UConn football team loses RB Nate Carter, moves CT native Cam Edwards from defense to offense

STORRS — The UConn football team will will be without its top offensive weapon when it takes the field against No. 12 NC State on the road Saturday.

Running back Nate Carter was removed from last week’s loss to Michigan after suffering a second-degree shoulder separation, which will force him to miss at least one game.

Entering that Michigan game, Carter ranked third in the country in rushing yards with 384 and was second among all running backs with at least 50 carries in yards per carry (6.5).

UConn coach Jim Mora said Carter had an MRI that revealed the grade “two-plus grade shoulder separation.”

“Probably closer to a (grade) three, which is significant,” Mora said. “I know Nate will work as hard as he can to get back as quickly as he can, but he will not be available to us this week.”

The injury has shaken up an already battered offensive roster that has struggled to score, accumulated just 14 points in the last two games and coming off a shutout in Ann Arbor.

The void will be filled by a rotation of the three remaining running backs and potentially a new face.

Devontae Houston, who has been out with a shoulder injury, will be available. Houston scored a touchdown in a loss to Syracuse two weeks ago but didn't play at Michigan.

With Houston out and Carter injured against Michigan, true freshman Victor Rosa had 14 carries. Rosa, the former Bristol Central standout, should see more action this week.

“I don’t think anyone expected (Rosa) to take the reps he did against Michigan,” Mora said. “That was a heavy load for a true freshman to go on the road against a team like that and not even flinch. I just think he is a true competitor.”

This week’s depth chart lists Houston and Rosa as the top guys, while graduate running back Robert Burns and another true freshman, Norwalk's Cam Edwards, may also be featured.

Burns, who transferred from Miami last year, has been utilized in multiple positions including wide receiver and tight end but could return to his primary position on Saturday.

Edwards, the 2021 GameTimeCT high school football player, began the preseason as a defensive back, but has worked on offense with the scout team in practice since Week 1. At Norwalk, Edwards was a strong two-way player.

But he arrived at UConn as a defensive back.

“In my mind when we were watching (Edwards) on film as a high schooler, you saw skill on both sides of the ball,” Mora said. “But the way he can move his instincts, I liked him as a defensive back. Then his size was more towards what we wanted as a defensive back. What flipped it for us was that he became our scout team running back the first week of the situation because we were down on bodies.”

Rosa was the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year last year, so UConn's offensive backfield will have a strong state presence.

“(Edwards) has been going against the No. 1 defense every day in practice, and he is doing a good job,” Mora said. “He is taking some shots, he is fighting, he is physical, he can catch the ball, and he was equally efficient in high school on both sides of the ball. He was the natural guy to move to that position.”

Depth chart changes are also unfolding at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Brayden Zermeno transferred into the program last week from Arizona, where he was a preferred walk-on last year. Zermeno had given a verbal commitment to Princeton out of Loyola High in Los Angeles. 

Mora said Zermeno will take snaps with the scout team, allowing Tyler Phommachanh and Cale Millen to practice with the first team. Phommachanh, another Connecticut native, was listed as the third string quarterback for the first time this season behind Millen.

Phommachanh started three games for the Huskies last year before suffering a season ending ACL injury. With true freshman Zion Turner struggling against strong Power Five defenses, UConn could have options at quarterback after losing starter Ta'Quan Roberson to a season-ending injury in the first game.

But no matter who is playing, UConn will lack experience at the position.

“This is challenging, but it is also an opportunity to grow,” Mora said. “We have to develop depth here, so it gives young guys a chance to play. They are being thrown into the fire, sometimes before they are physically or emotionally ready, but it helps them grow up. It can be really ugly, but when you look down the road you say okay this is going to help us.”