Take a second, and look ahead with me.
Forget all of the recent focus on the Huskies’ (*cough* tune-up) game on Thursday, the new offense, recent injuries etc. and notice something rather remarkable.
As told by the team’s current depth chart, none of the 2013 starters at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end or even running back, are seniors.
So, for the first time in many years, the entire UConn passing attack has a chance to return for the following season. And, for the first time in just as long, this is a good thing (citing, of course, the lack of such names as McEntee, Hernandez listed at quarterback) . In fact, should offensive coordinator T.J. Weist still be in place for 2014, you could be looking at one of the better offenses in the AAC, particularly if Lyle McCombs sticks around.
Scoff if you will, but now back to today.
Permitted that the pair stays healthy, the Huskies will be just fine on the outside throwing to Geremy Davis and Shakim Phillips. The redshirt juniors are dependable and very capable in fulfilling all the assignments they’ll be handed. Between the hashes is where things could get dicey, especially considering the lack of collective experience. Then again, given the raw ability of slot receiver Deshon Foxx and tight end Sean McQuillan and new, open offensive playbook, things could also get a lot more exciting.
We're betting on the latter.
Davis returns as the Huskies’ leading receiver from a season ago, when he hauled in 44 balls, churned out 613 yards and scored a touchdown. He doesn’t possess the sort of long speed that his yards per catch average (13.9 ypc) would indicate, but Davis is a deep and intermediate threat due to his tall, strong frame and refined route running. He's also developed into a very good run blocker on the outside.
Like all Husky passing statistics in 2013, I would expect the veteran’s stat line to improve from a year ago, particularly regarding his number of touchdowns. Davis has the tools to become a good red zone target, and UConn should be visiting inside the twenty-yardline far more than they did last season. Ideally, he’s a no. 2 option in many college passing offenses, but his strong work ethic could allow him to become a true no. 1; just as it allowed him to grow from back-up to reliable starter.
The former Boston College transfer was slow out of the gates in 2012, but mustered enough solid single game performances to produce adequate season totals of 400 yards and 32 catches. Over UConn’s two open summer practices, Phillips was in lock step with Davis lining up as first-team wide receivers, which shouldn’t change in 2013. "Shak" brings a well-rounded package to the position, but will need to garner more yards after the catch to achieve a breakout season.
Overall, and similar to Davis’ case, I anticipate a better statistical year out of Phillips by a couple hundred yards. Should they return to school in 2014, the two could very well make for one of the AAC’s best receiving pairs.
Kind reader, meet the greatest key to UConn having substatial success throwing the ball this season.
Third-year wideout Deshon Foxx has stepped in as the team’s third receiver for 2013, which effectively is a starting position within the new offense. The 5’ 10" speedster is thinly built, though extremely agile and will work against opponents’ third-best cornerback and linebackers all year. Should he master the small, but necessary nuances that come with playing the slot, he’s primed to have a standout year.
From this view, a consistent option over the middle would do wonders for a quarterback in the mold of Chandler Whitmer. Given the Huskies’ lack of depth at tight end, Foxx could be exactly that guy. Otherwise, teams will lock down on Davis and Phillips and it could be game over.
First off, happy birthday to Kamal; he turns 20 tomorrow.
Next, the junior wide receiver, currently listed on the team’s two-deep depth chart, is a very intriguing player to watch. Abrams went without a redshirt his freshman season, which concurrently was year one of the Paul Pasqualoni era. A former high school quarterback from Dover, D.E., Abrams has always lined up out wide for the Huskies due to his fine athleticism. He did although, as few can recall, have one chance to showcase his passing skills two years ago.
In a rare stroke of creativity (or perhaps it was just a real stroke), former offensive coordinator George DeLeone called for a wide receiver pass option that put the ball in Abrams’ hands. There was no one open on the play, so the then freshman alertly tucked the ball and ran for two yards. That one carry has been his only recorded college statistic to this point. However, now in his third year and as the team’s fourth receiver, Abrams should have a chance to build on his resume.
Dhameer Bradley / John Green / Brian Lemelle / Noel Thomas
The four freshmen wideouts are unlikely to see much time on offense in 2013, but injuries to any of the top options of course would leave that door open. Lemelle is currently listed as the team’s no. 1 punt returner due to his soft hands, as told by coach Paul Pasqualoni. Meanwhile, Bradley is in the mold of a Deshon Foxx, standing at 5’ 9" 168 lbs. He flashed considerable athletic ability in the open practices, but may be a year away from seriously contributing.
Green and Thomas both boast greater size than their classmates but, like Bradley, the two are unlikely to contribute right away. However, should injuries ravage the position, my best guess would be that Bradley and Green are called upon first to help out.
By far the best receiving option UConn has at tight end, McQuillan is thus far unfortunately best known for the severe concussion he sustained in practice nearly two weeks ago. Since then, he has recovered and practiced with the team in anticipation for the opener Thursday, which he will play in. At 6’ 4" 237 lbs., the Glastonbury, Conn. native can help with blocking against smaller defensive ends, but is best when operating in space. The guess here is a season that sees fewer downfield plays than Ryan Griffin enjoyed in 2012, but a similar statline with a few hundred yards and handful of scores.
Had it not been for a lingering injury, Parker owned a chance to go from complete unknown to opening night starter in his final year wearing a UConn uniform. The redshirt senior out of Newington, Conn. is the best blocking tight end the Huskies have, and is currently listed as the team’s back-up on the two-deep. He transferred from Lasell College (Mass.) in 2011 before walking on to the team after previously starring as a volleyball player. Last year, he earned a letter thanks to his solid play on special teams. This season, he’s almost guaranteed to catch his first pass.
The 6’ 4" 248 lb. Boland is a freshman whose entry to the program was expedited a few weeks back once the team scrapped its original plans to have him attend prep school. Following the transfer of a number of Huskies during early summer practice, Boland hastily enrolled and is now quickly learning on the fly as the team’s third tight end. A former all-state offensive lineman in his native Pennsylvania, Boland also registered 14 sacks working on the other side of the line in his senior year. For now, he will be the team’s second back-up at the position. Others in the mix include freshmen Quinn Thompson and Tommy Myers.
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