For years, the UConn football team has, to put it very nicely, not lived up to expectations. Whether it was the disastrous Bob Diaco era or the forgettable second stint of Randy Edsall, the stench of defeat lingered in the air. The stench of defeat lingered in the air.the stench of defeat lingered in the air.
But now there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may take a few years to reach it, but for the first time in a while, hope is intensifying that college football in the Nutmeg State can be worth talking about as a contender rather than a punchline. Head Coach Jim Mora, who previously coached at the collegiate and professional level, turned that light on.
Mora, a second-generation head coach, is best known for mentoring stars such as Hall of Famer Bryant Young, Michael Vick, Warrick Dunn, DeAngelo Hall, Patrick Kerney and Anthony Barr among others. Mora knows what it takes to win, as he led the Atlanta Falcons to an NFC Championship Game appearance in 2004 with a division-winning 11-5 record, and he hopes to do the same in Connecticut. His focus to one offseason priority has helped me fully appreciate the hire after months of initial doubt.
The driving force this offseason was turning the team’s culture upside down. What once was a culture stuck in reverse has been shifted to an “all gas and no brakes” mentality. Mora’s loyalty to the Husky fanbase and his support of the other athletic programs turned UConn football into a potential name brand product similar to the basketball teams. The culture that Mora has instilled at every aspect of instruction, from hot practices to even hotter scrimmages, has helped develop a competent roster with different methods of acquisition.
Like the men’s basketball team, the transfer portal has been the Huskies’ biggest offseason weapon. UConn probed far and wide in the portal, acquiring talent from Power Five schools such as the University of Alabama, the University of Michigan, Penn State University
, and Boston College. These players chose UConn and their fresh new ideas over mainstream football institutions such as Texas Christian University and the University of Oregon. The portal alone will not get any team to their main goals of success. Sometimes, the talent must arise from within.
The freshman class has the potential to set a standard of success. Leading the way is Victor Rosa, a longtime friend and former high school teammate of men’s basketball commit Donovan Clingan who could get significant playing time as the season progresses. He is not the only Connecticut product in the class. Brady Wayburn and Derek Spearman attended the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor while Cam Edwards went to Norwalk High School.
The recruiting class even has players who initially committed in the Edsall era, decommitted and recommitted under Mora such as Nathan Voorhis and Donovan Branch. It is these recruits, and those in the Class of 2023, who posted their creative commitment videos to social media.
The Huskies stood apart in how they marketed their team this offseason. Rather than using name, image and likeness (NIL) deals like the Universities of Nebraska and Miami, UConn resorted to social media. What others may call spam or clickbait from the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts is evidence to the revived UConn fanbase that shows the training and dedication put into each practice and weightlifting session.
As the months passed, I found myself interested in what the Husky Revolution had to offer, from each video’s revolutionary theme to constant interactions between Mora and UConn Twitter. I was so sold on Mora’s game plan that I wanted to write about the hype back in the spring, but did not find the time to craft it before the semester concluded. The branding put into marketing this team as a resistance against the norm is above and beyond.
However, lingering doubts still exist among the non-UConn media members. Defensive Coordinator Lou Spanos recently stepped away from the program for personal reasons, a huge loss given he was the interim head coach last year. The Huskies have lost some star talent, such as Travis Jones, a third-rounder that I wrote a Coleumn about last April, Jeremy Lucien, Brian Keating, Kevin Mensah and Ryan Van Demark.
The Huskies are not expected to upset the University of Michigan or North Carolina State University on the road, both of whom are in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. Fresno State University might shut out UConn again, this time in East Hartford rather than California. Joe McFadden, last year’s starting kicker, is out for the season with a torn ACL. The QB room could turn into last season’s starting QB carousel and the running game is slightly unproven.
Those doubts exist, and any other version of the Huskies over the last five years cracks under the pressure, but this is not the same team that went 1-11 in 2021. They have filled many holes in their roster and focused on integral areas of improvement such as their defensive line and offensive run game. If social media has not proven it, then the Blue/White showcase back in April (on campus, nonetheless) demonstrated that the program’s rebirth is for real.
The Huskies are not winning 10-12 games in Mora’s first season and there will be bumps, that much is true. However, I have high hopes heading into the fall, and I see the Huskies winning anywhere from two to six games. Central Connecticut State University and UMass are locks, but this season will be considered a major success if they beat one or two of Boston College, Florida International University, Ball State University and Syracuse University.
The UConn football team that was once disappointing is no more. This is a new era of gridiron Huskies, a phoenix rising from the ashes of yesteryear. Regardless of the cost, distance or weather, find a way to make it to a UConn football game, because the Husky Revolution is coming.