Much of the publicity surrounding the new look of the UConn Huskies has surrounded the fast paced offense. Equally important are the changes that have been made on the defensive side of the ball.
New defensive coordinator Billy Crocker, a native of Waterford (and big Yankees fan, two reasons we get along ! ) has implemented a 3-3-5 scheme that emphasizes attacking the offense. It is a far cry from the philosophy of the previous head coach who did not blitz and played a more read and react style. To a man, the defensive players are thrilled with the change and anxious to make things happen on their side of the ball.
The strength of the defense should be the defensive line. The starting front three of Cole Ormsby, Foley Fatukasi and Luke Carrezola have combined to make 61 starts. If they play up to their potential, and that is important, they could be dominant. Kevin Murphy has challenged Fatukasi in the middle, expect him to see significant playing time.
The linebacker corps has been struck by injuries. E.J Levenberry was injured in the spring and Vontae Diggs got injured in camp and will miss at least one and perhaps as much as three games. Chris Brittton and converted d-end Cam Stapleton have joined Junior Joseph as the starters. I think Joseph will have a terrific season. He has looked good in camp, has become a real team leader and is in the mold of other great Husky linebackers of the past.
The five defensive backs include Jamar Summers, who I believe struggled last year after being moved to safety, tramsfer Tre Bell, returning vets Tony Hopkins and Brice McAllister and red shirt freshman Tyler Coyle, who could blossom into a real star. Expect Marshe Terry to see plenty of time in the backfield.
Much like the offense, the depth is a lot of kids. Including Coyle, there are seven freshman or red shirt freshmen on the two deep. Names to remember are freshman linebacker Damian Beavers, and defensive backs Omar Fortt and Jordan Swann.
Speaking of Swann, he will be the team’s #1 kick returner of both kickoffs and punts. Jordan has speed to burn and says he can’t wait to take one back. The return game has struggled in recent years. Not since Robbie Frey in the Fiesta Bowl (a stretch of 231 returns) has a Husky brought a kickoff back for a touchdown. And only THREE punts were even returned last season, again a change in philosophy that UConn Nation should be grateful for.
The kicking game is up in the air. Edsall actually flipped a coin when asked by the Register’s Jim Fuller who his punter was. I think at the end of the day, it was be Aussie Luke Magliozzi who joined the team during camp. Brett Graham is the other choice. Placekicker Michael Tarbutt has been inconsistent during camp so you might see the Huskies attempt more fourth down conversions than normal. Time will tell.
So now, it’s time for action and the first test will be Holy Cross of the Patriot League. The Huskies are anxious to get the season going and finally hit someone else. It should be an interesting Thursday night at The Rent.
The broadcast team is the same. The Mayor ,Wayne Norman,returns as my colleague in the booth for the 26th year. Pure and simple, there is no one better. Former star QB Ken Sweitzer is back for his second year on the sidelines. The incredible shrinking sportscaster, Bob Joyce is our pre game, half time and post game host. DJ Wrexx, aka, Anthony McCalla is our producer in the booth for the fifth year and Devin Raeli is the spotter for the fourth year. It is a great group to work with,all terrific at what they do! And we welcome in Drew Carey as our studio producer, I hope he knows what he has gotten himself into !! Drew will be great.
So here goes year 26. The coverage starts with the Tailgate Show on 5 on Thursday, hope you enjoy the season.