UConn losing offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to a conference opponent after just one year is definitely not the most ideal situation. Lashlee’s exciting offense was a revelation after years of boring Frank Verducci man-ball under head coach Bob Diaco, and I thought the Huskies could have hung on to Lashlee for one more year before larger programs came calling.
However, what’s done is done, and Dave Benedict and Randy Edsall must look forward to find the next offensive mind that can keep this upward trajectory, as they’ve done in the past with Lashlee from Auburn and even in Edsall’s first tenure, with Joe Moorhead from Akron. Here are five candidates that they could choose to keep UConn’s offense on the right track:
Sean Gleeson, Princeton Offensive Coordinator
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole college football conference in the northeast operating right under our noses, but the Ivy League was home to one of the best offenses in the country this year. Princeton offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson led the Tigers’ offense to an impressive 483 yards of total offense and 28 points per game, ranking fourth and third in the FCS in those categories, respectively.
2017 was Gleeson’s first year after taking over for former Princeton offensive coordinator James Perry, who got the head coaching job at Bryant University, so lack of experience might be a sticking point, but the Tigers’ offense speaks for itself.
Princeton runs an air-raid style up-tempo offense with a few wrinkles like fake pitches and end-around plays thrown into the mix. Gleeson has also proven himself to be an ace recruiter. As quarterbacks coach, he wrangled a commitment from four-star quarterback Brevin White, a huge coup for any FCS school, let alone an Ivy.
TJ Weist, former USF WR Coach and UConn Offensive Coordinator
TJ Weist was last seen wearing the blue and white when he walked off the field victorious against Memphis in 2013. Weist took over as the Huskies’ interim head coach for Paul Pasqualoni, who was canned after going 0-4, including a loss against FCS Towson. Weist rallied the troops to a 3-9 record, winning their last three games.
Of all the issues that Pasqualoni brought UConn, offensive production was not one of them. Under Weist, the Huskies averaged 341 yards per game, including 238 passing yards per game. At South Florida, Weist had a hand in an explosive offense that ranked fourth in yards per play and 26th in points per play.
Since he’s currently not coaching, UConn could do a lot worse than to give the former interim another chance.
Brent Davis, Army Offensive Coordinator
If you’ve ever talked football with me, you know I’m a huge fan of the triple option, especially for middle-tier schools like UConn that are struggling to find their identity. However, that’s not the only reason I’m suggesting this choice for Edsall and company.
Since Davis became offensive coordinator at Army in 2014, he has moved the Black Knights from a traditional military school triple option to a team with more designed quarterback runs and looks out of the shotgun.
It worked like a charm for Army in 2017, as the Black Knights averaged 380 yards per game rushing the ball, up 74 yards per game from the year before and 100 yards per game from the year he took over, culminating in a 10-win season and a bowl game victory over San Diego State.
It would be an unorthodox approach for UConn to take for sure, but Davis would be as good a choice as any to get the Huskies back on track, especially with two young promising running backs in Nate Hopkins and Kevin Mensah sitting in the backfield.
Robert Prince, Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Coach
Detroit Lions’ WR coach Robert Prince’s name came up last year in speculation on UConn’s offensive coordinator opening, and it’s not hard to see why. Prince and Edsall were on the same offensive staff with the Detroit Lions before UConn called Edsall up, and Edsall might look to return the favor.
The most impressive bullet point on Prince’s resume is his work as offensive coordinator for Boise State in 2012 and 2013. The Broncos ran a strong, balanced offense, averaging 251 passing yards per game and 182 on the ground.
Bob Stitt, Former Montana and Colorado School of Mines Coach
Bob Stitt is not really connected in any way to UConn, he’s not a former QB or WR coach, he never played for UConn, he’s never coached or recruited in the region, he may have never even been to the state. Stitt isn’t a conventional choice for the Huskies, but there’s a reason I’m bringing him up: he’s one of the most innovative offensive minds in college football.
Stitt’s notoriety began when West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen shouted him out after dropping an unholy beatdown on Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl. Holgorsen credited Stitt with the unique play design that gashed Clemson over and over again, a fly sweep where the quarterback chest passed the ball to a receiver in motion.
This national attention shed light on the incredible turnaround that Stitt had orchestrated at the Colorado School of Mines. Stitt turned around one of the worst programs in history, from averaging four points per game in the season before he arrived to 48 points per game two seasons later, all while dealing with some of the highest academic standards in the sport.
Stitt was then hired as head coach at Montana, where he underperformed relative to expectations, despite having three winning seasons while dealing with 18-month NCAA probation.
Now Stitt is a free agent, so if Benedict and Edsall wanted to think outside the box with their next OC hire as they did with Lashlee, Stitt would be the perfect choice.
Luke Swanson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.