UConn''s Pasqualoni puts premium on special teams

Storrs When you've spent your entire adult life 40 years to be exact in the coaching profession, your brain is bound to retain a story or two.

And as Paul Pasqualoni transitions into his new role as UConn's head football coach, it's become more and more obvious that he's completely at ease when relating a story about the past.

Pasqualoni turned into a storyteller following Saturday's spring practice, with a rub: He used a particular story to make a very important point.

Pasqualoni was asked about special teams, an area the Huskies are beginning to put a great deal of emphasis on as spring practice winds down. His philosophy, first developed during his coaching days at Syracuse, is simple.

"We made the decision that we were going to put the best players we had on special teams," he said. "It's not something where it's the second and third (string) players' responsibility. It's everybody on the team's responsibility, so you're going to see the best players on the team play special teams in addition to what their roles and responsibilities are going to be on either offense and defense."

Then he furthered his point with a story.

"The best one for me ever was David Tyree," Pasqualoni began.

"David Tyree was from Montclair High in New Jersey, and when we were recruiting him, David wanted to be a wide receiver. I thought he was a strong safety. I can remember sitting in his living room with his mother and he says to me, 'Coach, are you going to let me play wide receiver?' I said, 'David, you're a strong safety.'

"We talk about this for an hour or so, so I finally say to him, 'Here's the deal. Here's what I'll do right now. I'll make a deal with you ... a handshake deal. I'll let you be a wide receiver if you play all four units of special teams. And you may never, ever walk into my office and say, 'Coach, I'm tired of special teams.' He said, 'All right, I'll do it.'

"What happens? He becomes a special teams freaking highlight film. So now it's time for the draft. The Giants certainly are not going to take him as a wide receiver, so they take him as a special teams guy. Now he's playing core special teams he's playing all units, so now he's at The Game (Super Bowl) and playing wide receiver because by now his craft is wide receiver.

"But he's at The Game because of special teams. He's not at The Game because of wide receiver. He dresses, and now they've got an extra wide receiver and he's able to go into the game. They need an extra guy, throw him into the game, and what happens in the Super Bowl? He makes the catch with the ball pinned against his head, and it just turns out to be the biggest play of the game

"And how did he get there? He got there from special teams. That's the truth."

Former coach Randy Edsall had a similar philosophy, too, because there are generally 20-25 special teams plays each game. Pasqualoni said there will be tremendous competition as the spring winds down and then again in August when training camp begins.

"There's a lot of merit to paying attention all the way around - the impact it has on the game and then your value as a player," he said. "The more plays you can play, the more value you have, and now you've got a chance to make the travel squad, which to me in college is a big deal."

c.banning@theday.com

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