What a day.
A new (interim) coach. A new (projected) starting quarterback.
Is this the dawn of a new era for UConn football?
Only time will tell.
What we do know is that the Paul Pasqualoni era has abruptly and officially ended. Perhaps these next two-plus months are just rolling credits; maybe they’re previews of coming attractions; But, the 2014 season is most certainly our next full feature, and it will not be produced by the likes of Pasqualoni or George Deleone.
Here is all that we learned yesterday about Weist's hiring, Pasqualoni’s firing, what the eventual coaching search will entail and more.
Interim coach T.J. Weist and the 2013 season
Weist is open to playing any freshman, and more specifically, quarterback Tim Boyle. Pasqualoni told the press last night that his plan was to start Boyle against South Florida, and the young signal caller had received starter’s practice reps prior to the Buffalo game. The former UConn head coach believes his current successor will probably go with Boyle in two Saturdays.
So, if you’re a betting man, put money on the freshman getting the start under center. Just don’t wager all your savings yet, since we're still waiting on official word from Weist.
Now, Weist wants to bring energy. He must’ve said the word 156 times yesterday over his press conference. This is not so much of an indictment of the previous regime, but a pillar of Weist’s coaching style. He’s a leader who stresses above all else that his players play with exceptional passion and enthusiasm. However, he is aware, as he says, “Energy without production means nothing.”
Weist is taking the attitude that UConn is presently 0-0. The interim headman told his players that no is by any means going to forget about the four losses. But, they are going to learn from them, and embody the approach that the season begins with conference play.
Weist will simplify things along the offensive line. He conveyed that the linemen had been thinking too much with protections and not handling the blitz. His biggest wish right now is that Kevin Friend gets healthy at right tackle.
In the coming days, Weist is going to examine all parts of the team's operation with his staff: how the Huskies practice, their offensive and defensive schemes, preparation, game planning etc. I highly doubt that significant changes are coming to any area, given that the team is almost at mid-season, but Weist will have his fingerprints all over the place.
The former offensive coordinator will also sit down with the offensive coaches to determine exactly what the team does best considering its current personnel. From there, the staff will adjust the playbook as needed. Surprisingly, Weist told the media that Pasqualoni and Deleone had a great influence on the structure of the offense. Thus, I believe he’ll revert to the multiple, predominantly one-back spread system that we’ve seen from him in the past. We detailed what that looks like back over the summer, here.
As the coach summarized, he’s going to “infuse the style of this coaching staff”.
All current UConn high school commits will have their pacts honored. Weist shared that he plans to call each one and communicate that there was stability in the program.
Both Weist and athletic director Warde Manuel believe that this UConn has sufficient talent. Here are two direct quotes from Manuel yesterday:
“I believe in our linemen on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.”
“We have great backs, we have great talent around that offense. We should be much better, much better than we are offensively.”
According to Manuel, yesterday’s firings were a product of 18 months of his personal observations. Following the Towson loss, he really started to think about where the team was headed, though he didn’t consider making a change at that time. Later, he was disappointed by the second half of the Maryland game and of course, the Buffalo outcome, which put him over the edge.
After the 41-12 beatdown last Saturday, the athletic director drove over six hours from his old home back to Storrs and deliberated removing the two coaches. On Sunday morning, he called president Susan Herbst to tell her what was still on his mind. The phone call finished with Manuel saying that he’d call her later that night with a decision. At around 6 p.m., the athletic director called Herbst back, and said it was time for a change. She was fully supportive.
Manuel met with Pasqualoni and Deleone at 8:30 a.m. the following day, and relieved them of their duties. Before Pasqualoni cleaned out his office in the early afternoon, the fired coach talked to his old team and thanked all its members for their commitment to the program. Weist took over from there.
Manuel later shared that he wanted these firings to send a message to all UConn coaches, teams and fans that this kind of performance was unacceptable.
The timing of the Huskies’ current two-week break before their next game was a factor in Manuel’s decision to act. He did acknowledge that his “quick trigger” in this case could affect how future, potential candidates for the UConn head coaching job view the working environment in Storrs . But, he felt this move was best for the current team.
The next coach
Manuel announced that he wants someone who will brings success on and off the field, not necessarily a coach who is a great salesman because he believes success will ultimately sell. He did note that charismatic qualities “would be nice” to have in his next football program leader. However, the bottom line is the young AD wants to win. In fact, that was Weist’s only requirement to make his job a permanent gig.
Yesterday, Manuel held multiple conversations with people he trusted about the head coaching market. However, he did not and will not speak to any coach who is actively working through the current season.
Pasqualoni’s $750,000 buy-out will not affect the school’s approach to filling the position. The eventual head coach will still be paid around of a couple million dollars.
Thoughts on 2014 and beyond...
Don’t put any extra stock in potential candidates who have “Connecticut ties”. If Manuel valued those, he would’ve selected Hank Hughes to lead the team for the remainder of the season. Hughes has been with the program for nearly 13 years, and Weist has yet to be here for nine months.
Manuel ultimately wants the best coach possible. Not “one of his own”. Some of the biggest proponents and influences for Pasqualoni’s hiring were Connecticut high school coaches. That won’t happen again. For what it’s worth, as a Connecticut guy myself, I entirely agree with this unprejudiced approach.
Furthermore, don’t put any extra stock in coaches who are considered “opposite Pasqualoni”. Manuel will search for the best coach available, even if he looks like a Coach P twin. As long as he wins and maintains the players good grades in the classroom, Manuel almost couldn’t care less.
Along those lines, the silliest complaints ever made about Pasqualoni were about his age. 74-year old Bill Snyder led Kansas Sate to a no. 2 ranking and Fiesta Bowl berth last season and there are a litany of Hall-of-Fame old-timers. Not to mention, Pasqualoni is less than four years older than future Hall-of-Famers Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. What matters is how you do your job, and Manuel knows that.
Forget Josh McDaniels as the next UConn head coach. He does not want to work in college. Period.
Similarly, let go of any thoughts of Eric Mangini.
Finally, Lane Kiffin and Jim Tressel are not stepping on the Storrs campus. There’s not even a snowball’s chance in Hell that they do.
To be determined
What other specific changes will be made to the offense?
Who will call the plays?
Who is the wide receivers coach?
How the program will be sold? Manuel admitted it needs to be re-sold.