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April 1, 2008For more coverage of spring practice,
check out Spring Practice Central 2008.
STORRS, Conn. - The large, red turf burn on Robbie Frey's right bicep spoke just as much about his work ethic this spring as anything else he could do on the field.
Frey, coming off his first season with UConn and enduring the first spring practice of his collegiate career, has a sizeable challenge ahead of him: earn playing time this fall when both of the Huskies' starting running backs from last season, Donald Brown and Andre Dixon, return to the team.
As a result, it will be a mix of tough, scrappy play, pure know-how and constant adaptations that will give Frey a shot at taking the field for the first time in 2008.
The six-foot running back said he has bulked up to 195 pounds this spring, a solid 10 more than the 185 pounds he carried when stepping foot in the Shenkman Center for the first time as a player last June. UConn's coaches have told Frey they'd like to see him bulk up to 200 pounds by the time the season starts - a reasonable goal, he said, but one that he's going to have to fight to attain in order to prevent the loss of his quickness.
Running backs coach Terry Richardson knows Frey's speed sets him apart from the rest of the backs. While Brown is more of a power back and Dixon has carved out a niche as a player who can gain yards after contact, Frey figures to provide an alternative as a third back that the team did not have last season.
"That's what makes our backs so unique - we all have different advantages in the game and that's what I think is going to help us out this year," Frey said.
In order to see more time on the field, Frey has entered the spring season looking to improve upon two skills: his pass protection and his ability to catch the ball coming out of the backfield. Those are two qualities head coach Randy Edsall has said he will be looking for this spring, especially after quarterback Tyler Lorenzen was the victim of several sacks caused by missed blocks in 2007.
As Frey continues to pursue a larger role on the field - he said he'd be happy to see action either on offense or on special teams - he does have one distinct advantage: experience on the road. Whether it be due to injuries or suspensions or by his own effort on scout team last season, Frey managed to travel with the Huskies to all six road games.
His competition with classmate Kelmetrus Wylie will be something to watch for throughout the spring and, likely, well into fall camp in August. Whether or not both players see action will depend on their improvements, though Richardson did not rule out all four running backs picking up carries.
"You always need two solid guys and a solid third guy," said Richardson, who related the story of Chris Bellamy, a long-time backup who tallied 212 yards against Kent State in 2003. "Whenever your number's called, you've got to take advantage, and that's the mindset those guys have got to be in. It's a very physical game and anything can happen."
Missing From Action
Wide receiver Brad Kanuch returned to the sidelines for practice Tuesday after dressing in full pads for Saturday's practice. Fellow receiver Ellis Gaulden did not dress, while receiver D.J. Hernandez did light jogging while catching passes on the sideline. Linebacker Scott Lutrus and tight end Martin Bedard each missed practice due to illness. C.J. Marck played at middle linebacker with the first team. The practice session concluded with the defense winning a scrimmage played under modified scoring. As a penalty, the offense had to run. Shelton (Conn.) running back Geoff Schultz, who will be joining the team as a preferred walk-on in the fall, was in attendance.
Zac Boyer, now the editor and publisher of UConnReport.com, covers UConn sports for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.