Thursday, March 7, 2013
Spring spotlight: Connecticut
By Matt Fortuna
Following a one-day hiatus to handle all of Wednesday's scheduling news, we continue our series today with a look at Connecticut, and the position group that is of utmost importance to the Huskies when spring ball gets under way Monday.
Why: UConn loses a pair of standout fifth-year seniors at the position in Sio Moore and Jory Johnson. After a 2012 campaign that saw him earn first-team all-conference honors from the Big East -- and one that saw him finish second in the conference in both sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (15.5) -- Moore dazzled at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, running a 4.65 40-yard dash, benching 225 pounds 29 times and improving his draft stock toward a likely early-round selection. Johnson, a captain from last season, finished sixth in the Big East in total tackles (95) and added 6.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. First-team All-Big East selection Yawin Smallwood is back (120 tackles, four sacks, 15 TFLs, two forced fumbles), but there are questions around him. Keep an eye on Florida transfer Graham Stewart, who missed all of last season after tearing his pectoral muscle during a summer workout. Stewart played in 12 games for the Gators as a true freshman in 2011 before transferring back to his home state for personal reasons. As a senior at Xavier (Conn.) High, Stewart notched 111 tackles, five sacks and a pick, earning defensive-player-of-the-year honors from the Hartford Courant. Jefferson Ashiru, who backed Moore up last season, recorded eight tackles in nine games in his first season of playing after a redshirt year in 2011.