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July 17, 2007

Six captains already making their mark

NEWPORT, R.I. - When the names of six individual players were announced by Randy Edsall as captains to the crowd assembled at Rentschler Field in the spring, the overall reaction was that the number was just too many.

But judging by what each of the captains said at Tuesday's Big East media day, Edsall's decision - and motives - are becoming a little more clearer.

"I did it because I thought we had six guys that can lead, and it turned out that we had three on offense, three on defense," Edsall said. "When you look at it, it kind of covers all areas of offense and defense and even Larry [Taylor] from a special teams standpoint."

The seniors chosen - wide receiver Taylor, linebacker Danny Lansanah and defensive tackle Dan Davis - were all virtually guaranteed the position given their success in their first three years on and off the field. The juniors - cornerback Darius Butler, center Keith Gray and wide receiver D.J. Hernandez - were all chosen for their leadership skills, but the choices were less than obvious.

After all, it's not often that an underclassman has been chosen as captain, and the selection of six breaks the previous high of four, set first in 1991 and repeated again most recently last season. Together, the contingent looked like a small army huddled off on the side given the appearance of just two representatives from Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and USF.

That being said, Edsall has found six players he can count on, which has freed him from the constraints of having to deal with so many personal issues directly.

"When you have the players carrying out the messages and doing the things that you've instilled, it makes it a lot easier on you as a coach to be able to focus and concentrate on the other things that have to be done to make your team better," Edsall said. "They came to me and said, 'Coach, you've had to do too much the last two years. We'll take care of this stuff. We'll make sure things are going the way they're supposed to go.'"

Davis, perhaps the most vocal leader of the group, has embraced the role well. Gone are the initial fears that came with giving up his cell phone number to over 100 of his teammates; he's instead found a more reassuring role within them.

"I mean, guys call me if they want to talk about certain things or if they want to chill or anything like that, but there's no problems," Davis said. "Guys just call me if they want some consolation or anything like that. That's about it."

Gray, who was surprised by his selection not because he sat out most of last season with a shoulder injury but because he was the sixth name called, said the title of captain has given him much more formal responsibility. His proximity to the coaching staff has made him realize how important it is to carry on their message and make sure the team is in line.

"With incoming freshmen coming in, I have to make sure that their heads are on straight and that they're ready to go," Gray said. "In that aspect, yeah, it's different, but I'm still the same person, just with a little bit more responsibility."

Butler, whose duty may be exponentially more difficult given that 12 of his fellow defensive backs are underclassmen, echoed Gray's sentiments.

"You have more contact with coach, you can see pretty much everything that's going on [and] people are pretty much telling you everything, so it's a lot different," Butler said.

Time will tell whether or not the selections will be a success and if the choice of six captains may be the first of many occurrences. But Taylor has already demonstrated an understanding of what the position means, which may bode well for the team not only this season but in the future.

"I'm just going to continue to do the things that I do at that job, and when my career's over, hopefully the guy who's behind me will know I've been able to teach him a lot of things," Taylor said.

Zac Boyer covers UConn sports for Rivals.com. He can be reached at zacboyer @ gmail.com.


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