American Media Day: Huskies prepare to roll out new defense

The UConn defense lines up pre-snap during a 2016 game against Temple at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The UConn defense lines up pre-snap during a 2016 game against Temple at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

NEWPORT, R.I. -- With the new look UConn staff of head coach Randy Edsall and defensive coordinator Billy Crocker, the Huskies’ defense is sure to look different from last year when Holy Cross visits Rentschler Field on August 31.

Crocker, a native of Waterford, returns to Connecticut after five years as the defensive coordinator at Villanova.

“He was a guy that, as I looked at him, stood out in terms of the success that he’s had at Villanova and running the 3-3-5 defense that he runs,” Edsall said.

Crocker’s defense led the Wildcats to the first-ranked scoring defense in the FCS last year, allowing just 15 points per game. Villanova also led the FCS with 259.9 yards per game and ranked fourth in rushing defense (87.6 yards per game).

Edsall welcomes the new 3-3-5 scheme and has high hopes for what it will mean for his defense.

“It’s one that I think fits us a little bit better from an athletic standpoint and also with what we have to face in our conference,” Edsall said. “It allows us to bring that aggressiveness and unpredictability where we might be able to dictate to the offense rather than them dictate to us.”

Last year, the UConn defense ranked 65th in scoring defense, allowing 28.1 points per game, 41st in rushing defense (146.1 yards per game) and 65th in total defense (410.8 yards per game). Crocker’s fourth ranked run defense should help the Huskies compete in the AAC, where three teams ranked in the FBS Top 10 for rushing offense last season.

Two of the senior leaders on the Huskies’ defense, defensive lineman Luke Carrezola and linebacker Junior Joseph, are also looking forward to the change in schemes.

“I think it’s more of an attacking, downhill type of defense where we’ll be able to make some more explosive plays,” Carrezola said. “(Crocker) brings a ton of energy, it’s awesome to be around.”

“It’s just fun that we’re going to be aggressive again and go back to the UConn days where they were ranked in the Top 10 of the country,” Joseph said. “I believe we can get back to those days, we have the seniors to do it on that side of the ball, so I’m really excited to make that happen.

Carrezola and Joseph are two of several returning starters for the defense. As redshirt seniors, they have been through the ups and downs of UConn football over the past few years and they believe their fellow upperclassmen can lead the way to a bounce back season.

“I think it’s going to be on us to make sure that the defense is working,” Carrezola said.

With just over a month until the season begins, UConn will be refining its defense so the finished product is ready to roll out for the regular season.

“If we execute we’re going to become a Top 10 defense in the country,” Joseph said. “I think it’s going to happen.”


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.