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    Wednesday, December 07, 2022

    Swenson feeding off energy inside UConn football program

    Veteran linebacker Ian Swenson answers media questions following UConn’s football practice on Tuesday at the Shenkman Training Center in Storrs. (Gavin Keefe/The Day)
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    Storrs – Veteran linebacker Ian Swenson feels a different vibe inside the UConn football camp than in his previous seasons.

    “It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s super energetic. Having a lot of fun out there. It’s a lot different. … Around the program and in the building, you just feel the energy. We’re all getting along well. The locker room is phenomenal, especially on the defensive end. I’m excited.”

    FIrst-year UConn coach Jim Mora and his coaching staff have injected much-needed energy and enthusiasm into a floundering program.

    The players have responded by consistently giving it their all during preseason camp. The Huskies practiced inside on Tuesday, running drills in the Shenkman Training Center.

    Mora is pleased with his team’s work ethic and attitude.

    “I just continue to stress that these guys are just working to get better,” Mora said. “They just have a great energy about them. I’m not going to say that every drill, every practice is perfect. I have not yet, one single time this camp – knock on wood – had to get them going in a practice. So, that’s a good thing. That’s a good sign.”

    Swenson sat out Tuesday’s workout. He’s dealing with what he called a “tweak,” but didn’t elaborate.

    Mora is a significant reason why Swenson, who already earned his undergraduate degree, decided to return this season for his final year of eligibility.

    “He just brings a different atmosphere to this place,” Swenson said. “It’s hard to explain, honestly. You’ve just got to be around the guy. He just really cares about us. He’s been to the (NFL), UCLA and now he’s here. He’s got so much experience.

    “He just knows how to do things the right way.”

    Also, Swenson, who’s from Wilmette, Ill., has found a home in UConn.

    “I love this place,” Swenson said.

    Swenson is a veteran presence on a rebuilt defense, which was one of the worst in college football last season allowing 38.5 points per game during an 1-11 season. He played in 11 games last season, making 73 tackles, including four for loss. He added one sack, four quarterback hurries and a pass breakup.

    Since last season, he’s added some weight, checking in at 215 pounds. He’s also gotten stronger, faster and more explosive. His football IQ is higher, helping him read the game better.

    “He’s critical,” Mora said when asked about Swenson’s importance to the team this season. “His maturity, his personality. His football intelligence is off the charts. His patience behind the ball as an inside linebacker, his ability to move athletically in space. He’s the type of body and the type of athlete that you need in the game today.

    … And he’s a calming influence. He never gets rattled. If a call comes in late, or if there is a little confusion, he is able to slow it down and communicate to the guys and settle them down because of his maturity.”

    Mora has upgraded the talent level by bringing in impact transfers and promising recruits. Graduate linebacker Marquez Bembry, who played at Kentucky, is one of the impressive newcomers.

    Swenson has seen the defense improve overall during summer workouts.

    “Especially from a depth perspective, you see the younger guys getting better,” Swenson said. “Guys like (sophomore linebacker) Tui (Faumuina-Brown) and (redshirt linebacker) Jordan Morrison are progressing at a great rate and filling depth at positions that we needed.”

    UConn will get an idea about how much it has improved when the regular season begins Aug. 27 at Utah State.

    News and notes

    Mora has yet to name a starting quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Ta`Quan Roberson has seen a lot of time with the first team during camp. “It’s still a pretty close competition,” Mora said. “Every day, it looks a little bit different. There’s some good things that they’re all doing.” … Sophomore tight end Brandon Niemenski says he likes everything about the offense. “(Offensive coordinator) NIck Charlton is doing a great job. He really made it very simple for us to learn, but at the same time it’s very effective and very efficient. … UConn will hold its preseason camp’s second intrasquad scrimmage Saturday afternoon on its practice field. The Huskies will focus on situational football instead of playing a game. “We get more out of the time spent when we break it down into situations,” Mora said. … Freshman running back Victor Rosa, who starred at Bristol Central, has impressed Mora. He broke off a long run in last Saturday’s scrimmage. “He’s an effective runner because he’s a good one-cut and downhill runner. He fits in well. We use him as a kick returner a little bit. I know (special teams coordinator) Doug Shearer wants to use him on a lot of special teams. He’s going to be a productive player for us this year.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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