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Versatile Davis gaining confidence in his role for UConn football

Storrs — Bryant Shirreffs spent a season as the road trip roommate of Tyler Davis.

During that time two years ago, Shirreffs learned a few things about his then fellow UConn football quarterback.

"He sleep talks," Shirreffs said. "I've had a few conversations with him in his sleep. He's a great teammate and a great person off the field."

Since then, their relationship and Davis's role on the Huskies evolved. They've developed a tight bond and Davis moved from quarterback to a pass catcher. A 6-foot-4, 235-pound redshirt sophomore, he's listed as a tight end in the media guide and wide receiver on the most recent roster.

"I'm just going where ever they need me," Davis said.

Shirreffs added: "He's a jack of all trades. He's a really unselfish player and a pleasure to be around."

Davis's contribution can't be measured in statistics; He's caught just one pass for 18 yards in three games as well as a two-point conversion catch.

Coach Randy Edsall says that Davis has earned the right to be on the field more than he has been.

"He's a very versatile player for us," Edsall said. "We can utilize him in a lot of different roles, which is nice to have the kind of flexibility. ... He's a guy that can make us better. Again, he's not close to where he needs to be, but he's got ability."

In Saturday's loss at SMU in Dallas, Davis showed off his athletic ability by out-jumping a defender to haul in a two-point conversion pass in the left corner of the end zone. He held on to the football after falling backward to the turf and managed to stay inbound.

His terrific catch tied the score at 28-28 early in the fourth quarter before the Huskies faded, dropping a 49-28 decision to fall to 1-3 overall, 0-2 in the American Athletic Conference. UConn hosts Memphis (3-1, 0-1) on Friday (7 p.m., ESPN) at Rentschler Field.

"When Bryant throws it like that, it makes my job pretty easy," said Davis, who had 11 receptions for 107 yards and one touchdown in 2016. "It was a perfect throw. Then it was cool to see all the guys energized after that."

Of course Davis, like his fellow Huskies, has made his share of mistakes this season and turned them into learning experiences.

Take the season opener against Holy Cross. Davis was benched after being flagged for what he called "two foolish penalties."

"The first game definitely wasn't a good one," Davis said.

Edsall loved Davis's reaction in the following days.

"He didn't stick his head in the sand and feel sorry for himself," Edsall said. "That told me something about him. He just kept working and working and now he got another opportunity and made a nice catch against Virginia and made a nice two-point conversion catch. ... You can see a guy like that gaining more confidence.

"That's one of the big things, I think, with this whole team is confidence. ... The more confidence we get, I think that might help with the inconsistencies that we're having because they're going to believe in themselves a little bit more."

The Huskies have gained confidence on offense, averaging 27.8 points per game. They're light years ahead of last year, scoring 111 points in four games compared to 178 points total last season in 12 games.

"We're starting to believe that we can be a good offense," Davis said. "People are starting to really have confidence in what we're doing. We just know that each guy has got each others' back and each guy is going to do his job and we're moving the ball."

Shirreffs, a redshirt senior, is having his best season. He set career highs for passing yards in each of the last two games, throwing for 408 yards and two touchdowns against SMU.

He's fourth in the country in passing efficiency at 182.32.  Since coming off the bench in the season opener, he's thrown for eight touchdowns and 1,165 yards while tossing only two interceptions.

"I'm really enjoying each week trying to get better," Shirreffs said. "I love the offense. The way we installed it, it gives so many different players an opportunity to make plays. It's exciting and fun to be a part of."

And if Shirreffs ever needs any friendly advice, he can turn to Davis who hasn't forgotten his days as a quarterback. Davis completed two passes for 42 yards last season on trick plays.

"I always think it's like riding a bike — you never forget how to do it," Davis said. "Whenever I'm throwing on the sidelines, I've always got in my mind that I can still take a three step drop if they need me, too. "

News and notes

• Freshman kick returner/defensive back Jordan Swann has returned to practice after sitting out last week's game with a concussion. Looks like he'll be ready to play on Friday. ... Freshman Ian Swenson, who started at defensive back vs. SMU and suffered a shoulder injury, had surgery Tuesday morning. He's not expected to return this season. Redshirt junior Anthony Watkins is next in line to fill the spot.

g.keefe@theday.com

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