Hernandez switching to WR; QB battle up for grabs

Updated: March 27, 2007, 8:28 PM ET
Associated Press

STORRS, Conn. -- D.J. Hernandez cut across the middle Tuesday, went up for the football, and was laid out by cornerback Darius Butler.

Welcome to your new position, Mr. Hernandez.

Hernandez, who started at quarterback for Connecticut last season, moved to wideout in spring practice this week, leaving the battle for starting signal caller to junior transfer Tyler Lorenzen and redshirt sophomore Dennis Brown. Hernandez will be a redshirt junior this fall.

Coach Randy Edsall said he had been talking to Hernandez about the switch since midwinter, and it was a mutual decision.

"He just felt that if he was going to be the third guy, then he just wanted to have the opportunity to get on the field and play, and he felt at wide receiver that would be an opportunity for him to do that," Edsall said.

Hernandez, an all-state player from Bristol Central, earned the starting job last summer, then lost it to senior Matt Bonislawski after three games when he threw for just 27 yards in a 14-7 win over Indiana. But Bonislawski didn't play well either and Hernandez returned to field in late October, only to suffer a wrist injury that kept him out of the final two games.

Combined, the pair threw for just under 1,700 yards for a team that went 4-8.

That prompted UConn to recruit Lorenzen, who threw for 2,960 yards last season at Palomar Community College in San Marcos, Calif.

The 6-foot-5 Lorenzen, from Eddyville, Iowa, signed with Iowa State in 2005. He never played for the Cyclones who switched him to wide receiver before he transferred to Palomar.

He and Hernandez became friends when he arrived on campus, watch film together and have been helping each other learn their positions, Lorenzen said.

"He knows the offense inside and out," Lorenzen said. "He's teaching me how to change protections, reads, different things, just little stuff."

Hernandez will continue to be the team's third-string quarterback, allowing the Huskies to redshirt incoming freshman Cody Endres, Edsall said.

But Hernandez will practice exclusively at wide receiver for the rest of the spring, and Edsall said he expects him to compete for a starting job.

"I think he'll be all right, because I know he's going to work at it, and I know that he understands what defenses are doing, he understands the protections, so I think that's going to be a tremendous advantage," Edsall said.

The defensive backs know that too, maybe that's why someone sneaked into the wide receiver's meeting room and put up a target with Hernandez's number on it, Edsall said.

"But they have so much respect for him," he said. "They probably thought they might be able to take advantage of him on the first day, but I think they found out that he's a pretty good athlete and a tremendous competitor."

Redshirt junior Ellis Gaulden, who was expected to be a big factor at wide receiver after recovering from two knee injuries, damaged a ligament in his right foot during practice last week. He's expected to miss up to six months, Edsall said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press