Friday, May 26, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: U Conn Huskies
U Conn Huskies
After a 3-3 start in Randy Edsell's first year back as head coach of the Huskies, the wheels came off of the wagon, and U Conn lost their final six games of the season to finish 3-9. Edsell does not currently enjoy the sae talent level that he had during his first run as coach of the Huskies, and getting the program back up to par may be more difficult the second time around, based on possibly how Edsell left the school the first time around. Nobody possibly expects the high school kids to know about that, but the opposing recruiters still do, and will use it. It will also be a tough go because of the lacking recruiting talent in the area that the school is located in, and the lagging fan support of college football in the region, which all schools in the New England region suffer from to a point.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The Huskies have succeeded when they were able to run the ball well in the past, and the good news there is that three starters return on the line in LT Matt Peart, C Ryan Crozier, and RG Brendan Vechery. This will provide a building block of sorts, as the foundation of rebuilding any offense starts up front.
With some decent help up front, Arkeel Newsome may have a shot to jump out at RB this fall. He finished with 715 yards and five scores last fall, but improvement is expected.
Bryant Sherrifs returns at QB, but must play a full slate to find any success for the Huskies. He averaged 223 yards per game las fall in nine games.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Those two open holes on the line could be a problem if not filled early and consistently. Steve Hashemi will get first shot at LG, and is a senior, while Trey Rutherford, another senior, gets first crack at RT.
Sherrifs needs to stay healthy at QB, because backup QB Donovan Williams was thoroughly unimpressive in three games as a freshman, and there is no other real option as far as depth is concerned. Williams tossed just one TD in three games, and threw five picks.
Finding someone to pass to is also a difficult thing to do with this roster. Noel Thomas caught 100 passes last fall for 1189 yards and is gone. Herby Mayala, the primary second starter last fall, finished with just 23 receptions, and never saw the end zone. Depth after Mayala is just depressing.
Bobby Puyol is gone at PK, but he hit just 13/18 FG attempts last season, so a change may be good there, but it remains to be seen who will win the job. Michael Tarbutt will get first look, is a senior, and has not attempted a FG for the Huskies.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Husky defense, even in bad years, often is the strongest part of the team and has always allowed U Conn to hang around. Last season, they just wore out behind an offense that scored just 14.8 points per game.
The good news is that the possibility of a turnaround, in parts, does exist. Again, on the line, the Huskies will return three of four starters in DE Cole Ornsby (eight TFLs), Luke Carrezola, who also played LB, and DT Foley Fatukasi. Carrezola led the team in TFLs with 11. Depth should not be an issue, as three of the top four top reserves on the final two deep will also return.
The Huskies should be in solid shape on the edge, as both OLBs return from last fall in Vontae Diggs and Junior Joseph. They combined for 165 tackles on the season in 2016, and will be a center piece to the edge defense.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Husky defense allowed just 3.91 yards per carry last fall, but that number is at risk, as there are two key components that need replacing, DT and MLB. Mikal Myers is gone at DT, while Matt Walsh departs as well at MLB. Kevin Murphy, just a RS Sophomore, will get first look at DT, while EJ Levenberry is the candidate currently at MLB. Levenberry did manage 37 tackles as a key reserve last fall in 11 games.
The best player on defense last season was Obi Melifonwu, their key starting safety, but he is gone to the NFL now. He finished with 118 tackles last fall, and led the team with four picks. Also leaving is CB Jhavon Williams, who finished with 57 tackles, seven PBUs, a pair of forced fumbles, and a pick. John Robinson IV is in line to possibly compete to take the open CB spot, but is just a sophomore this season, while Marsh Terry, another sophomore of the red shirt variety, will get a shot at Safety. Jamar Summers, who broke up seven passes and forced two fumbles, becomes the new leader in the secondary, while Anthony Watkins returns at starting safety.
Justin Wain is also gone at punter, and that is a bit of a blow after he averaged over 41 yards per punt in 2016.Brett Graham, a sophomore, is in front of the competition there.
2017 Schedule: 8/31 Holy Cross, 9/9 USF, 9/16 at Virginia, 9/30 at SMU, 10/6 Memphis, 10/14 at Temple, 10/21 Tulsa, 10/28 Missouri, 11/4 East Carolina, 11/11 at UCF, 11/18 at Boston College (Fenway Park), 11/25 at Cincinnati
I just see absolutely now way that U Conn will be better in 2017 than they were last fall, and in fact could be a bit worse, and the schedule, and of course, their overall lack of talent on the entirety of the roster, will be the driving force. The Huskies do not have enough offense, not nearly enough, to push through, and they play a three out of four game road stint in the middle of the season, followed by three consecutive games away from East Hartford to close out the season. That is a solid recipe for disaster with this football team. I see only two real chances at wins this season in games against Holy Cross and East Carolina, and anything else is a bonus.