Pasqualoni Watch!

Jared Wickerham

What can we realistically expect from the football team this year?

Hey, it's June. Middle of June, to be exact.

And since my favorite baseball team (Yankees) is seeing how many
has-beens and never-were players they can fit on one roster, I've
decided to turn my attention to a more enjoyable activity.

So …let's get the “Paul Pasqualoni Watch” going, baby!


I know, I know, it's too early to talk about whether Coach PP is gonna
go the way of the Dodo Bird at some point this season. We haven't even
gotten into the teeth of summer, let alone looking ahead towards fall.
Yet, this year is pivotal for UConn football and, consequently, their
grandfatherly coach who has the stain of back-to-back 5-7 season with
which to contend, and a school that is continuously touting UConn's
“best home schedule, ever.”


Now, if anyone followed my posts throughout the course of last year's
football season, you'll know that I'm not exactly the President of the
Paul Pasqualoni Fan Club. In fact, I'd probably be accused of being a
“hater” when it comes to Coach PP. Let me be clear: I think Pasqualoni
is a really good man and he's been a somewhat successful coach in the
past.


This isn't personal. I'd love to see Coach PP have success, I really
would. I'd love nothing more than to be forced to write a “I screwed
the pooch on this prediction” post sometime in late November ...I just
don't believe for a second that I'll have to.


See, I just don't think Pasqualoni is the right guy for the job. His
age plays a part, his pedestrian record at Syracuse over the last
several years of his tenure there plays a part, and the overall
ineptitude of the UConn program under his watch the last two years
(they lost to Western Michigan, twice) plays a big part.


Having said that, I completely get why AD Wared Manuel brought him
back. It is, after all, the fairest thing to do. It's the difference
between being a fan and an athletic director. I can rant about getting
rid of Paul Pasqualoni all I want, but I don't have to worry about
doing what's right by an employee.


Two years is a blink of an eye when it comes to college athletic
coaching, and not enough time to put “your” team on the field. I could
see Manuel deciding that Pasqualoni deserved at least the opportunity
to coach players he actually recruited, and I can't blame him for
that.


Yet, how long is the leash? How long should it be?
What does the fanbase expect? What would be good enough to satisfy the
masses when it comes to Coach PP?


We all have to answer that question ourselves and, yes, our answers do
matter. Warde Manuel has final say, and he seems like a strong enough
AD not to be at the beckon call of the fanbase, but make no mistake:
the louder the cat calls get, the harder it will be for Manuel to keep
his coach in place.


For me, I am looking at this year in two categories. First is the
actual win/loss record. To me, 5-7 just isn't cutting it, not with a
new, somewhat watered down American Athletic Conference in which to
compete. The bar has to be set at bowl or bust. This UConn team should
be able to reach those heights.


So, record-wise, what's a success?


Well, the top of the mountain, the dream of dreams would be 9 wins,
with one coming against either Lousiville or Michigan (from a
historical point of view, I'd probably rather have Michigan). That's
the utopian view of the season, and extremely unlikely to occur. I'd
obviously be extrememly happy with 8 wins, but would also take a 7
spot as well. To me, 7 should be the goal. I think that's very
doeable. If you figure wins against Townson, Buffalo, and Memphis as
sure things, and you assume that UConn is losing to Michigan and
Louisville, that leaves them to get four wins out of games against
Maryland, USF, Cincinnati, UCF, SMU, Temple, and Rutgers. Against that
competition, 4-3 shouldn't be a huge obstacle. Not if you're a quality
team.


So, 7-5 to me is the minimum. Sorry, 6-6, one game better than last
year when you have so many winnable games on the schedule isn't
enough. Getting to 7 wins is, to me, the least he can do. I'd like to
see 8 as, if you're going to be nationally relevant you have to start
actually exceed expectations, but I'd deal with 7.
Besides the actual record, a successful season to me also involves the
style of play.


It wasn't just that UConn lost games the last two years. It's that
they played a style of offense that would have made Red Grange look
like a modern day football savant. It was run, run, pass short, punt.
That sequence would have actually counted as a successful offensive
series in most games, because it didn't result in a turnover or sack
for loss of 10.


Watching your team lose is tough. Watching them play pre-1920's style
offense made it unwatchable.


There has to be some spark on offense this year. They don't have to be
a reincarnation of the “greatest show on turf” or anything, but they
have to be able to score some points and run some plays that bring you
out of your seat. If they have the personnel to run a pro-style
offense, fine. Do that, and hit some bombs down the field for big
plays and long touchdowns. If you have to do a little more pitching
and running from the QB spot, then fine ...do that. Play that fun,
would-never-work-in-the-NFL offense that makes Saturday's so
enjoyable.Just do SOMETHING to keep our attention.


A lot of that will have to do with new offensive coordinator TJ Weist,
who replaces hated (at least by the fans, I'm sure his family likes
him) George DeLeone as the primary play caller on the team. Weist
comes over from the Bearcats, where Cincinnati ranked second in the
Big East in total offense, scoring 32.31 points per game and putting
up over 440 yards per contest.


Will Weist have as much success with UConn's personnel? Doubtful, but
anyone who could lead Cincy to those kinds of offensive numbers must
have a playbook that includes more than three dozen run up the middle
for a loss schemes.


It will also be interesting to see if former defensive coordinator Don
Brown is most responsible for UConn's stellar defense over the last
several years, or if Pasqualoni can get the same kind of production
out of a younger, less experienced group that will now be taking
direction from DC Hank Hughes.


Simply put, UConn needs to be a dynamic team on both sides of the
ball. Hopefully, that's enough to get them at least 7 wins. Maybe it
can get them 8. If it ever got them 9, sign Coach PP to a 10 year
contract.


Personally, I'm more than skeptical that Pasqualoni and company can
produce a 7-win, successful season. I'm even less convinced that the
team can provide offense and defense that can be defined as “dynamic.”
If that's the case, does Pasqualoni need to be shown the door?
Personally, I say yes, but keep in mind I would have fired him after
last year. To me, year three is do or die.*

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