UConn football has a laundry list of things to figure out before the start of next season. Between fixing the worst defense in college football, deciding on a starting quarterback and finding playmakers to put on the field, head coach Randy Edsall has his hands full.
“We have holes everywhere,” Edsall said in the offseason. “Yes, we went after certain positions, but there’s also the size, speed and athletic ability that we had to change.”
One of those holes was at the linebacker position. This linebacker corps was a part of the defense that gave up the most yards (7,409), yards per game (617.4), points (605) and points per game (50.4) of any major FBS program ever. They gave up 49 or more points in nine of the team’s 12 games. With Santana Sterling graduating and Darrian Beavers and Marshe Terry transfering, the linebackers that they did have thinned out.
Edsall was able to add junior college transfer Dillion Harris and graduate transfer DJ Morgan to try to reup the center of his defense. As a graduate transfer, Morgan will have two years of eligibility as a Husky.
“We’re looking forward to adding him to our group,” Edsall said. “He’s a guy that has the size, speed and athleticism that we were looking for at inside linebacker. He’s really intelligent from a football standpoint and he’s a guy from a character, work ethic and ability standpoint that adds to what we’re trying to do.”
UConn also replaced their coordinators on offense and defense, with Lou Spanos taking the job on the defensive end. Spanos spent last season as an analyst for Alabama, and has four years of experience in the NFL as the linebackers coach for the Tennessee Titans. He had also spent two years as the defensive coordinator at UCLA, which is one of the reasons why Edsall said he likes him so much.
The Huskies’ lone win this season, a 56-49 game against URI, was a lot like any other game this past season. They gave up a lot of points and a ton of yardage, but this time the offense was able to win the game.
David Pindell, who was invited to the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ rookie camps last week, always seemed to be the guy that made UConn’s offense work (when it did). That game against URI, he threw for 319 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 154 yards and two more scores. Now it’s time for Edsall to figure out how to replace Pindell.
Luckily for UConn, running back Kevin Mensah will be returning for the 2019 season. Mensah ran for 1045 yards and six touchdowns on a team that often found themselves trailing by a lot. Against URI, he had 146 yards and two touchdowns. Mensah doesn’t throw the ball, however, so while they will still have someone who can be an offensive threat, they still do need a quarterback.
Sophomore Marvin Washington has been taking snaps as the starter this spring with redshirt freshman Steven Krajewski taking second-string reps. Washington has anything but a firm grasp of the starting gig, though, with graduate transfer Mike Beaudry coming from West Florida. Beaudry led his team to the 2017 NCAA Division II national championship game two seasons ago.
“He played Division II and took his team to a national championship game. He’s mature and has some years under his belt, and that’s something that was attractive to us. Then when we met the kid and saw how he handles himself, we saw he has the skills for a leadership position,” Edsall said.
Though when asked if Beaudry would start at quarterback next season, Edsall said he didn’t know.
“That’s why you practice and have competition, you have to see what people can do,” Edsall said.
Getting players that can make an impact on the field with big play ability was another focus of Edsall’s this offseason.
“We wanted to make sure that we could find guys that have the ability to make plays offensively,” Edsall said. “The biggest thing is to find guys that can run and are athletic and can make plays on both sides of the ball.”
In addition to replacing Pindell, replacing receivers Hergy Mayala and Kyle Buss along with tight end Aaron McLean has been a priority for Edsall.
UConn’s offensive line, led by tackle Matt Peart, should be strong this year since they are returning a lot of guys that had time this offseason to get stronger with new strength and conditioning coach Matt King. As is often the case with offensive lines, the more a group of guys can play together, the better they perform as a whole. Mensah will be relied on to carry the ball a lot behind this offensive line, but this time without the rushing threat of Pindell.
Depending on how you define success, UConn has a pretty good chance to be successful this upcoming season. Following last season, seeing improvement is almost a given.
If this team can win a few games this season and perhaps finish around .500, I would call that successful. The Huskies are in a good position to make some progress in 2019.
Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.