UConn's Jeffreys looks the part in switch from QB to wide receiver

Storrs — Growing up, Elijah Jeffreys always wanted to be a receiver.

But his Somerville (Mass.) High School football team needed him to play quarterback, so that's what Jeffreys did.

Until he arrived at UConn.

Recruited as a receiver, Jeffreys certainly looked the part in Saturday's 48-22 loss to South Florida at Rentschler Field. In the second quarter, he caught a short screen pass, followed his blockers down field and shed a defender near the 10-yard line before reaching the end zone.

His 25-yard touchdown reception was also his first career catch.

"It was definitely a surreal moment for that to be my first reception and for it to be able to go for a touchdown," Jeffreys said. "It felt very good. I have a lot of confidence going forward."

Jeffreys, a 6-foot-4, 207-pound redshirt freshman, is one of four receivers with a touchdown reception this season for the Huskies. The other three — freshman Cam Ross, graduate transfer Ardell Brown and freshman Matt Drayton — are newcomers.

True and redshirt freshmen have accounted for 79 percent of UConn's offense.

"A lot of these young guys, even the guys that we redshirted last year, in an ideal situation they shouldn't even be playing yet," coach Randy Edsall said. "But we don't have an ideal situation here."

Up until Saturday, Jeffreys had seen limited action in two games. He's still making the adjustment from changing positions.

"It takes time," Edsall asid. "He had no idea really how to play wide receiver and he's just starting to get a hang of it now and starting to get some confidence. He's a big guy and does have good speed, so now he's got to keep working at it.

"It was good to see him make that catch and run last week because I think that will help him with his confidence."

Jeffreys said he was ready when called into action against South Florida, finishing with two catches for 29 yards.

Quarterback Mike Beaudry didn't realize at first that Jeffreys was on the receiving end of the touchdown pass. Jeffreys said he had only run that play once or twice in practice.

"It was awesome to see him do that," Beaudry said. "He works very hard. I'll be honest with you, I didn't know he was in the game. And I threw it to him and I was like, 'Oh, crap. It's Elijah.' He made a great play, ran and scored."

Jeffreys utilized his speed to outrun defenders on the play.

He was a track star at Somerville, competing on a 4x200 relay team that reached the indoor nationals two different seasons. He also ran sprints during the indoor and outdoor seasons.

"I really ran track to get me faster for football," Jeffreys said. "But I ended up liking track. I feel like it definitely helped because track you work on your form and mechanics and that could transfer on to your mechanics on the field."

Jeffreys also excelled on the football field, earning Northeast Conference most valuable player honors as a senior.

Edsall saw that Jeffreys had the athleticism and size to play receiver. He got a good look at Jeffreys when he attended UConn's football camp in 2018.

"We wanted to work him out (at wide receiver) because we didn't feel as though he would be a quarterback," Edsall said. "You can get guys to come (to camp) and work them out and see them, so the camp is always a big thing for us. You can put a watch on them yourself, you get around them and see how they work, see if they're coachable."

His camp experience convinced Jeffreys to commit to the Huskies.

"It influenced me a lot because I was looking around campus and it just felt like it was a good place to be at," Jeffreys said.

Since arriving at UConn, Jeffreys found out teammate Donovan Williams played quarterback before moving to tight end. It was good to know, he said.

Jeffreys continues to make progress but still has much to learn.

His quarterback days are behind him.

"I liked playing quarterback in high school," he said. "I'm not going to lie, I miss it, at the high school level, though. In college, I'd rather play receiver than quarterback. I wanted to catch the ball, run, score touchdowns and things like that."

News and notes

UConn (1-4, 0-2 AAC) heads to New Orleans to face Tulane (4-1, 0-1) on Saturday. ... Injuries at tight end forced freshman Jayce Medlock into action. Medlock, who's undersized for that position at 220 pounds, has two catches for 23 yards in three games. "He's doing the best he can for a guy that shouldn't be playing," Edsall said. "When I say that, it's not because of him. He's working hard and giving everything he's got. .. We've got injuries there. It's a great learning experience for him." ... It's unlikely that Edsall will redshirt any players this year. Defensive back Myles Bell and linebacker Jackson Mitchell are potential candidates. "When you take a look at where we are at defensive back and where we are at linebacker and what we project going forward, I don't think we can do that."

g.keefe@theday.com

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