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Bullseye: UConn Huskies

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A dark storm looms over the Horizon.

Connecticut v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

The 2018 University of Connecticut Huskies football program summarized in one .gif:

Hopefully, the new #ShowAndGo offense will allow USF to comfortably beat UConn instead of last year, where USF survived a scare by UConn 38-30.

UConn Huskies

Narrative

Oh boy, where do we start with this one.

It’s safe to say that the horse of how bad UConn was last season has been beaten to smithereens, but if you’re curious at how bad it was, Bill Connelly hit it out the park in this piece.

UConn’s only win came against FCS Rhode Island, where they needed a stellar performance from David Pindall to beat Rhode Island by 56-49. After that 56 point performance, UConn would go on to sputter to the end, with only a nice 50-point showing against SMU leaving a glimmer of hope for the Huskies to find a way into the win column again.

Yet, no amount if scrambling and heroism from Pindall could make up for the atrocity of that defense, who gave up 62 in that SMU game. The two major lowlights was allowing 617.5 yards per game, and 50.41 points per game, both the worst of all-time records dating back to pre-World War II.

After an absolutely horrifying football season, a silver lining emerged for UConn athletics with basketball season approaching. That lining was soon pissed on by the basketball gods, having their men’s team end the season with a losing record both overall and in conference, and the usually dominant women’s team lose in the Final Four (in Tampa nonetheless).

Even when things looked like they were going well in the spring with the Huskies advancing to the baseball conference championship game, their hopes were dashed as they would lose the conference championship to old Big East Foe Cincinnati by a score of 22-5.

The financial side didn’t look much better, with reports coming out that UConn’s Athletic Department was operating at $40 Million loss, including an $8.7 million deficit in football after the 1-11 season. Thus, it was announced that after much speculation and rumors, that UConn would be leaving the American Athletic Conference to rejoin the Big East.

The ‘break-up’ letter to the AAC Affiliates saw UConn call USF by the misnomer “University of Southern Florida” and address former president Dr. Judy Gensheft instead of current president Dr. Steve Currall. On top of all those previous financial issues, the school must still find pay a $17 million exit fee that will be paid out to the conference affiliates.

So, what does this long winded narrative tell us about the UConn Huskies? That they are still the train wreck of an athletic program that we saw last season.

Personnel

The only good news for UConn is that S&P+ does NOT have them in last, and it’s going to be really, really hard to be worse than last year on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, we could see that historically bad defense transition to a historically bad offense this upcoming year.

The lone savior of last year’s squad was Pindall, who scrambled his way to scoring points and keeping UConn alive when he could. He's graduated. Replacing him should be back up QB last year Marvin Washington (writer’s note after the fact: Marvin announced his transfer on June 3rd), who was 9-for-24 passing when he came in during blowout losses. There is a wrinkle here though, UWF transfer Mike Beaudry will fight for the starting job. Leading the Argos to the NCAA DII championship game in 2017, he threw for 3,000 yards in 2017 but missed a majority of 2018 with an injury.

Joining the QB in the backfield will be Kevin Mensah, who rushed for 1,000 yards and six TD’s last year. The junior doesn’t have much experience behind him, as the second leading rusher on the team was Pindall. After that the next leading rusher was...Wide Receiver Zavier White? Luckily, they picked up a grad transfer in Art Thompkins from Toledo, who will compliment his speed with Mensah’s power. That depth will become crucial for UConn as they look to continue to pound the rock going into the 2019 season.

Frank Giufre spent last season as the O-Line coach, but this season is promoted to the offensive coordinator for the Huskies. The projected offensive line should remain a steady crutch for the team to lean on, as three juniors, a senior, and a redshirt freshmen will make up the big boys up front. The offense will need to rely on this offensive line to create proper lanes for the running backs, because the QBs won’t have much to throw to on the outside.

The aforementioned Zavier Scott will have to lead a very young and inexperienced core of receivers, he’ll have a little bit of help with Quayvon Saykes returning to the starting lineup after missing all of 2018. Other than that, the most experienced player, Ardell Brown is transferring from D-2 Seton Hill, and no other current WR had more than 11 catches last year.

Oh, and their top TE from last year, Tyler Davis, grad transferred to Georgia Tech, leaving Jay Rose (one reception in 2018) and Donovan Williams (one reception in 2018) to fill that void.

The defensive side of the ball literally can’t get worse, right? New defensive coordinator Lou Spanos spent the 2018 season as an Analyst for Alabama Crimson Tide, which have a pretty good defense all things considered. So there’s a chance he can bring some of that Roll Tide Magic to one of the worst defenses ever.

UConn’s defense last year was incredibly young, with 16 of the 20 top tacklers from last year being freshmen or sophomores, so all of that experience is coming back. It’s a mystery of who will be the starters for this Husky defense in the fall, as Spanos hasn’t yet revealed what sort of defense they will run in the fall, whether is a 3-4, 4-3, 4-2-5, or some other weird, spontaneous system he can dream up.

One thing is for certain for this unit, who were very bad last year, is that they have an opportunity to erase that nightmare, and move forward under a new defensive coordinator who can’t be afraid to get weird.

If I had to guess what Spanos will do, it may be an odd 3-3-5, with a husky linebacker/DB filling the role of a 3-4 linebacker, but with the innate ability to drop into coverage as often as needed. Alabama ran a 3-4 last year, when Spanos was an analyst, so he’ll have experience seeing plays from that base. The problem is that UConn is sorely lacking depth at linebacker to fill four linebacker spots, even with two transfer LBs this offseason coming in. Although, with a plethora of DBs to play with, Spanos can keep a solid rotation of players in and out.

Outlook

Last season is last season for UConn. Call it whatever you would like, but it’s in the past.

Moving forward, they will constantly hear and see the struggles from last year and will be reminded of it again and again from opposing fans and media. With no certainty for their future in football, many of them are going to get one last shot to either show out to fulfill their dreams of getting to the NFL or have to look at another school to keep the dream alive. That inevitable 2020 season, in which UConn will no longer be apart of the AAC for football, could mean the school will be independent, move down a division, or possibly fold the program.

For now, and what Randy Edsall and the UConn Huskies will need to focus on is the 2019 season, and avoiding replicating what happened last year. It’s almost unfair to those kids, as they need to forget about the past and look forward, but not too far forward where the light at the end of the tunnel is.