The Coleumn: The 2022 season and the future of the UConn football program 

0
374
UConn Football clinches a 36-33 win against Liberty University in their last home game of the season on Nov. 12, 2022, at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. This win gives the Huskies a 6-5 record and makes them bowl-eligible for the first time since 2015. Photo by Izzi Barton/The Daily Campus

Back in August, I told people to believe in the Husky Revolution. Especially after a 1-11 campaign in 2021, I had a feeling that the 2022 season would be much different than years past for the UConn football team. With a new head coach in Jim Mora and a social media team promoting a revolution within the program, change was bound to happen. 

I am glad that that specific Coleumn aged well.  

In 2022, the Huskies had their best season since 2015, becoming bowl eligible for the first time in seven years while notably upsetting the No. 19 ranked Liberty Flames at home. UConn went 5-1 at Rentschler Field, their best record there since going undefeated in 2010, while seeing a 50.4% increase in overall attendance. In addition to national recognition on the field, Mora’s haunted house got featured on ESPN College Gameday and the entire team appeared on an episode of First Take. It was a season that fans will remember for years to come. 

With the season ending after the Myrtle Beach Bowl last month, it is time to look ahead to the future of the football program. The best place to start is by looking at some of the new talent coming soon to Storrs. 

In this day and age, the transfer portal is more important than anything in picking up talent in college sports. Over the last month, the Huskies picked up transfers who I think will compete for starting spots right from the start. They come from diverse backgrounds, whether it is a Power Five program like the Kansas Jayhawks (Eriq Gilyard) and the Michigan Wolverines (Louis Hansen) or an FCS team like the Richmond Spiders (Ray Eldridge) and the Maine Black Bears (Joe Fagnano). 

The transfer portal is not the only place where UConn reloaded, however. Although there were no four or five-star prospects among the 2023 recruiting class, there are three people whom I think will have the same impact in their first year that Zion Turner and Victor Rosa had last season. 

The first one is wide receiver Jarvis “Jett” Jones, a New Jersey native whose best offer outside of Storrs came from the Marshall Thundering Herd. Beyond his cool and airplane-themed nickname, this is someone who can come off the bench as a slot receiver next to Keelan Marion and Cam Ross and use his speed to pick up a lot of yardage after the catch.  

Second is defensive end Cleto Chol from Andover, New Hampshire. One of the main priorities that the Huskies focused on was to bolster a defense that allowed over 26 points a game. Chol can stuff the run game in its tracks, and being able to learn from the people on the defensive line such as Pryce Yates and Eric Watts is going to help with his long-term development. 

Finally, there is Cameron Chadwick, a three-star cornerback from New Jersey. Chadwick uses both his quickness and his agility to return the football to the house. Whether it is with the special teams unit on a kick return or with the star-studded secondary on an interception, he can get the crowd on their feet while scoring some big points. 

But who will help the recruits transition into the college game and the program’s culture? Ian Swenson, Tre Wortham, Marquez Bembry and Jake Guidone among others may be gone, but Jackson Mitchell and Christian Haynes will continue to lead like they did last season. 

Haynes, an AP Third Team All-American, anchored an offensive line that helped the run game dash for over 200 yards on the ground six times while protecting Turner by surrendering 17 sacks heading into the bowl game. Getting Haynes back for one more year is massive and will help some of the younger linemen, such as Brady Wayburn, learn how to block the defense from stopping plays early. 

Mitchell meanwhile finished fourth in the nation in total tackles with 140 and seventh in tackles per game at 10.8. Mitchell would have been a second-day draft selection had he declared for the National Football League, but his return will boost his draft stock for 2024 while giving the linebacker department a much-needed voice in the locker room. Although the university has homegrown athletes such as Donovan Clingan and Scott Testori, Mitchell is the quintessential “Mr. Connecticut” of UConn Athletics. 

With the right talent and a determined work ethic, the Huskies have a legitimate chance to go bowling once again. Opponents like Tennessee at Neyland Stadium are going to be hard to conquer, but there are at least seven to eight teams on next season’s schedule that UConn has a chance of winning against. If they can beat teams like the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the James Madison Dukes, then their chances of getting invited to a bowl game after becoming bowl eligible are going to increase due to their strong regular season resume. 

I also want to highlight the impact the social media team has produced. According to information gathered from SkullSparks, the Huskies had the largest percent increase in social interactions between Instagram, Twitter and Facebook out of any FBS program in the country at 305%, 13% ahead of the second place Jayhawks. I do not expect the increase in social interactions to be this high next season, but the social media team has regenerated interest in the fans that will carry over into the next generation. 

Beating a ranked opponent at home, becoming bowl eligible and going to the Myrtle Beach Bowl was just the beginning. Even though the Huskies were nationally recognized for their incredible one-year turnaround, this upcoming season is critical to the team’s long-term future. 

Given the culture that Mora has instilled in the program and the six-second mentality of the players, I expect the Husky Revolution to continue to be televised. Until then, it is time to reload. 

Leave a Reply