They say that time heals all things.
Well, in the case of UConn football, time will be the only thing to heal this program back to respectability.
That much is clear at the winless midway point of this season, which arrived after another heavy-handed loss yesterday, a 41-16 beatdown at Cincinnati; a defeat whose margin, despite its chasm-like size, still does not accurately reflect how much of a blowout the game truly was.
Now, this program's cure won't be idle time. The remedy will be a consistent dose of the work days that make up a typical college football week; those that are only marked off the calendar after at least 12 grueling hours of film study, weight lifting, conditioning, scouting, classroom work, scrimmaging or drills.
The Sundays and Mondays dedicated to the "shouda"s, "coulda"s and "woulda"s of the previous Saturday. The Tuesdays and Wednesdays marked by the hope that a new gameplan will be the key to unlocking another victory. The Fridays spent walking through last minute details and perhaps traveling. Finally, the Saturdays carved out for three-hour, all-out wars in front of thousands of fanatic citizens.
Yet for six game weeks spread over eight regular ones, the Huskies have been following this formula. And it hasn't been enough. Why?
The majority of last year's 5-7 group returned. After four games this season, the ineffective leadership and coaching was removed. Circumstances like a new system or tougher schedule are certainly at play, but they're never the bottom line.
The biggest reason is personnel. Now, if you believe the cupboard is entirely bare in Storrs, you're foolish. However as we all know, this also isn't a cabinet that looks like Mom just made a return trip from cleaning out Sam's Club. Every position group on this UConn team is somewhere between those two, generally closer the barer side. From quarterback to kicker, the Huskies have considerable room for improvement in either the quality of their starting line, depth, athleticism or experience.
The program needs time in order to recruit more talent, eventually settle into new systems (whether they belong to coach Weist or his permanent successor) and develop the young players they have. The royal beatdown in the Queen City yesterday drove this point home more than ever before.
The most obvious example of this need lies in freshman quarterback Tim Boyle. As the weeks and months pass, he'll gain experience, development of the powerful, raw skills he's already showcased, and chemistry with his wideouts. Interceptions, like the three he tossed at the Bearcats a day ago, will dwindle, and the touchdown passes should go up. Furthermore, every receiver on the depth chart can return for 2014. More time will aid drops and help round off some unrefined routes.
With experience a non-issue along the offensive line, time in the form of extra reps won't shore up their woes. A performance entailing eight allowed sacks and a 1.8 yards per carry average from a group of experienced upperclassmen is simply unacceptable. Yes, like the youthful group at receiver, time will allow for development of younger linemen like Tyler Samara, who played at right guard yesterday. But the most important aspect for this group in the upcoming months and years is recruiting. The Huskies need more bodies and greater talent along the offensive line. These are absolute necessities for future success of the program, and they will take time to fix.
Defensively, you see a similar picture. The line is loaded with career starts and soon-to-be graduates, yet it's only produced three sacks this season. There is a tremendous playmaking hole up front and that will have to be filled with fresh faces. Defensive tackles Shamar Stephen and Julian Campenni have been very good, most notably in the run game. But Stephen is gone after this year, and UConn's best current edge rusher is a converted fullback as of just last season. If there isn't a pass rusher buried somewhere on the roster then this team needs time to recruit, recruit, recruit.
Behind the line is a group led by future NFL draft pick Yawin Smallwood. If Smallwood leaves for the pros this season (likely to become a second or third round pick), he'll depart with redshirt senior Ryan Donohue, who has started every game. Missing two-thirds of your starters at any one position is difficult to deal with, let alone one that relies on another group which will face identical issues. Hope lies here in the fact that year in and year out this is a well coached group.
The future hinges on Smallwood. Until his decision is made, UConn has to give Jefferson Ashiru, Marquise Vann and other replacements more snaps to improve both this season and next. This, of course, will take time.
Due a bevy of injuries, the secondary this has been a patchwork of youth. Cincinnati consistently exposed the Husky pups lack of discipline and technique with play-action and deep passes. Freshman Obi Melifonwu has the potential to grow into an excellent free safety, as we've already witnessed glimpses of that sort of play through six games. He's not there yet, however, and neither is redshirt freshman cornerback Jhavon Williams. Back-up safety Tyree Clark needs some seasoning, and until enough time and practices pass, only then can they join Byron Jones and Ty-Meer Brown to form a formidable secondary.
I'm sorry, Husky fans. This isn't to say 2013 may not still surprise with a play here or an underdog win there, but big picture, it's simply time to hurry up and wait.