- 2007 UConn Offense Preview | 2007 UConn Defense Preview
- 2007 UConn Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Connecticut Preview
Did Connecticut peak two years ago when it won eight games and beat Toledo in the 2004 Motor City Bowl? Was that as good as it gets in Storrs? Not long ago this was one of the darlings of the smaller, upstart programs. Now, after 13 losses in its last 17 games against I-A opponents in the post-Dan Orlovsky era, the team is practically back in rebuilding mode. With the Big East getting so much better in such a hurry, it might be tough for the Huskies to make the same sort of noise for the foreseeable future.
Head coach: Randy Edsall
9th year: 41-51
Returning Lettermen: 34
Off. 18, Def. 14, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 24
Best Husky Players
1. RB Donald Brown, Soph.
2. LB Danny Lansanah, Sr.
3. CB Darius Butler, Jr.
4. LB Ryan Henegan, Sr.
5. DE Cody Brown, Jr.
6. DT Dan Davis, Sr.
7. CB Tyvon Branch, Sr.
8. DE Lindsey Witten, Soph.
9. LB Jarell Miller, Fr.
10. QB Tyler Lorenzen, Jr.
Then again, low
expectations could be exactly what Randy Edsall and his team needs to
sneak up on everyone.
Last season wound up being a celebration for the Big East, but UConn’s invitation never reached Storrs. The infrastructure remains state-of-the-art and the coaching staff is still solid, but there’s now a sense of urgency to recapture the momentum that permeated through the program just two years ago.
Coming off a rough season on and off the field, sweeping changes and a search for quick fixes may be the themes early on. Edsall has wasted no time making it clear that every job is up for grabs this summer meaning top recruits, such as quarterback Tyler Lorenzen and linebacker Jarell Miller, will be walking into situations that are tailor-made for immediate playing time. After getting by on overachievers, Edsall is looking for the same sort of heart in the bodies of players able to compete at the highest level of the improved conference.
One of the few players the Huskies will know they can build around is running back Donald Brown, who displayed an exciting blend of speed and power in a sensational second-half of 2006 distinguishing himself on an offense that’s been pining for a go-to guy for two years. In many ways, he was a microcosm of a program that had a ton of young players forced into action because of injuries or dismissals. Can this all pay off soon to get back to a bowl game?
What to watch for on offense: The O got next to no production from the quarterback and averaged just 18 points a game in league play since 2005. From protection to execution, the passing game broke down in all phases a year ago which is why Lorenzen, last year’s national community college total offense leader, will get every opportunity to win a wide-open quarterback battle. Brown is a legitimate feature back, who’ll be running behind an improved line that returns seven players with starting experience. As long as the passing game is at least efficient, the running attack should go wild.
What to watch for on defense: Once a constant trademark of an Edsall team, the plucky defense separated at the seams giving up way too many big plays and finishing last in the league in scoring defense. Although losing both starting tackles won’t help a flimsy run D, there’s hope that the return of all three starting linebackers and talented corners Darius Butler and Tyvon Branch will spur a revival. Miller is a beast at linebacker with the potential to be the best recruit to ever sign with the Huskies. Expect plenty of pressure from all sides, lots of plays in the backfield, and a solid year from the secondary.
The team will be far better if … Lorenzen grabs the starting quarterback job and puts a spark into the lifeless UConn offense. The Huskies were at their peak from 2002 to 2004, when they had balance on offense, but since then, highly touted recruits D.J. Hernandez and Matt Bonislawski have been washouts. Combine the threat of a passing game with the running of Brown, and Connecticut has a shot to climb back to a bowl game.
The Schedule: It’s not bad with a chance to make a huge move with a manageable road slate and most of the big boys coming to Storrs. A win at Duke in the season opener would mean a 3-0 start (with Maine and Temple to follow) before the Big East opener at Pitt. After non-conference dates with Akron and at Virginia, the key stretch kicks in with a three-week home stretch against Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers. Sweep those three and the Big East title is there for the taking. Win one of the three and there'll be work to do for a bowl game with November road trips to Cincinnati and West Virginia to deal with.
Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Donald Brown. Brown was a revelation for the
low-wattage Huskies as he bolted for 896 yards and seven touchdowns as a
freshman backup to senior Terry Caulley. Not your typical UConn
recruit, he has the physical attributes to stand out in the loaded
league of backs while becoming the focal point of Edsall’s offense for
the next three seasons.
Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Danny Lansanah. For two years running, Lansanah has been the most valuable and most versatile player on the Husky defense leading the way in stops both seasons. Whether in the middle or from the weakside, he’s a steady force filling the lanes in run defense while also growing into the unit’s most dependable linebacker in pass coverage.
Key player to a successful season: Defensive tackles Dan Davis, Brandon Dillon and Rob Lunn. The UConn defensive tackles were a tremendous disappointment last season, getting pushed around way too often by most Big East ground games. With 332-pound sophomore Lawrence Green moving to offensive guard, Davis, Dillon and Lunn will have to use their quickness to make more plays at the point of attack and allow the linebackers to do more clean-up work than make plays five-to-seven yards down the field.
The season will be a success if ... Connecticut goes back to a bowl game. The schedule is just light enough to form a solid base of four wins, so getting a few more shouldn’t be that big a task for a team that should be improved on offense and nastier on defense. It’s too simplistic to call this a make-or-break year for Edsall, but 2008 will be tense if the Huskies don’t go bowling for the first time in two seasons.
Key game: Sept. 22 at Pitt. Not only is this the Big East opener, but it could be the one barrier before and a 5-0 start. The wild 46-45 double overtime thriller over the Panthers was UConn’s only Big East win, and the only victory over the final six games of the year. Pitt will be cranked up to avoid another letdown, which would make a win all the sweeter if the Huskies can pull it off.
2006 Fun Stats:
- Average yards per pass: Opponents 7.7 – Connecticut 5.4
- Punt return average: Connecticut 12 yards per return – Opponents 6.4 yards per return
- Third quarter scoring: Opponents 72 – Connecticut 41