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September 23, 2008
Notes: Wilson lurks under the radar
Lawrence Wilson doesn't like the spotlight.STORRS, Conn. -
Or, more appropriately, he doesn't need the spotlight.
The sophomore linebacker doesn't waste words, either. During Tuesday's media availability at Burton Complex, Wilson managed to slip in one set of doors, walked past several cameras and microphones, picked up his lunch and had his hand on the door at the opposite end of the cafeteria before being stopped by a reporter.
"He's a laid-back kid," said Scott Lutrus. "But when it comes down to it, he proves he can play."
Named to the freshman all-America second team after recording a team-high 113 tackles last season, Wilson, the first-ever UConn player from the state of Alabama, shed the familiarity of his past behind when he left Tuscaloosa for the lure of college football in Connecticut.
Aside from the attention gained by his debut performance last year, Wilson has continued to thrive in the shadows of what's shaping up to be another strong season for the defense. Lutrus has fielded most of the questions about the linebackers this season mostly due to his performance, but also because the Brookfield native has built a rapport with the local media. Middle linebacker Greg Lloyd also steps in from time to time when asked about the struggles of being a first-time starter.
"I don't mind it," Wilson said. "The spotlight draws a lot of attention."
Rather, Wilson would prefer to earn it on the football field. He's recorded 21 tackles through four games this season, slightly off the freshman record he set in 2007, and leads the team with two interceptions.
Admittedly more proficient as a run stopper, he'll get the chance to show off his skills on a national showcase again this Friday when the Huskies head to Louisville to face a Cardinals team that has one of the more lethal backfields in the conference.
The chance to stop running back Victor Anderson, who rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns last Wednesday against Kansas State to earn Big East Player of the Week honors, while mixing in repetitions against a pure pocket passer in Hunter Cantwell should serve as a chance solid test for Wilson.
"We don't want him just to be a good guy against the run or a good guy against the pass," UConn head coach Randy Edsall said. "He's getting better and he's making improvement, but again, as coaches, you see guys and you want them to make faster improvements."
Because he has played against Louisville before - the Huskies won, 21-17, in East Hartford last season - Wilson believes that a familiarity with the opponent's offensive schemes will boost his performance on Friday. It's worked in the past - he intercepted passes against Temple and Virginia earlier this season after having played both in 2007.
"The first conference game's a big game," Wilson said. "It's a big game, especially against Louisville. We've got to come out and play every game hard."
A different kind of challenge
Louisville redshirt freshman Josh Chichester has the one trait that only two other wide receivers in the nation share: he's 6-foot-8.
The height has, understandably, been a marked advantage for Chichester, who has reeled in 10 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown - good for second on the team. It would be understandable, Edsall said, if Chichester is able to make a couple plays against UConn on Friday.
"You have to play good technique and help yourself so that he doesn't get over top of you," Edsall said, "and then what you've got to be able to do in situations like that is punch up through his hands as he tries to go and catch the ball."
Back at full strength?
Wide receiver Scott Long is expected to practice this week for Louisville after missing the first three games due to a broken bone in his foot. Long was the Cardinals' fourth-leading receiver a year ago. Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe said Tyler Lorenzen reminds him of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow for his ability to throw and run the ball. "That's kind of funny," Lorenzen said. "I think Tebow has some size on me, though." Edsall said "one player" is banged up with an ankle injury, but he expects him to play Friday. He did not divulge the name of that player. Lutrus begged to win defensive tackle Rob Lunn's "Lunn-sung Hero" award, given weekly on MyTV 9's "Inside Huskies Football" show Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Lunn declined. "You don't work hard and you take plays off," he told Lutrus.
Zac Boyer, the editor and publisher of UConnReport.com, covers UConn sports for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.