#74 Connecticut Football Preview

Connecticut Huskies

Overall Rank: #74
#7 Big East

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2010 Record: (8-5, 5-2)
2010 Bowl: Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma (L 20-48)
Coach: Paul Pasqualoni (First year at Connecticut, 107-59-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: George DeLeone
Defensive Coordinator: Don Brown

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: D.J. Shoemate, RB, 115 yards
Passing: Michael Box, QB, 65 yards
Receiving: Kashif Moore, WR, 452 yards
Tackles: Sio Moore, LB, 110
Sacks: Jesse Joseph, DE, 8.5
Interceptions: Jerome Junior, S, 4; Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, 4

Other Key Returnees: S Harris Agbor, CB Dwayne Gratz, TE Ryan Griffin, DT Twyon Martin, OT Adam Masters, C Moe Petrus, DT Kendall Reyes, OT Mike Ryan, DT Shamar Stephen, K Dave Teggart

Key Losses: QB Zach Frazer, RB Robbie Frey, G Zach Hurd, LB Scott Lutrus, G Mathieu Olivier, WR Mike Smith, RB Jordan Todman, LB Lawrence Wilson

Former coach Randy Edsall turned Connecticut’s trip to the Fiesta Bowl into a job in a more secure conference. The Huskies opted to try and keep things relatively the same by going after an old Big East coach in Paul Pasqualoni. Coach Pasqualoni spent 14 years at Syracuse and was quite successful during his tenure with the Orange. Much of the coaching staff is the same, but Coach Pasqualoni did bring in his own coordinators in George DeLeone and Don Brown.

If the Huskies want to make it back to a BCS bowl, or any bowl for that matter, it will have to be on the shoulders of the defense. The loss of linebackers Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson is big, but just about everybody else returns. The front four will be led by Kendall Reyes and Jesse Joseph. Reyes earned first-team all-conference accolades last season and Joseph led the Huskies with 8.5 sacks. The secondary is extremely experienced. Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz are two of the best corners in the conference and through just two seasons have combined to start 40 games. Safety Jerome Junior is a big playmaker and Harris Agbor made nice progress during his junior campaign. The question will obviously be at the linebacker spots. Sio Moore had a superb sophomore season, tallying 110 tackles and will be the leader of the unit this time around. Finding consistent replacements for Wilson and Lutrus may take a little time, but there are experienced options like Jory Johnson and Jerome Williams and some talented youngsters like Yawin Smallwood.

The Huskies lost their running back, quarterback and their top receiver and that was from an offense that pretty much gave the ball to Jordan Todman all year long. D.J. Shoemate, a transfer from USC, saw a little action early last season, but that was pretty much it. On 28 carries he gained 115 yards and certainly has the potential to turn into a solid running back now that he should get the opportunity. If Shoemate cannot get it done, the job will likely fall to freshmen Lyle McCombs and Max DeLorenzo. There are even more options at quarterback, but that is not a good thing. Michael Box is the experienced choice, after passing for 65 yards and an interception last season. Freshmen Michael Nebrich and Scott McCummings are probably better fits into the system, but the battle will likely last well into the fall. The receiving corps took a blow when Mike Smith was deemed academically ineligible, but Kashif Moore and Isiah Moore are proven targets, Geramy Davis, Malik Generett and Tebucky Jones have potential and big tight end Ryan Griffin should get more looks while the team breaks in a new quarterback.

The Bottom Line:
The offense will get a nice helping hand for the offensive line. Offensive tackle Mike Ryan and center Moe Petrus are all-American caliber players and Adam Masters has emerged as a fine right tackle. Moving former backup center Gary Bardzak to one of the guard spots should help fill in the middle of the line. They may not rank first in the conference in sacks allowed again this year, but they should give the new skill players plenty of time to make plays. Whether or not they can actually make those plays will be the difference between another trip to a major bowl game or a losing record.

Projected Bowl: none

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 174.69 (35th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 151.08 (110, 8)
Total Offense: 325.77 (96, 5)
Scoring Offense: 26.38 (63, 2)
Rushing Defense: 143.23 (51, 6)
Pass Defense: 223.54 (67, 7)
Total Defense: 366.77 (58, 6)
Scoring Defense: 22.00 (35, 6)
Turnover Margin: .92 (11, 1)
Sacks: 2.15 (47, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.15 (20, 1)

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