College Football Preview: CONNECTICUT

With this season's move to the Big East will come more visibility than ever for the UConn program ... which means quarterback Dan Orlovsky finally will get the attention he deserves.

Orlovsky has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country in the past couple of seasons, passing for 3,485 yards last season and 2,488 a year earlier. In the past two seasons, he has thrown 52 touchdown passes and only 25 interceptions.

Now, with national televised games on the horizon and the real possibility for a bowl game -- the Huskies were 9-3 last season and couldn't get shoehorned into the postseason -- a lot more college football fans are going to know the name of Dan Orlovsky.

He figures to be top quarterback in the Big East. He is rated the 11th-best quarterback in the country by Lindy's magazine.

"He had a good spring," coach Randy Edsall said of his senior quarterback. "He's got all the things that we need and I wouldn't trade him for anyone else in college football."

Orlovsky was selected one of three team captains in the spring, along with senior linebacker Alfred Fincher and senior offensive tackle Ryan Krug. He is line for a huge senior season, and is being mentioned as one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2005 NFL draft.

Of course, the pressure will be much greater this season, too.

"That's the last thing I want is for him to think he's got to go out and do more," UConn coach Randy Edsall told the Hartford Courant.

"Dan just needs to go out and play within the system and the game plan. If he does that, he's going to be fine. If he does that, the numbers will be what they are."


PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: While many of the preseason magazines believe QB Dan Orlovsky is solid, the NFL scouts think he may be the best prospect at the position in the nation. The National Scouting Combine believes Orlovsky would go in the second round. No quarterback is rated higher. At 6-5 and 235 pounds, Orlovsky has ideal size. He also threw for 3,485 yards and 33 touchdowns a year ago. "I can't look at that stuff because subconsciously it plays a part in your mind," Orlovsky told the Hartford Courant. "I'll be worried about it next year at this time. Now it's not a big deal."

KEY GAME: UConn has Sept. 17 circled on its calendar for a couple of reasons. Not only will the Huskies be playing their first Big East conference game -- at Boston College on a Friday night -- it will mark their debut on national television. ESPN2 will televise the game from Alumni Stadium, as everyone will learn if UConn has the stuff to compete in the Big East this season.

THE MINDSET: The Huskies should be on anybody's short list of teams on the rise. They debuted a new stadium last season, and then they were able to join the Big East a year ahead of schedule, a move that gives them a higher national profile than ever. With a talented senior quarterback, UConn is eager to hit the ground running and compete for the conference title in a watered-down league (and before Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida arrive in 2005).

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Defensive end Uyi Osunde had 10 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last season. His presence helped free Tyler King for nine sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss, and now King, the lone returning starter on the defensive line, will have to be a leader of the defense. He missed part of the spring due to injury, but it was nothing serious.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've already told some guys if we're not the No. 1 offense in the country, we're not getting it done. We can't rest on last year or however many starters we have coming back." -- QB Dan Orlovsky in the Hartford Courant.


PROJECTED OFFENSIVE STARS: QB Dan Orlovsky -- He is coming off a season in which he set several school records, including passing yards (3,485), completions (279), attempts (475) and TD passes (33). He had five 300-yard passing games last season, and two more in which he threw for 299. He has already been selected for the all-star East-West Shrine Game in January. Orlovsky has the track record and all the physical tools to compete with Oklahoma's Jason White and all the other upper-echelon quarterbacks in the country.

WR Keron Henry -- He is the leading returning receiver with 39 catches last season for 662 yards and four touchdowns. With Shaun Feldeisen and O'Neil Wilson gone, Henry will have a key role.

The tailbacks -- Cornell Brockington and Chris Bellamy filled in for injured Terry Caulley last season, and the running game didn't miss a beat. But sophomore Matt Lawrence was the most improved player in the spring, and joins the mix, too. "I can feel comfortable with any of those three guys in the game, at any point and time in the game," coach Randy Edsall said.

PROJECTED DEFENSIVE STARS: LB Maurice Lloyd -- He is one of three returning starting linebackers for the Huskies. He led the team last season with 121 tackles, including 14.5 for loss.

DE Tyler King -- He's the pass rusher all elite teams need to have.

CB Justin Perkins -- The senior intercepted six passes last season and broke up 15 others.

INJURY IMPACT: The biggest question is the return of RB Terry Caulley, who missed most of last season after suffering a torn ACL on Sept. 27 against Virginia Tech. His status won't be fully known until August. He is a junior, but does have a redshirt year available. Given the crowded situation in the UConn backfield, that could be a good way to go if he is not back to 100 percent during fall camp.

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