Huskies will get Max effort from running back DeLorenzo

Max DeLorenzo (44) is the top returning rusher for the UConn football team, which opens play Friday night at Rentschler Field against Brigham Young.
Max DeLorenzo (44) is the top returning rusher for the UConn football team, which opens play Friday night at Rentschler Field against Brigham Young. AP File photo

Storrs Max DeLorenzo is considered the most complete running back on the UConn football depth chart.

With the departure of featured runner Lyle McCombs, DeLorenzo also is the top returning rusher.

He's just fine with coach Bob Diaco's plan to increase his workload this season.

"Great," DeLorenzo said on Monday. "That's what I want. If he wants to give me 20 (carries) then great. I'm up for it. I'm up for being a productive back. This is what I've worked for."

DeLorenzo, a rugged 5-foot-11, 210-pound redshirt junior, is one of several running backs expected to play in Friday's regular season opener against Brigham Young University at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. He's also the most experienced.

Redshirt freshman Joshua Marriner is listed as DeLorenzo's back-up at tailback while redshirt freshman Jazzmar Clax is the top fullback and sophomore Matt Walsh next in line.

The Huskies averaged a paltry 84.4 yards per game last season.

Ultimately, production will determine playing time.

"We're going to give them all a good chance with the ball in their hand," Diaco said.

Diaco raved about DeLorenzo during Monday's football media luncheon.

"He's a leader," Diaco said. "The players on the team respect him. He received a pretty significant amount of votes for captain. He blocks. He's got good soft hands and he runs the ball hard. He runs all the runs well.

"He does a lot of the jobs well and that would be the reason why we'd go with him. At this point, (he's) the most complete back of the four guys that we're going to play."

Last season DeLorenzo rushed for 349 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games. He's improved in several areas, including his pass protection, something that he struggled with earlier in his career.

"We all know how to run the ball, but it's the other little things that you've got to know how to do to be great," DeLorenzo said.

Quarterback Casey Cochran has faith in DeLorenzo.

"He's a hard-nosed guy," Cochran said. "I know what he is going to do on every play and I can trust him and it's unbelievable to have a back like that."

Cochran sticks to routine

Cochran, a former New London and Masuk standout, hasn't changed his approach since winning the starting job. He intends to stick to the same routine that helped him beat out his competition.

"When I heard the news, I was excited and everything," Cochran said. "The biggest thing was just doing the same thing I've done all along. I try to take everything one step at a time, one play at a time and one rep. That's just how I practice and try to perform every day."

He can't explain the fascination with his mullet, which has become a social media sensation.

"It's funny to me how big it got," Cochran said. "I will keep the mullet. I enjoy it a lot, personally. It will be here for awhile."

A challenging nine months

With the season opener approaching, the Huskies are fully in game week mode. Monday also was the first day of school for UConn.

"The team is glad to be in game week finally," Diaco said. "I'm sure that's the case everywhere in the country for every school. But you can definitely feel the energy change and the focus gets a little bit narrower.

"And then they get a little more distracted. Today is the first day of school. But we're excited about the weekend. It's going to be a great, great night and a great start."

The players are just glad that a grueling preseason is behind them.

"This has been the most challenging nine months for every guy on this team," Cochran said. "The way this coaching staff has set this up and our strength staff, it gets to the point where we're ready to play. We're so excited to just get on the field and finally show what we can do. We've been working very hard this off-season."

News and notes

UConn is fairly healthy. Only offensive lineman Andreas Knappe (left leg), who's expected to be in the regular rotation, is doubtful for Friday's opener. "It's day to day," Diaco said. "I don't believe he'll be able to perform and protect himself in Friday night's game the way you need to but he's getting better every day and his role is increasing every day." Redshirt sophomore John Green, one of the fastest players on the team, has adjusted well to moving from receiver to cornerback. He's listed as second on the depth chart. An on-campus pep rally is planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the top of Fairfield Way across from the Husky Dog Statue.

g.keefe@theday.com

Twitter: @GavinKeefe

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