After a 2018 that had far more downs than ups, UConn football has the chance to start fresh. While everyone is looking at last season as an important learning experience and something that they can use to grow, they also recognize the need to move on and turn the page.
Matt Peart, a redshirt senior, offensive tackle and team captain, has started every single game of his collegiate career to date. He’s one of the leaders on this team and knows what they need to do to learn from their experiences while also not letting it negatively affect this season.
“It’s like a double-edged sword, Peart said. “It’s something that you just gotta learn from, go over the tape, take the time to actually focus on what you could have done better. But it’s something you can’t really dwell on because it’ll hinder your progress.”
The biggest problem for the Huskies last season was easily the defense, which set records for most points per game allowed (50.4) and yards per game allowed (617) in FBS history. As a result, they fired defensive coordinator Billy Crocker after two seasons and brought in 24-year coaching veteran Lou Spanos to replace him. His most recent experience as a defensive coordinator came at UCLA from 2012-2013, and last year served as an analyst for the runner-up Alabama Crimson Tide. He has also spent time in the NFL, including 14 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as a handful of seasons with the Redskins and Titans.
The defense as a whole was extremely young, including numerous freshmen that ended up forced into starting roles.
“We were playing with infants last year, guys were just coming out of the womb, and had no idea what college football was all about,” head coach Randy Edsall said. “We got taken to the woodshed a few times, and it wasn’t any fault of those young men, because again they were forced into a situation that they shouldn’t be held accountable for.”
Now, those young guys have a year of experience under their belts, and when you add in some impact transfers like linebackers Dillon Harris and D.J. Morgan along with defensive back Diamond Harrell, you have a squad that has the potential to take a huge step forward in 2019.
UConn football also just recently named Mike Beaudry, a graduate transfer from West Florida, the starting quarterback, winning the job over fellow transfer Micah Leon and the only remaining quarterback from last year, Steven Krajewski. Beaudry led West Florida to the Division II National Championship Game in 2017 before missing the entirety of 2018 with a foot injury he suffered during the first game of the season. Beaudry has big shoes to fill, as David Pindell accounted for almost 70 percent of the team’s offense last season.
The team faces a tough schedule in their final season in the American Athletic Conference, so let’s quickly break it down.
Wagner, (8/29), UMass (10/26), Navy, (11/1), East Carolina (11/23): The team opens up the season at home vs the Wagner Seahawks, their sole FCS opponent of the season. If there’s any game that the Huskies need to win, it’s this one. Not only would it let them start the year off on the right foot, but it is also the only game as of right now that they are favored to win. If they drop this one, it could potentially be very detrimental to the rest of the season. As for the other three opponents, they averaged a little over three wins each last season, mostly against similarly weak teams. UConn’s increase in experience alone should give them a good shot at beating all three of these teams, and at the very least they will most likely all be competitive affairs.
Illinois (9/7), South Florida (10/4), Tulane (10/12), Houston (10/19): These games should be a little tougher for the Huskies, but that’s not to say they don’t have a shot. All of the teams are simply the middle of the pack variety, not great, not bad, just average. However, the Huskies still have a long way to go before they even reach that level, so it will probably take a real standout game from both sides of the ball to take down one of these programs.
Indiana (9/21), UCF (9/28), Cincinnati (11/9), Temple (11/30): These are the games that you can almost pencil in as losses as of right now. All of these programs could very well finish the year ranked in the top-50 in the country, which is not good news for this UConn squad. Cincinnati and Indiana both had very good 2018s, and Temple, despite all their issues with their head coaching position this offseason, is still an extremely solid squad. As for UCF, well, all that needs to be said is 25 wins in their last 26 games. But hey, you play the games for a reason, anything can happen. We’ll just have to wait and see.
The 2019 season is an important one for the UConn football program and Edsall. The Huskies have just four wins over the past two seasons, and only two of them were against fellow FBS opponents. With their move to being independent on the horizon, turmoil is coming, and it will be much easier to navigate with a winning program. Luckily for them, this UConn team has nowhere to go but up.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at Jorge.firstname.lastname@example.org.