Preview 2017: Connecticut Huskies

Preview 2017: Connecticut Huskies

American Athletic

Preview 2017: Connecticut Huskies


Preview 2017: Connecticut Huskies

Previewing and looking ahead at the Connecticut Huskies season – and what you need to know.

Contact @PeteFiutak

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2017 UConn Preview: Can Edsall Recapture The Magic?
2017 UConn Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– UConn Previews: 2016 | 2015

What You Need To Know About The Connecticut Offense

Like all new coaching staffs trying to jumpstart an offense, UConn and head man Randy Edsall are going to make things faster. The nation’s worst scoring offense – averaging under 15 points per game – will go to an up-tempo style.

Now the question is whether or not UConn will simply be bad in more of a hurry.

There are plenty of options at quarterback, but the pecking order won’t be decided until the fall. Arkeel Newsome is the smallish, quick back who could and should thrive if the line can fill in a few pieces right away. It’s a large front five, but it has to start generating more of a push.

The one big positive from last season – Noel Thomas and his 100 catches – is gone from a receiving corps that has to undergo an overhaul.

Biggest Key To The Connecticut Offense

The line has to do something right. The Huskies couldn’t get drives moving because they couldn’t run the ball a lick. When they had to rely on the passing attack to roll, too often the drive was killed by a big pressure or a sack – allowing 37 on the year.

UConn failed to run for 200 yards on any FBS team, and only averaged more than four yards per pop in the opener against Maine and the regular season finale against Tulane. There are decent options in the backfield, but now they need more room to move behind the massive line.

What You Need To Know About The Connecticut Defense

Defensive coordinator Billy Crocker comes over from Villanova, where he was the longtime assistant for the star FCS program. His defenses are dominant against the run, and were known for being amazing at stiffening up inside the 20 – that should fit in fine.

For all of UConn’s problems last season, it was among the best in the country in the red zone and was solid against the run – and it should be again.

Four of the top seven tacklers are done, but there’s enough experience back to be fine with a little bit of time to come up with a good rotation.

Freakishly talented and athletic safety Obi Melifonwu is done, but linebackers Vontae Diggs and Junior Joseph are back along with three starters up front. There wasn’t nearly enough pressure, but 15 of the 17 sacks generated return.

Biggest Key To The Connecticut Defense

Start generating turnovers. The defense was supposed to be a killer under the old coaching staff, but after coming up with 25 takeaways two years ago, it had a hard time changing games around by forcing mistakes.
The Huskies forced four South Florida turnovers, and took the ball away three times against Temple – and the four against everyone else. UConn can’t have another season when it fails to generate a turnover in six games.

Connecticut Will Be Far Better If …

It can figure out how to score. Generating more first downs would be a start, coming from a running game that has to be better than one of the worst in college football, and helped by a passing game that has to be more efficient. Do all of that better, and – duh – the points will probably start to flow.

It really was impressive. The Huskies scored just three points over a three game November span and failed to crank up more than 17 points seven times in the last ten games. Worst of all, the O didn’t score a first quarter touchdown.

Best Connecticut Offensive Player

RB Arkeel Newsome, Sr. – Can he finally be ready to breakout in a better system and with a stronger line? He led the team in rushing over the last two seasons, coming up with 792 yards two years ago and 715 yards in 2016.

A dangerous receiver, too, he came up with 25 catches for 273 yards and two scores. While the 5-7, 185-pounder might not be a workhorse, but he can handle the ball 20 times if needed.

2. QB Bryant Shirreffs, Sr.
3. C Ryan Crozier, Jr.
4. OT Matt Peart, Soph.
5. WR Hergy Mayala, Sr.

Best Connecticut Defensive Player

LB Vontae Diggs, Sr. – He might not be all that big, but he can move. The 6-2, 221-pounder is the leading returning tackler, coming up with 84 stops on the year while using his terrific speed to come up with eight tackles for loss. A strong pass rusher when he gets his chances, he could become more of a factor behind the line, but he’ll do his most work as a run stopper.

2. CB Jamar Summers, Sr.
3. LB Junior Joseph, Sr.
4. DE/LB Luke Carrezola, Sr.
5. DT Foley Fatukasi, Sr.

Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Bryant Shirreffs, Sr. Or Donovan Williams – who’s hurt and needs time to come back and show what he can do – or JUCO transfer David Pindell. Someone has to take over the high-tempo attack and make it move. This won’t be figured out for a while, but at least the coaching staff will have options to figure out.

Shirreffs wasn’t awful, throwing for over 2,000 yards with seven touchdowns and six picks, and he ran for 326 yards and two scores, after hitting 60% of his throws and rushing for 503 yards and three scores in 2015. At 6-2 and 220 pounds, he has good size to go along with the mobility, but all that matters is whether or not he can move the attack. If not, the coaches won’t hesitate to pivot.

The Connecticut Season Will Be A Success If …

The new guys win four games. As completely and utterly miserable as the 2016 Huskies might have been, they still won three games and lost three others by a touchdown or less. The offense won’t be any worse under the new coaching staff, so if it can improve a little bit, so will the record. The problem? After the opener against Holy Cross, and potentially against East Carolina, UConn will probably be the underdog the rest of the way.

Key Game To The Connecticut Season

Sept. 9 vs South Florida Where is the program at? Just how far does it have to go to be good again? South Florida might be the best team in the American Athletic Conference, and UConn will be picked to finish near the bottom.

It’s a home game early on to start the conference schedule out – can the Huskies show something special? With three road games in the next four – and the home game in that bunch against Memphis – it’ll probably be a 1-5 start before having to deal with Tulsa.

2016 Connecticut Fun Stats

– 1st Quarter Scoring: Opponents 76 – Connecticut 9
– Sacks: Opponents 37 for 207 yards – Connecticut 17 for 102 yards
– Penalties: Opponents 59 for 502 yards – Connecticut 43 for 339 yards

2017 UConn Preview: Can Edsall Recapture The Magic?
2017 UConn Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– UConn Previews: 2016 | 2015

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