It's no secret that the 2013 football season was an unpleasant one for the UConn Huskies as they went 3-9 overall with every win coming against American Athletic Conference opponents at the end of the season under interim coach T.J. Weist. Weist took over the program on a temporary basis after the fans and administration had enough and gave Paul Pasqualoni his walking papers following an 0-4 start to the season.
Weist is now gone also as Connecticut decided to go in a different direction this season. Bob Diaco is now the man in charge after being lured from Notre Dame where he put together a defense that got the Fighting Irish into the 2013 (2012 season) National Championship game. We know that coach Diaco is a wizard with defenses, but the biggest problem the Huskies had last year was putting points up on the board. Trying to fix this problem will start with the quarterback position. And the battle for that position is still ongoing even with the Spring practices and game already in the books. There are still too many questions and inexperience being shown on the field. Regarding who will be starting for the Huskies, coach Diaco has multiple concerns.
"I would like to see better clock management, collectively, kind of sauntering around, not really cognizant of the play clock as well as it needs to be; some moments of either delivering the ball a little too quick or holding onto it a little too long, so the timing of that needs to improve and it's going to improve, anyway. We haven't had a lot of these opportunities. It's all been kind of canned in a petri dish, how we've been practicing; very isolated intense moments but they were controlled so now to actually play a game where it's not, it was nice to see them operate -- and we've got a long way to go."
Those aren't the most encouraging words, but it is also refreshing to hear a coach be honest about issues that need to be addressed instead of sugar-coating everything with "coach-jargon".
Our money is still on highly-touted (before his redshirt got burned by Pasqualoni) Tim Boyle to eventually win the starting job. But depending on who you ask, anyone on the QB depth chart could potentially get the job.
As mentioned before (and as anyone who watched the Huskies play last year knows), the defense was the team's strong suit in 2013 and it looks to be just as solid heading into 2014 despite some key-losses, including Yawin Smallwood. Coach Diaco seemed very impressed with his new team's performance on the defensive side of the ball during the annual Spring game saying, "All-in-all I thought that tackling was solid. I only saw one instance where I felt compelled to run out and tell a player to keep their head and eyes up. Their heads were up, their shoulders were bowed and backs were flat in really good safe hitting position. I thought they did a good job with block destruction and force. I really only saw a couple of moments where the force was compromised."
So we're left in a position that looks very familiar to last season in that the offense is full of question marks and the defense looks to be the cornerstone of the team. The Huskies' schedule doesn't lend itself to much optimism for UConn fans either. BYU and Boise State stand out as challenging out-of-conference games, but the Broncos have almost as many question marks as the Huskies after losing their coach to Washington and having multiple players transfer out. The Cougars however, have thrived under head coach Bronco Mendenhall recently and could pose one of Connecticut's biggest tests of the season in Week 1.
UConn's other two out-of-conference (OOC) games are very manageable with one coming in Week 2 against FCS opponent Stony Brook and the last OOC game coming mid-season against the Black Knights of Army. As we learned last year, no FCS game is a 'gimme' anymore, but coach Diaco will likely have his team better prepared than it was last season under "coach PP".
Connecticut will be tested primarily in conference play with the American beefing up by adding three new teams. Will dig more into the conference schedule when we post the Summer Previews of the American Athletic Conference along with out predictions for each team's records in 2014. But UConn doesn't have it easy with ECU, UCF, and Cincinnati in consecutive conference games (broken up by Army's OOC game on November 8th). The Huskies will close out their season against Memphis on the road followed by SMU at home. Memphis is built much the same as UConn, but has their offense more in order so far this off season. SMU is bordering on a complete rebuild, so the Huskies should end their regular season with a win. We'll have to learn more about Diaco's plans on offense before we have an idea of whether there will be a post season that follows.
Key UConn Players To Know*:
#14 Tim Boyle - QB - Boyle was 59 of 133 attempts for a paultry 44.4%, but look for improvement in 2014.
#85 Geremy Davis - WR - A RS Senior, Davis had 71 catches last season for 1085 YDs and 3 TDs.
#43 Lyle McCombs - RB - Played all 12 games with 159 touches for 670 YDs and 5 TDs, averaging 4.21 YDs per rush.
#20 Obi Melifonwu - S - Had 39 solo tackles with 31 assisted for 70 total placing 2nd behind Y. Smallwood.
#16 Byron Jones - CB - Had 3 INTs in 2013 along with 42 solo tackles and 18 assisted.
#22 Andrew Adams - S - Broke up 4 passes, 1 QB hurry, 2 INTs, 28 solo tackles and 14 assisted.
*All statistics listed for UConn players represent their performances during the 2013 college football season.
Below is the complete schedule for the 2014 UConn Huskies football team:
Fri - August 29 vs BYU Cougars
Sat - September 6 vs Stony Brook Sea Wolves
Sat - September 13 vs Boise State Broncos
Fri - September 19 at USF Bulls
Sat - September 17 vs Temple Owls
Sat - October 11 at Tulane Green Wave
Thu - October 23 at East Carolina Pirates
Sat - November 1 vs UCF Knights
Sat - November 8 vs Army Black Knights**
Sat - November 22 vs Cincinnati Bearcats
Sat - November 29 at Memphis Tigers
Sat - December 6 vs SMU Mustangs
**Denotes a game played at a neutral site.
* - Bowl Eligible
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