Pindell takes positive approach to his journey as UConn quarterback

Storrs — David Pindell looks for something positive in any situation.

He even found a silver lining in his demotion from starting quarterback to backup after leading the UConn football team for just three quarters in the season opener before being replaced.

Since then, Pindell has worked hard in practice to polish his skills and learned from watching and talking to veteran signal-caller Bryant Shirreffs.

"I was a little disappointed but I didn't get too down about it because I found some positives in that," Pindell said Tuesday. "I felt like if I was going to be the backup, I could learn from what Bryant does. ... I didn't take it as a bad thing. I took it as a learning process for me."

Pindell will be better prepared for his second start of the season Saturday at No. 14 Central Florida than his first when the junior college transfer had only four weeks of preseason to adjust to a new team and new system before taking charge.

With Shirreffs out with a concussion, Pindell will fill in and be appearing in fourth game and first start since the season opening win over Holy Cross on Aug. 31. In his debut, Pindell finished 19 for 28 for 154 yards before leaving with UConn trailing 20-7.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has seen Pindell grow into a more comfortable, confident quarterback during the season and didn't let his early-season demotion bother him.

"He's handled that great," Lashlee said. "David is a solid, steady kid. He's pretty quiet. ... It allowed him to get some experience at the Division I level and then step back and see everything unfold, see how Bryant, a guy who's played a lot of ball, handles certain things. He's prepared very well each week.

".... He's just comfortable with what we do."

Following a stretch of six straight games on the sidelines, Pindell saw spot duty in the last two weeks in losses to Missouri and South Florida.

Pindell was forced into action on Saturday against the Bulls early in the fourth quarter when Shirreffs took a vicious hit and left the game with a concussion.

In his first two series, Pindell led the Huskies on touchdown drives, capping off the second possession by bolting out of the backfield and running 10 yards for his first career score. He finished 3-for-4 for 37 yards and rushed 19 yards overall on three carries.

"I made sure I came in and did my job and did what my coaches wanted me to do," said Pindell, who's 25-for-44 for 222 yards overall this season. "(Bryant) got a concussion and obviously he's not able to play this week so I have to step up and make sure I do my part."

Consider Pindell's performance a needed step in his development.

"He came in the middle of a series, that's hard to do, and finished the series and scored," Lashlee said. "Then he led us on a good touchdown drive, a couple of third down conversions. That was good for his confidence and the team's confidence. Hopefully, he can continue to build on that."

Shirreffs, who's thrown for 14 touchdowns and only five interceptions while enjoying his best season, will be tough to replace. He's brought toughness and leadership to the position and earned the respect of his teammates. The Huskies clearly respond to him.

Last year's anemic offense has vastly improved under Shirreffs and Lashlee, a first-year coordinator. The Huskies are averaging 24.7 points compared to 14.8 in 2016.

Now it's up to Pindell to be productive. He's learned from Shirreffs to stay in the pocket, go through his reads and trust his offensive line. He also has a better feel for his receivers.

Pindell also has worked on his deep throws, something he struggled with earlier this season.

"Knowing the guys and all the chemistry we developed in the past eight or nine weeks, we just got more confident and more comfortable with each other so I feel good about going into (Saturday's) game," Pindell said.

Pindell will likely have Arkeel Newsome and Nate Hopkins available at running back Saturday. They both returned to practice Tuesday after missing time with injuries.

Lashlee doesn't expect UConn's offensive game plan to change much with Pindell in charge. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Bisack will serve as the backup.

"This is our 10th game, so he's had the whole season and practiced with the game plan each week," Lashlee said. "We'll try to do the things he's most comfortable with. In terms of the offense, I don't think there's limitations."

News and notes

• Both Lashlee and defensive coordinator Billy Crocker met with the media for the first time since preseason. Randy Edsall missed Tuesday's weekly press conference to attend a pre-trial hearing for Corey Edsall's appeal of a state ethics office ruling. An earlier decision stated that Corey, a tight ends coach and son of the head coach, will not be allowed to renew his contract. ... Changes on the depth chart in the secondary: Senior Jamar Summers is back as starter after serving a three-quarter game suspension last week. Redshirt senior Tre Bell has replaced freshman Jordan Swann on the first team while redshirt junior Anthony Watkins also will start. Reserve John Robinson IV has returned from suspension. ... Backup running back Jason Thompson (concussion) and freshman Brayden Brown (personal reasons, death in the family), who's started the last four games at defensive back, will sit out Saturday.

g.keefe@theday.com

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