Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Connecticut Huskies spring wrap
By Andrea Adelson
2010 overall record: 8-5
2010 conference record: 5-2, T-1st in Big East
Offense: 6, defense: 9, punter/kicker: 2
DE Jesse Joseph, DL Kendall Reyes, LB Sio Moore, CB Blidi-Wreh Wilson, C Moe Petrus, OT Mike Ryan, WR Kashif Moore
RB Jordan Todman, LB Lawrence Wilson, LB Scott Lutrus, QB Zach Frazer
2010 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Jordan Todman (1,695 yards)
Passing: Zach Frazer (1,425 yards)
Receiving: Michael Smith* (615 yards)
Tackles: Lawrence Wilson (123 tackles)
Sacks: Jesse Joseph* (8.5 sacks)
Interceptions: Blidi Wreh-Wilson* and Jerome Junior* (4 interceptions)
1. Defensive line strength: You could make the argument that this will be the best defensive line the Huskies have ever had. Every key contributor is back, including Jesse Joseph and Kendall Reyes, who were playing as well as any defensive lineman down the stretch of last year's Fiesta Bowl season. Marcus Campbell should return from suspension and injury to add some more speed off the edge. UConn is deep, experienced and athletic in the trenches on defense, and that usually portends good things.
2. Solid across the back: Another position that returns every important piece is the secondary. Blidi Wreh-Wilson has developed into one of the premier cornerbacks in the Big East, and Jerome Junior has come on at safety. The group matured as last season went on and played very well this spring. Given its experience up front and in the back, there's no wonder this defense dominated the offense for large portions of the spring.
3. Special on special teams: No Big East team has fewer questions on special teams than the defending champs. UConn returns all-league kicker and end-of-season hero Dave Teggart as well as punter Chad Christen. Nick Williams led the country in kickoff return average a year ago. About the only issue is replacing long-snapper Derek Chard.
1. Who's under center: The four-man battle for the starting quarterback job didn't really clear itself up this spring. Each candidate had ugly numbers in the spring game and some of the scrimmages. Only Michael Box has ever started a game, and it was a forgettable 26-0 loss at Louisville last season. Scott McCummings and Michael Nebrich have talent, and Johnny McEntee showed off his accuracy in an offseason trick-shot viral video. New coach Paul Pasqualoni will keep the competition going this fall in hopes that someone grabs it by the horns.
2. Heir to Jordan: Will UConn keep its strong running back tradition alive? The position had little depth this spring after 2010 Big East Offensive Player of the Year Jordan Todman declared early for the NFL draft. USC transfer D.J. Shoemate got most of the first-string reps and had a decent spring, and freshman Lyle McCombs returned from suspension midway through the spring to show some potential. Neither appears to have all the tools that Todman or Donald Brown had, however, and the coaching staff will give some incoming freshmen a look at the spot this August. With a low-wattage passing game, UConn will need to be strong on the ground again.
3. Linebacker replacements: Connecticut lost a pair of four-year starters at linebacker in Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus. Luckily, Sio Moore emerged as a force at the position last year with a 100-plus-tackle campaign, and he'll be the leader of the group. The other two spots are still undetermined. Jerome Williams, Mike Osiecki and Jory Johnson got heavy reps there this spring, and UConn played around with some different formations. The defense should be the overall strength of the team, but there are still big shoes to fill here.