STORRS - The UConn football team’s active roster decreased by two on Tuesday, but coach Randy Edsall was treating the losses as a positive.
The two players in question, linebacker Kevon Jones and quarterback Marvin Washington, are being held out of action for the Huskies’ final three games this season not for disciplinary reasons but so they can focus on academics.
“I have to do what’s best for these kids, not what anybody else thinks is best for them,” Edsall explained Tuesday as his team prepared for Saturday’s game against SMU.
Jones, the freshman from East Hartford who has been the Huskies’ starting middle linebacker for most of the season, will cede that role but not because of a lack of production on the field. Jones is third on the team in tackles, having made 53. He also has a team-high six tackles for a loss.
“He’s a young man that had too much on his plate as a true freshman,” Edsall said. “I saw that he was struggling a little bit. I made the decision that he’s not going to play the last three games and he’s going to concentrate on academics.”
Washington, a redshirt freshman from Orlando who has been the Huskies’ No. 2 quarterback most of the season, is being sidelined for similar reasons. In Washington’s case, however, Edsall gave him a choice.
In a meeting Monday morning in the head coach’s office, Edsall said he told Washington that he could continue to be the Huskies’ backup and try to manage his workload in the classroom, too, or Washington could step down and work with the scout team, giving him more time to focus on academics.
The caveat, Edsall said, is that Washington had to hit a certain GPA.
“If you don’t meet that grade-point average you won’t have the opportunity to be a starting quarterback next year,” Edsall told Washington.
The two then met again Tuesday morning.
“I had hope for what he would do but I wasn’t sure. I doubted that he would do what I thought he should probably do,” Edsall said. “But obviously we’re making progress in this program.”
Washington chose the second option, meaning he won’t play in any more games this season - he’s appeared in three this year in a reserve role - but with a better chance of getting the grades to be on the field next season.
“I gave him a big hug because he’s starting to get it,” Edsall said.
Edsall did not reveal who would replace either man in their respective roles, though linebacker Santana Sterling and quarterback Brandon Bisack are the likely choices, but wasn’t overly concerned with the depth chart on Tuesday. Instead, he was rather choked up about his players’ commitment to the school.
“This is what college football is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about the kids,” Edsall said.
UConn is 1-8 this season, having lost six straight games and suffered through a litany of blowout losses. But Edsall’s spirits were quite high nonetheless.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I know this: what we’re doing is right. And that kid is finally seeing it,” Edsall said. “That’s the stuff that makes you feel good.”
Edsall appointed himself to serve as a liaison of sorts with the team’s academic counselors this season and therefore is keenly aware each week of where his players stand in the classroom. It’s not always good news, of course.
“Sometimes these guys think C’s are good. That’s average. I don’t want these kids to be average,” Edsall said.
Linebacker Eddie Hahn knows what some of his younger teammates are going through, and he knows how serious Edsall is about keeping that part of their time at UConn up to par.
“We’re student-athletes. Students first, athletes second,” Hahn said. “One thing he really doesn’t joke around with when it comes to us is our grades and our academics. As a young freshman, that first semester can be really tough. I had the benefit of redshirting so I didn’t have to worry about football as much as other kids do.”
Washington practiced with the scout team Tuesday while Jones was not at the team’s workout. … Safety Messiah Turner wore a red, non-contact jersey during practice but could be healthy enough to play this weekend. Running back Kevin Mensah and cornerback Tahj Herring-Wilson, both of whom Edsall said were banged up during the loss to Tulsa, practiced fully and appear ready to play this week against SMU. … Through nine games, quarterback David Pindell has piled up 2,436 yards of total offense this season, already the 11th-best mark in UConn history. … With senior day approaching Nov. 24, Edsall revealed that some of his fourth-year juniors have already begun making plans to depart after the current season. “We have some guys who aren’t coming back and who have come in to see me already and said that this is their senior year,” Edsall said, though not naming any players specifically. “The only thing I said is I appreciate everything they did.”