As Big East teams begin practicing again, I will have a quick preview of each team to get you caught up on the basics. We begin with ...
Start date: Today.
Predicted finish at media day: Sixth.
Biggest storyline: What does this team do in Year 2 under Paul Pasqualoni? The Huskies did make it to a BCS game in 2010, before sliding to 5-7 last year thanks to shaky play at quarterback and in the secondary. But this team should be vastly improved in both areas this season. Coach Paul Pasqualoni has already announced that junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer will be his No. 1 quarterback headed into practice, and he should be much better than Johnny McEntee. Whitmer was once a highly touted prep prospect and began his career with Illinois, before moving on to junior college. He is a prototypical pro-style quarterback, the type of player Pasqualoni wants to lead his offense. The defense returns eight starters, including every starting linebacker and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson from injury. Though UConn was picked sixth in the Big East, I expect this team to be much better than the 2011 version.
Biggest question marks: Pasqualoni listed them earlier this week at Big East media day: finding a replacement for All-Big East kicker Dave Teggart; rebuilding the interior of the defensive line, with Kendall Reyes and Tywon Martin gone; rebuilding the offensive line with the departures of Mike Ryan and Moe Petrus; replacing inside receiver Kashif Moore, who led the team last season with 41 catches for 604 yards and five touchdowns; getting better play out of the quarterback position; and developing depth behind running back Lyle McCombs.
Who needs to step up: Shamar Stephen and Ryan Wirth. Pasqualoni mentioned several times that the Huskies have to develop the interior of their defensive line with Reyes and Martin gone. Pasqualoni has said several times that big athletic defensive tackles don't grow on trees. Reyes was a second-round draft pick so he leaves behind big shoes to fill. Stephen, at 6-foot-5 and 317 pounds, has shown some flashes. But now that he and Wirth are tabbed to start, they have to develop into consistent players for the Huskies to be as good as they think they can be on defense.