be more of a leader for the offense and be that motivational guy to lead us when times get hard. I didn't do as much of it last year because I was young. In practice, I'm motivating the guys to go every day, making sure nobody is slacking off."
That's exactly what you want from a team leader although we imagined McCombs would happily give up some of those duties to whomever ends up as the starting quarterback. Because if the Huskies are going to make the leap from average Big East team to bowl-game contenders, it's going to be because of improved play from the QB(s).