STORRS — The depth chart means competition. The depth chart means dynamic tension, fan consternation and …
“These things here,” said Randy Edsall, holding up his “two deep” when asked about his running backs for the season opener. “They don’t mean much to me. Everybody on social media wants to see them.”
And, hey, aren’t we all about the likes and retweets?
“It’s a starting point,” the UConn coach said.
Edsall’s depth chart Sunday said redshirt freshman Zavier Scott is starting ahead of sophomore Kevin Mensah in the Huskies’ 2018 opener Thursday night against Central Florida. Unlike the defense where up to six freshmen could start, guard Christian Haynes is the only other freshman listed as a starter on offense.
There are so many raw names followed by (Fr.) on defense the immediate reaction is to name the unit The Green Team. There are so many (Fr.) going against prolific UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton that you want to run to church and light a few candles for them.
“I feel like our defense (in camp) has really stepped up its game an amazing amount,” Scott said.
You need to step it up when you go against the self-proclaimed national champions for the mythical right to hoist the missing Civil ConFLicCT Trophy.
Or as they say in Germany, the “Burgerkriegstrophae.”
Scott, whose dad’s in the army, was playing high school football in Vilseck, Germany at the height of Bob Diaco’s rivalry-in-his-own-mind. We wondered what the chatter was about the Burgerkriegstrophae in northeastern Bavaria.
“I don’t know how to answer that,” Scott said breaking into a smile.
Edsall’s depth chart could change next week. With this young a team, he said, it could change mid-game. He also began piecing together what he likes so much about Scott, who has moved from wide receiver to running back this season.
“Zavier is an every-down back,” Edsall said. “He gives you everything he has got all the time. He’s on our leadership council. He’s a leader. He’s very, very prideful. He wants to be the best he can be and he does it every day. He’s still learning. He’ll continue to get better and better.
“He reminds me of some of those guys we had here before, running backs, in terms of what we think he’s capable of doing. And he can do it all downs.”
Terry Caulley, Donald Brown, Andre Dixon, Jordan Todman, yes, Edsall had a stable of outstanding stable of running backs in his first run as UConn coach. We’ll see about Scott. This much we know. Mensah, who led Uconn in rushing yards last season, got into Edsall’s doghouse with academics and was held out much of spring practice. Nate Hopkins, who led the team in touchdowns, didn’t like the prospect of being a short-yardage guy and left early in August. Then Glastonbury’s Donevin O’Reilly, who went from walk-on to potential starter, tore his ACL in a special teams drill and is lost for the season.
“It’s sad one of the hardest working guys on the team did go down,” Scott said. “I feel like we have to do this for him. It’s all happened fast. I didn’t have much time to process it.”
Suddenly, a position of depth wasn’t so deep. Yet if you figured Edsall was dangling the carrot all along to push Mensah to be his No. 1 guy, you were a bit surprised Sunday.
“It’s a depth chart, I’m just going to keep working,” Mensah said. “I’m happy for Zay. I’m happy for myself I’m still on the two deep. Hopefully, when I get the chance to play Thursday, I’ll do what I do. I think I’ve been better with vision, patience, being disciplined, knowing my schemes.
“From them not relying on me and trying to get my trust back, it’s been tough. Every day you’ve got to keep working. I think I have gotten my trust back with them.”
If there is anything more than friendly competition between the two, neither Mensah nor Scott demonstrated it.
“We were roommates last year,” Scott said. “I love that guy. He’s one of my closest friends on the team. I love his work ethic. He’s one of the guys I looked up to.
“Even in film, if we see something that maybe coach doesn’t see like with protection, something little, we try to help each other to make sure we’re the best we can do.”
If you’re thinking Scott may have trouble adjusting from one position to another consider he has lived in Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Germany. While he has settled into Storrs, his military family has moved to Fort Dix in New Jersey, giving them a chance to see him play.
“I’m used to moving and meeting new people,” Scott said. “It’s natural for me. Me and my teammates bonded quickly.”
Scott, 6-1, 205, said he picked up enough German in his two years there to order food, learn numbers and exchange greetings. His coach wanted to get the ball in his hands more so he played more running back as a senior than wide receiver. So the switch at UConn, he said, was fairly natural.
“It really helps to have [running backs coach Terry Richardson], he has so much knowledge and experience,” Scott said. “All the running backs he has had, the work they put in, I can do the same thing.
“I feel like I have a lot of speed I can utilize and my natural vision is helpful. I can block. I’m pretty versatile.”
Scott went to football camps as a high school sophomore before going to Germany and, from what we saw, believed he had the talent for college. He also knew he’d have to work to get noticed.
“It was a team of military kids in Germany,” Scott said. “It was similar to college in traveling. It was two hours, three hours to games, 12 hours to England. We played against other American military kids. It was cool.”
His parents drove him to an ESPN camp near Cologne and that helped get him noticed. He came to the states late last spring for a number of college camps. He got offers from Syracuse, Ohio, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and UMass before choosing UConn on his birthday last July. He reportedly was timed at a blazing. 4.38 in the 40 at one camp. Edsall recently tweeted the “Leader Of The Pack” board at Shenkman that showed Scott tied for second with David Pindell and Tyler Coyle at 4.6 behind Keyion Dixon’s 4.51.
“This is my first time playing in a college football game, but I know what I’m capable of. I know what our coaches have taught us, how much work has been put in and how much my parents sacrificed for me.
“Expect me to do everything I can on every single play.”
Now bring on the “Burgerkriegstrophae.”