Big East title chances: Connecticut

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
9:00
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We wrap up our look at Big East title chances for each team with Connecticut. The Huskies made it to a BCS game last season thanks to a solid defense, strong special teams and an offense that was inconsistent at times. Can they repeat the feat with a similar formula in 2011?

Why the Huskies will win the league title:

1. Defense. Nine starters return for UConn, including four of the best in the league in defensive tackle Kendall Reyes, defensive end Jesse Joseph, linebacker Sio Moore and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Reyes and Joseph form one of the top defensive line duos in the entire league and no doubt will be the anchors of a unit that has the potential to be even better than last season. This team knows how to win with good defense.

2. DJ Shoemate. Plenty has been made about the loss of Jordan Todman, who ran for 1,695 yards last season. Losing Todman is no doubt huge, but Shoemate and Lyle McCombs are in line to try to help make up for the loss of such a key player on the team. Three starters on the offensive line return, including first-team left tackle Mike Ryan and second-team center Moe Petrus. So that should help the run game as well.

3. Special teams. It is hard to argue there is a better kicker in the league than Dave Teggart. Not only is he as solid as they come, he thrives in pressure situations. Add in kick returner Nick Williams and punt returner Taylor Mack and you have perhaps the best special-teams unit in the league.

Why the Huskies won't win the league title

1. Who's the quarterback? Huskies fans are probably getting tired of the same question over and over throughout the offseason, but this is the biggest one still remaining for the team. Coach Paul Pasqualoni knows it, and is eager to get this one resolved quickly so his team can begin moving forward with its new leader on offense. It still will be a four-man race between Michael Nebrich, Michael Box, Scott McCummings and Johnny McEntee. UConn survived last season without a solid quarterback, but you would like to have more dynamic play out of this position -- especially since you can bank on teams making whoever emerges beat them with his arm.

2. Receiver questions. In addition to quarterback and running back, the receiver spot also has questions. Leading returning receiver Michael Smith is academically ineligible, leaving UConn thin at this position. Kashif Moore and Isiah Moore return, but there is a definite need to get more depth here. The Huskies were already going to be banking on young players like Geremy Davis and Tebucky Jones Jr. to step up. That need is going to increase now.

3. Linebacker. The biggest question on defense is at linebacker, where the team lost leading tackler Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus, two four-year starters. Moore is more than capable of leading this unit, but several others are going to have to step up to help. Jory Johnson, Jerome Wilson and Mike Osiecki are the main candidates. Let's not forget the possibility of seeing true freshmen Marquise Vann and Jefferson Ashiru here as well.

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