After a decade of disappointment for the University of Connecticut Huskies football team, it feels nice to have a glimmer of hope for the program’s future. That glimmer comes in the form of new head coach Jim Mora, who was introduced officially on Saturday prior to the Huskies’ game against Houston. Although he’s no Kevin Kelley, he is still the guy for the job and should make fans happy in the years to come.
One of the things that stuck out the most from his introductory press conference was Mora stating, “I love to go uphill … hard things motivate me.” It’s no secret that the UConn job is not going to be a walk in the park. Although the Huskies haven’t quite hit rock bottom, they came pretty close this year, with a saving-grace win at home against Yale University at Rentschler Field. They need a coach who not only understands the challenge ahead of them, but will take some definitive action.
Mora understands this, citing the job as “another chance to continue to walk uphill.” With the current lack of talent and winning experience in the locker room, he will certainly have to make some serious strides to get the Huskies some wins.
Those strides start with coaching hires, which Mora has done an impressive job with. Included in the list is new tight ends coach John Marinelli, linebackers coach Siriki Diabate, running backs coach E.J. Barthel, who worked in the NFL for the Panthers and wide receivers coach John Allen, who holds Division II head coaching experience. The pedigree of the future staffers is strong with the most notable of the bunch being Marinelli, who holds Connecticut ties as the former Greenwich High School Head Coach where he boasted an undefeated Class LL championship season in 2018.
The most significant hire though is new offensive coordinator and former Maine coach Nick Charlton. Although he hasn’t been stellar in his three years as head coach, Charlton does hold a 14-13 record at the helm, which Huskies fans should be perfectly happy with. Additionally, he has demonstrated a significant ability to perform as an OC, going 10-4 in his lone season in the position and making a run in the FCS playoffs with the Black Bears.
Additionally, Charlton is still only 32 years old. The youth he will bring to the team is important and could make things easier in the locker room. Players like to have coaches they can relate to, something Charlton brings. Mora is not necessarily the youngest head coach. If all goes well, who knows? Maybe Mora will stabilize the program, and then give the young Charlton the keys to take over for the future.
Aside from just getting off to a positive start on the coaching hires end, Mora has also done all the right things around the community. These include introducing himself at the men’s and women’s basketball games earlier this month, visiting the marching band’s practice and even helped hand out turkeys with Governor Ned Lamont for Connecticut Foodshare. These things don’t necessarily translate to wins on the football field, but they do provide an encouraging sign that Mora will be a positive figure in the area.
The coaches that succeed in rebuilds are typically the type that have done what Mora has done thus far. He has said all the right things to the media and has performed well in this short span of the offseason.
Does Mora have flaws? Sure. He has been fired at every major position he’s held, and his biggest blunder came with the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons were a borderline playoff team when in a radio show interview before a big game, Mora noted that he would take the head coaching job at the University of Washington if it were offered to him, even though the position wasn’t open. Although he later noted that he was kidding, the franchise was understandably not impressed. He was fired later that year largely because of his failures on the field, and this incident likely did not help his case. He also completely fell apart in his job at the University of California Los Angeles, going from 10-3 to 4-8 in just two years.
After taking a few years off though, Mora is rejuvenated and ready to kill it at UConn. The upside of the job is high and his work so far will set him up for success. But for now, all we can do is wait and see the team come together ahead of next season.