Schedule Preview: Connecticut

North Carolina begins its 2009 road schedule with a trip to East Hartford to face Connecticut on Sept. 12. The Huskies will be looking for revenge after last season's 38-12 defeat in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Overview: Connecticut has won 17 games over the past two seasons using purely traditional methods – a power running game and a tough defense. Take the '08 season, for example. Donald Brown and his 2,083 rushing yards helped the Huskies to a Big East-leading 216.4 yards per game on the ground (13th nationally), while the defense allowed just 278.0 yards (6th nationally) and 19.8 points (22nd) per contest. But times are changing up in Storrs, thanks in part to Brown's early departure to the National Football League.

While the old school approach has worked well for 11th-year head coach Randy Edsall, any semblance of a balanced attack has not been available – the Huskies ranked 109th nationally in passing offense (139.7 ypg) and 116th in passing efficiency (90.85) in '08. Enter former Akron offensive wiz Joe Moorhead as coordinator/quarterbacks coach with a spread scheme that features an up-tempo style with multiple no-huddle looks. If Edsall hired for a balanced attack, the Moorhead's resume matches up rather well – the Zips were one of a handful of FBS schools to rank in the top-50 in rushing, passing, scoring and total offense last fall.

Despite losing Brown, the Huskies return six starters on offense, and junior quarterback Zach Frazer (46-of-83 passing, 536 yards, 2 TD, 6 INT) started two games in '08 for departed starter Tyler Lorenzen. Sophomore Jordan Todman (296 yards, 3 TD, 6.3 ypc) emerged from spring ball as the heir apparent at running back.

The defense will likely resume its tenacious antics (T-40th in sacks – 2.23, T-32nd in tackles for loss – 6.54) with the return of four of its top five tacklers, led by second-team All Big East junior linebacker Scott Lutrus (106 tackles). The Huskies return seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, but losing two first-team All Big East performers – defensive end Cody Brown and cornerback Darius Butler – to the NFL will be tough to overcome.

A Return to Glory? Todman may be penciled in as the starter at running back heading into the preseason, but be sure to remember the name Andre Dixon. The senior earned second-team All Big East honors in '07 with a team-leading 828 yards and four touchdowns, and entered last season as the frontrunner before a training camp ankle injury opened the door for Brown's breakout campaign. If Dixon gets his act together – he has been suspended twice in two years, including a DUI charge last December – this young man has plenty of talent to help fill the void in the offensive backfield.

Interesting Fact, Part I: Before April 25th, there had never been a UConn football player selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. That changed in a hurry as four Huskies – RB Donald Brown, CB Darius Butler, DE Cody Brown and LT William Beatty – were taken on a historic night for the program. If you haven't followed Edsall's tenure at Connecticut, these players should serve as a strong testament for what he's built in Storrs.

Interesting Fact, Part II: Over the past five seasons, Connecticut's top-rated recruiting class occurred in 2007 when the Huskies needed 28 signees to post a No. 53 finish, according to Scout.com.

Time You Cannot Get Back: Edsall hosted a 17-minute, 25-second press conference this spring to showcase a sleeker UConn uniform from Nike, complete with player modeling and a Q-and-A session. The Huskies will now have four different looks to choose from this fall. Oregon, eat your heart out.

Key Game: South Florida on Dec. 5. Not many people are giving the Huskies much respect this preseason, with various publications suggest the current bowl streak will end in '09. But while the conference slate is rough, UConn will get Louisville and Syracuse at home, setting up what could be a crucial season finale against Big East contender South Florida. The Bulls will be forced to leave the warm confines of Tampa for a winter hike to East Hartford, and with the Huskies' cold-weather style of play serving as a large plus, Edsall and Co. may have the opportunity to disrupt the Big East's hierarchy.

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5    @ Ohio 
Sept. 12   North Carolina
Sept. 19   @ Baylor
Sept. 26   Rhode Island
Oct. 10    @ Pitt
Oct. 17    Louisville
Oct. 24    @ West Virginia
Oct. 31    Rutgers
Nov. 7     @ Cincinnati
Nov. 21    @ Notre Dame
Nov. 28    Syracuse  
Dec. 5     South Florida  


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