High Expectations for Shoemate, McCombs


Even if you have just a passing interest in the UConn football team (especially during the off-season), you've no doubt heard this before at some point in the previous weeks and months: the only position that has more question marks entering training camp than running back is quarterback. If you want the glass-half-full take on this, here you go: there might not be much experienced depth at running back, but that doesn't mean the Huskies don't have players who can fill Jordan Todman's shoes.

(As for the QB, well, that's an entirely different story; UConn might very well have to build weekly game plans around minimizing the impact the eventual starter might have.)

And that brings us to ESPN.com Big East blogger Andrea Adelson who has spent recent weeks compiling team and player rankings. The short version: defense, special teams good, offense -- well, less so. On Tuesday, she ranked D.J. Shoemate as the eighth-best RB in the conference (remember: there are just eight teams).

"I know Huskies fans are going to be upset with this ranking, but I have one question here: Is Shoemate more than a fullback who has a history of fumbling?" Adelson asked. "The potential is there, which is why I had him listed as my UConn impact player. But somebody else could easily emerge."

Which raises a whole other set of issues, chief among them: UConn's impact player is a fullback who has a history of fumbling? Well, not exactly. Sure, it doesn't help that their best wide receiver, Mike Smith, was declared academically ineligible earlier this off-season (but he's still on the conference's watch list!), but Shoemate isn't UConn's only backfield option. Adelson writes that Lyle McCombs has the potential to be a breakout player in the Big East.

"As a redshirt freshman, he has his entire career ahead of him. He got into off-the-field trouble in January and had to serve a suspension in the spring, but there is a chance he could overtake Shoemate as the starter. UConn generally has success with its running backs, so he could be the next big name."

It's not the first time the Big East blog has touted McCombs. Adelson's predecessor, Brian Bennett, wrote pretty much the same thing in May, which either means that McCombs has a ton of potential or there isn't much to choose from among the Huskies running backs.

We like to think it's the former.

We say this because of what true freshman running back Max DeLorenzo told the Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner recently. Coach Paul Pasqualoni has said that DeLorenzo will get his chance in training camp to prove he can play this year but DeLorenzo understands that he could also be caught up in a numbers game.

"I know there are three guys ahead of me right now like, D.J. [Shoemate] J.J. [Jonathan Jean-Louis and Lyle [McCombs] who are all senior, senior and red shirt freshman," DeLorenzo told Conner. "I know Coach Pasqualoni has said here and there third-down back and whatnot, but if I have to take my time and redshirt, I'm more than happy to do that.

"All the older guys recommended it and especially with the two seniors being gone next year. If I get where I'm supposed to be, know the playbook, I'll be that much better for next year but I'm going to go into camp and just compete my butt off like I have the past four years. If I land a spot I land a spot. If I don't, I don't. There's no disadvantage to that."

DeLorenzo is probably right, and for Pasqualoni to redshirt him would mean that the other backs had shown enough to merit the move.

None of his is news, of course, but it just reinforces the point we've been beating you about the head with for some time now: defense and special teams will be shouldering much of the burden until the offense can find a player (or group of players) to build around.

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