Hernandez switching to WR; QB battle up for grabs

STORRS, Conn. -- D.J. Hernandez cut across the middle
Tuesday, went up for the football, and was laid out by cornerback
Darius Butler.

Welcome to your new position, Mr. Hernandez.

Hernandez, who started at quarterback for Connecticut last
season, moved to wideout in spring practice this week, leaving the
battle for starting signal caller to junior transfer Tyler Lorenzen
and redshirt sophomore Dennis Brown. Hernandez will be a redshirt
junior this fall.

Coach Randy Edsall said he had been talking to Hernandez about
the switch since midwinter, and it was a mutual decision.

"He just felt that if he was going to be the third guy, then he
just wanted to have the opportunity to get on the field and play,
and he felt at wide receiver that would be an opportunity for him
to do that," Edsall said.

Hernandez, an all-state player from Bristol Central, earned the
starting job last summer, then lost it to senior Matt Bonislawski
after three games when he threw for just 27 yards in a 14-7 win
over Indiana. But Bonislawski didn't play well either and Hernandez
returned to field in late October, only to suffer a wrist injury
that kept him out of the final two games.

Combined, the pair threw for just under 1,700 yards for a team
that went 4-8.

That prompted UConn to recruit Lorenzen, who threw for 2,960
yards last season at Palomar Community College in San Marcos,

The 6-foot-5 Lorenzen, from Eddyville, Iowa, signed with Iowa
State in 2005. He never played for the Cyclones who switched him to
wide receiver before he transferred to Palomar.

He and Hernandez became friends when he arrived on campus, watch
film together and have been helping each other learn their
positions, Lorenzen said.

"He knows the offense inside and out," Lorenzen said. "He's
teaching me how to change protections, reads, different things,
just little stuff."

Hernandez will continue to be the team's third-string
quarterback, allowing the Huskies to redshirt incoming freshman
Cody Endres, Edsall said.

But Hernandez will practice exclusively at wide receiver for the
rest of the spring, and Edsall said he expects him to compete for a
starting job.

"I think he'll be all right, because I know he's going to work
at it, and I know that he understands what defenses are doing, he
understands the protections, so I think that's going to be a
tremendous advantage," Edsall said.

The defensive backs know that too, maybe that's why someone
sneaked into the wide receiver's meeting room and put up a target
with Hernandez's number on it, Edsall said.

"But they have so much respect for him," he said. "They
probably thought they might be able to take advantage of him on the
first day, but I think they found out that he's a pretty good
athlete and a tremendous competitor."

Redshirt junior Ellis Gaulden, who was expected to be a big
factor at wide receiver after recovering from two knee injuries,
damaged a ligament in his right foot during practice last week.
He's expected to miss up to six months, Edsall said.