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Football Schedule First Look: Connecticut Huskies

The UConn Huskies will enter the 2013 season with the same strengths they have always had (defense, running game) and big question marks in the passing game. The hire of former UC Wide Receivers coach T.J. Weist is a bold attempt to fix the chronically under achieving passing game.

Jared Wickerham

The Basics

Name University of Connecticut
Location Storrs, CT
Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni
Career Record 151-90-1
2012 Record 5-7

2012 In Four Sentences Or Less

Taken as a single work the 2012 UConn Football season makes no sense. They managed to lose to arguably the two worst teams in the conference (besides themselves) in South Florida and Temple. But they also went out and nabbed a win against Louisville and Pitt when the Cards and Panthers were playing close to their best ball. There is not a lot of sense to be made of last year.

Who Is Coming Back?

Basically everyone. The offensive line returns intact now that Left Tackle Jimmy Bennett has been granted a 6th year. Lyle McCombs and Chandler Whitmer return to give the offense some stability in the backfield, something that hasn't been a part of UConn Football since the 2010 season. The one issue is going to be finding receivers to run the new spread offense (more on that in a bit). Nick Williams and Michael Smith are gone, as are tight ends John Delahunt and Ryan Griffin. The good news is that Germey Davis (team leader in receptions and yards) and Shakim Phillips are two solid building blocks, but this is a team that will have a very short rotation at the receiver positions.

The defense is going to take some big hits this year. Not many 5-7 teams have three defensive players taken in the first 70 picks of the NFL draft, four in total with Trevardo Williams going to Houston, but defense was never really the problem for UConn. They ended 2012 ranked in the top 20 in rushing, total and scoring defense. The secondary was marginally worse, finishing 35th in pass efficiency defense. This year they have to retool, almost completely. Half the defensive line moved on, leaving Shamar Stephen and Angelo Pruitt as the stalwarts.

What Will They Run?

Offensively the answer is simple, it will look like this. Most of Butch Jones staff followed him to Tennessee to restore the T, whatever banal catch phrase he has come up with. But not everyone went. T.J. Weist took a promotion to become the Huskies offensive coordinator. What I don't know, and what I won't hazard a guess at, is how Weist's theories about offense will jive with an offensive coaching staff that is largely unchanged from last year's disaster.

Defensively the Huskies will look as they always have. A 4-3 base with liberal blitzes sprinkled in. Last year's defensive coordinator Don Brown took the same position with Steve Addazio at Boston College. In Brown’s stead Hank Hughes will begin his second stint as play caller. Hughes has been at UConn for a while. When he took the defensive line job in 2001 the Huskies had just completed their first season as an FBS school. In the end I don't think that much changes in how the Huskies approach defense.

Can You Wrap This Up? I Have Things To Do

Despite the heavy losses on defense I still think that UConn will sport, at worst, an adequate group. It’s kinda what they do. Only Rutgers comes close to being as consistent on that side of the ball. They just sort of plug and play, and that will continue with Hank Hughes.

The questions are all offensive, as they usually are. UConn hasn't had an above average offense since Dan Orlovsky was under center. The problems have usually been the same year after year. UConn has been solid running the football, and has had arguably the best success at producing running backs and offensive linemen in the Big East. But they can't make big plays in the passing game, which makes defending them much easier. Weist is a good test to find out if it’s a lack of playmakers or a scheme that is too restrictive.