STORRS, Conn. (AP) – Dennis Brown is a quarterback. That much is known about the freshman Connecticut will start this weekend against Rutgers.

Can he scramble? Can he throw long? Can he audible?

Tune in on Saturday to find out.

Brown’s teammates and head coach were careful Tuesday not to tip their hand about the capabilities of the Huskies’ third starting quarterback of the season. The 6-foot-3 all-star out of Miami Central got the starting nod when redshirt freshman D.J. Hernandez broke his left wrist in Saturday’s loss at Cincinnati.

One thing they all agreed on.

“This team has full confidence in him that he can get the job done,” offensive lineman Grant Preston said.

The injury-riddled Huskies are rallying behind the 19-year-old, who threw for 2,001 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior in high school last year. His backup is senior walk-on Peder von Harden, a transfer from Monmouth, who didn’t see any game action for the Huskies last year.

Coach Randy Edsall said Brown took the news of his start in stride late Sunday night.

“He stuck his hand out and shook my hand and said Thank you,’ and off he went to go and watch film,” Edsall said. “I think he knew what was going to take place. I don’t know how he’s going to play, none of us know. But I know he’s going to be prepared and give everything he’s got to give the team the best opportunity to win.”

Edsall said Brown has the poise and confidence that comes from playing before tens of thousands of high school fans each week in football-crazy Florida.

As for Brown and how he feels about getting his first collegiate start, that’ll have to wait until after the game Saturday. He’s off limits to reporters this week.

“He’s got to learn a game plan. He doesn’t need any other distractions other than getting himself prepared,” Edsall said. “The more he can do that the better he’ll feel going into the game rather than have to answer a lot of questions at this point in time.”

The quarterback shuffle began when starter Matt Bonislawski broke his collarbone Oct. 7 in a win over Syracuse. Hernandez finished that game and led the Huskies to a 26-7 win and started the next week at Cincinnati, a meeting that proved costly to the Huskies, who lost several starters besides their quarterback.

Hernandez broke his non-throwing hand in the game was scheduled for surgery on Tuesday. He could return before the season ends. Cornerback Ernest Cole broke his left arm and will be out several weeks. Linebacker Taurian Sowell suffered a severe ankle sprain and is out indefinitely, and fellow linebacker Danny Lansannah is doubtful for this Saturday with a neck stinger.

One of the biggest blows was the season-ending knee injury to speedy return man Larry Taylor, who had been ranked in the top 20 in the nation in both kickoff and punt return yards. He tore a knee ligament.

“The field position that Larry gave us was very big,” Edsall said. “He’s a guy who will be missed.”

The play of Preston and his fellow offensive linemen will be critical for Brown on Saturday, especially if the Scarlet Knights try to exploit the rookie. Hernandez was sacked six times and hurried all day by Cininnati defenders.

“We need to be more physical and we need to sustain our blocks longer,” Preston said. “If I was a backup and was going to play this weekend, I’d be excited. It’s a chance to show what you can do as a football player.”

Just what can Brown do with the ball? His teammates say he’s excited to prove himself, but did an end run when asked specifically about his talents.

“He’s a good player and he wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t,” Preston said.

“He’s put in an awesome amount of time learning what he has to do,” defensive tackle Deon McPhee said.

“He’s an athlete. I told him, You’ll be fine. The biggest thing is just go out there and play the game,”‘ linebacker James Hargrave said.

And this from kicker Matt Nuzie: “I really can’t comment on that. I’m sorry, I just kick the ball.”

AP-ES-10-18-05 1931EDT


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