The last time we saw the Connecticut Huskies on a football field they were taking part in the 2010 PapaJohn’s.com Bowl game against the South Carolina Gamecocks, a team in which they seemed to handle rather easily walking out of Alabama with a 20-7 victory to claim their second straight bowl win, and third bowl win in the last four trips (also winning the 2004 Motor City Bowl against the Toledo Rockets by a score of 39-10).
Sure an 8-5 record, 3-4 in conference play doesn’t look like a very strong season but if you take into consideration that the team started out a miserable 4-5, 1-4 in their own conference, to end on a four game winning streak, two of which came within the conference is a pretty astounding feat considering the circumstances in which last season began (Jasper Howard’s unfortunate murder).
The success at the end of last season can be attributed to a couple of things, first being Head Coach Randy Edsall’s “never say die” mentality. Along with a solid defense that was ranked 46th in the Nation (23.6 PPG) and a rushing attack that could not be stopped with Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon (Ranked 39th in the Nation with 170.7 YPG), the Huskies were able to salvage the 2009 season and end it on a high note with a bowl victory against South Carolina.
But looking ahead to the 2010 season there are a lot of changes for the Connecticut Huskies, most of which are not positive. The power running system that Connecticut used so well last year may take a hit this year, as only Jordan Todman (235 carries, 1188 yards, 5.1 YPC, and 14 Touchdowns) is returning to the team. That means that somewhere in the offense, Connecticut is going to have to make up for Andre Dixon’s outstanding year splitting carries with Todman, as Dixon’s line is almost identical, having rushed 239 times for 1093 yards averaging 4.6 yards per carry and finding the end-zone 14 times.
Personally, I do not see how you can replace someone as valuable as Andre Dixon in the back field. The 2010 depth chart has been released by Coach Edsall and Robbie Frey (who up until this point has been primarily a return specialist) is getting the nod as the number two tailback for the Huskies this year. In his career he has carried the ball 24 times for 140 yards and has scored 3 times.
Another change for the Huskies is going to be the loss of primary receiver Marcus Easley who led the team last year in every receiving category with 48 receptions for 887 yards and 8 touchdowns. Out of the receivers returning this year, their combined touchdown totals from last year are exactly equal to Easley’s. This is a big question mark for the Huskies entering into this coming season, especially considering that they are going to be losing a lot off of their running game because of the departure of Andre Dixon. Receivers Michael Smith, Kashif Moore, and Isiah Moore are going to have make a significant impact on the offensive end if Connecticut plans to duplicate it’s 2009 offensive performance where it was ranked 27th in the Nation, averaging 31.2 PPG (albeit mostly ground and pound and mostly in a rather soft Big East Conference).
One HUGE positive on the offensive side of the ball for the Huskies is that four of the starters from last year’s offensive line are returning this year, so the same holes that were open for Todman last year should remain open, as well as the time in the pocket for starting QB Zack Frazer.
Which will of course bring us to the next topic which is the starting quarterback. Last year’s efforts were somewhat split between Zack Frazer and Cody Endres (Endres of course filling in for Frazer when he suffered a knee injury early in the season and then Frazer returned the favor by filling in for Endres after he suffered a shoulder injury later in the season). Zack Frazer returns as the starter, with a rather odd choice for a backup as Coach Edsall has chosen to go with freshman quarterback Michael Box, instead of the proven Cody Endres. This is certainly a position of concern for the Huskies, as last year their two quarterbacks combined for only 2815 yards through the air and posted a rather bleak 16:13 touchdown to interception line. In order for UCONN to elevate themselves past Pittsburgh and West Virginia this season, they are going to have to get more consistant play from under center.
One thing that always has been consistant for the Huskies is the stellar play of their defense. With the majority of the same crew coming back for the 2010 season, led by the line-backing tandem of Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson, the Huskies bring arguably the best line-backing core in the conference onto the field everyday. If there is any hole in the defense however, it certainly has to be the secondary, which is very young and inexperienced to say the least. Lindsey Witten (11.5 sacks last season) is the only key departure for a defense that often times was the back bone for the Huskies in 2009.
- Jordan Todman, TB : There really is not enough that can be said about how important Todman is and will remain to the success of the Connecticut Huskies. If he goes, so does the entire offense. Look for him to produce a phenomenal campaign in 2010 that could earn him National recognition, as well as a possible Doak Walker Award.
- Zack Frazer, QB : A year removed from a nagging knee injury that just seemed to linger all year in 2009, Frazer has to be a leader on the field. He has to cut down on turnovers in order for this team to be successful in 2010, which is a hard enough job to do considering that some of the best defenses in the Nation around found right here in the Big East Conference. With a tremendous offensive line, as long as he stays poised in the pocket he should be able to do just enough with three decent receivers and a viable tight end to carry this team toward the top of the conference.
- Scott Lutrus, LB : The defensive Captain for the second straight year, Lutrus missed most of last season with a nagging stinger injury that he suffered early on, but he still managed to produce a solid campaign with 69 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Look for him to lead this defense this coming season (his last) and to garner a lot of National attention as one of the premier linebackers in college football.
- Lawerence Wilson, LB : A First Team All Big-East Selection in 2009, Wilson led the Huskies in tackles (14) and also recorded 5 sacks. He managed to rack up an astounding 10.8 tackles per game, which ranked him tied for tenth in the Nation. Look for Wilson to continue the stellar play that we have seen from him throughout his career as he leads this defense alongside Lutrus.
2010 Season Schedule :
The 2010 season schedule for the Huskies actually shapes up to be a rather tough one when you take things into perspective. They have to open up on the road on national television against none other then Big-10 powerhouse Michigan. Sure, this is not like Michigan teams of the past but this is certainly going to be a big test for the Huskies to pass, one that could unfortunately leave them climbing up the same mountains they did last year by starting 0-1.
The rest of the non-conference schedule does not really look to threatening as they should handle it rather easy, but then comes back to back conference games on the road against none other then Rutgers and Louisville.
The next two conference games are going to be the ones that everybody needs to keep their eyes on for several reasons. The most important reason being that against top 25 teams last year Connecticut failed to pick up a victory, sporting an 0-3 record. Last season against Big East powerhouse teams like Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and West Virginia UCONN was 0-4 but lost those 4 games by a combined 11 points all together.
With having to play Pittsburgh and West Virginia in back to back weeks after facing two teams on the road in Rutgers and Louisville, it looks to be a tough road in the Big East Conference for the Connecticut Huskies once again.
On a good note however, the Huskies will end the season against Syracuse, Cincinnati, and South Florida – all teams that Connecticut should be able to handle, especially after the rough stretch mid-season.
2010 Predictions : 9-4 (4-3)
The fan in me wants to think good things will come of this year (a possible chance at the Big East Crown) but the realist in me realizes that there are too many question marks with this team and too many holes on offense to carry it to a chance at the Big East Championship. I feel that they have enough to improve on last year’s 8-5 (3-4) mark, but not by much. Having to take on the 4 teams that they lost to last season in the conference within a 5 week span is going to be too much for this team, especially against a vastly improved Pittsburgh team under Head Coach Dave Wandstedt.
I feel that the load on Todman’s shoulders is going to be too much to handle all by himself and he is going to have to get help from somewhere, but from where? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Against the tough, stingy defenses that Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia roll out on the field every Saturday, coupled with starting on the road against the Michigan Wolverines, the mountain just looks to be too high for the Connecticut Huskies to climb.
But then again, if there is anything that we learned from this team last year after it’s horrible start is that they have a lot of character and mental toughness, along with that “never say die” attitude. So anything is possible, but I am not holding my breath when it comes to their chances to take home the Big East Crown.
That’s all for now. It should be an entertaining season to say the least as I will have my eye on Jordan Todman all year long to see how he matches up against the Nation’s other top runners. Stay tuned for my preview of the Connecticut Huskies and Michigan Wolverines game later in the week.
About the Author
Written by Bryan Middleton
Die hard Boston Celtics fan as well as a die hard Atlanta Braves fan. I know, random combination when Im from 30 minutes north of Boston but I've always liked how the Braves have run their organization and have built it around solid pitching. I like the Red Sox as well, but in a perfect world series of Braves vs The Sox, I'd have to take the Braves in 6.