One of the cool things about joining a network like SB Nation is there's always someone out there in-house who has the answers you're looking for. With UCF taking on the UConn Huskies in their season opener on Thursday night, we thought it would be fun to trade questions with our SB Nation brethren from their fine UConn team site, The UConn Blog.
So we sent Aman Kidwai five questions (plus one bonus question) about UConn, and he sent five to us. Make sure you follow Aman at @AmanfromCT and The UConn Blog at @TheUConnBlog. Special thanks also to Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) for helping us set this up.
Here we go:
UConn's best success in FBS came under Randy Edsall. One year into his return, does UConn think their program can gain some traction with the fans again?
When Randy Edsall took over, most understood that because he was inheriting a twice-failed rebuild from his predecessor/successors Paul Pasqualoni and Bob Diaco that fixing things around here would take time.
The reasons for optimism after his first year were a much better offense with most of the same personnel from the previous year’s terrible offense. The defense was bad, but that’s Randy Edsall’s area of strength and a side of the field where the Huskies historically haven’t had trouble finding dudes who can play.
Fans are cautiously optimistic. It hurt to lose big name OC Rhett Lashlee for the same position at conference “rival” SMU, but hopefully, the new guy, John Dunn, can keep last year’s progress going. Edsall is recruiting much better than his predecessors as well.
This year, fans will be looking for progress, and for new young names to step up who can be leaders on teams 2-3 years down the road that need to deliver with like an 8-win season or something wild like that… Does college football even allow those in the northeast?
What will UConn's running game look like in the wake of Donevin O'Reilly's season-ending injury earlier this month?
Redshirt freshman Zavier Scott, a German native, will be the starter and Kevin Mensah, the Huskies’ leading rusher last year, is listed as the backup but expect to see healthy doses of both.
I would characterize both as every-down backs whose biggest strengths are versatility and athleticism. Mensah looked good last year as a true freshman and Scott has appeared to be slightly more dynamic in practice and the spring game, which may be why he got the edge for the starting job.
UConn’s offensive line could be a strength, or at least a solid component, of the offense and the Huskies’ variety of weapons in the passing game could mean fewer defenders in the box on any given down.
UConn has one upperclassman listed as a starter on defense. What is expected out of that group? Is this going to be a growing-pains year on D?
Yes. The defense will be very young and probably not very great. The pass defense was particularly bad last year while the D-line and linebackers were actually alright. This year, a lot of that front six (UConn runs a 3-3-5) has graduated and a lot of youngsters are in the mix all over, as you have noted. The secondary played a lot of freshmen and sophomores last year, and will be doing so again. It will be a tough year on this side of the ball with Edsall and his staff placing bets on these guys that the playing time will make them key contributors to better teams down the road.
How has David Pindell progressed as a passer after a tough 2017 season?
Pindell had a rough start to 2017, getting yanked in the season opener after winning the starting job, but honestly, he looked alright when he re-entered the starting lineup late in the season. He had a bad game against BC, but that was in the rain against a good defense.
We’ll see when the bullets are flying on Thursday, or if he can lead UConn to comfortable wins over the teams they should beat, if he’s progressed. So far, he’s getting good reviews from practice, but that’s obviously to be taken with a grain of salt.
Pindell has a really talented receiving corps to work with and a solid offensive line. If he can distribute the ball properly across those weapons, make a few plays with his feet, and lead the run game as a nice change of pace, this could be a pretty solid offense by UConn’s recent (low) standards.
What have the players and coaches said about getting the opportunity to open the season at home on a pretty exclusive stage -- UCF is the only ranked team playing Thursday night -- against the national champs?
Randy Edsall just said it’s a “tremendous challenge” and that they’re “looking forward to the opportunity” and for the most part, the players have echoed that coach-speak. Earlier, Edsall did say something about every team having different goals going into every game… He knows what’s up.
From the fan perspective, a second rebuilding year probably isn’t a great time for the program to be in the limelight. They’d probably prefer to build in peace because it’s going to be a challenging season with a lot of ugly.
Also, this was a weird conference game to choose to pull up for the home opener, but c’est la ConFLiCT rivalry, I guess. I bet a lot of fans would have preferred opening with an FCS opponent or lower-tier FBS opponent so they can at least have a fun opening day and get their hopes up a little.
BONUS: WHERE IS THE TROPHY?
Bob Diaco locked the trophy into a box and threw it in the ocean, as he basically told the Hartford Courant. If I know anything about Bob Diaco, it's that the following quote was not a metaphor.
”I’ve eliminated it from my mind,” Diaco said, per the Hartford Courant in 2017. “I put the experience in a chest, locked it, dumped it into the ocean and I threw away the key. That’s the important thing. I’ve thrown the key away. I don’t even know ‘it” or what you’re talking about. Because I’ve eliminated that whole painful part from my mind.”
Man, that got kinda dark.