Foreword by Aman:
I don't know about you, but I'm pretty excited for UConn football. The hiring of Bob Diaco promises to rejuvenate a budding football program that was very much on the rise before the HCPP era. We have a solid schedule this year with some good home games and expectations around the program are that the three year bowl drought can end.
This is going to be the most obvious statement in the history of obvious statements given recent events, but here it goes: UConn is a basketball school. We lack anything remotely resembling a football tradition having only started playing FBS football about 15 years ago. If we the fans can do anything to help make the move to a power conference, it will be supporting this football team with the same fervor we have for our overwhelmingly successful basketball programs.
My request of you today is that if you can make it to the Blue/White game tomorrow without too much difficulty, and you care enough to read this article, then do it. We don't have any football tradition, but we do have a chance to build it. If I had more money/time/resources/sway I would have loved to set up an event for this because I really believe there is potential for a Spring Homecoming of sorts where alumni, student groups, tailgaters show up by the thousand for a day filled with warm weather fun and football. Maybe next year.
Courtesy of Andrew Callahan, here are a few things to look out for in the action tomorrow.
We won’t spend much time here because this storyline was visited more frequently than The Rent’s exit gates during the third quarter. As you may have heard, Casey Cochran is slated to start tomorrow, as Chandler Whitmer and Tim Boyle will take all subsequent snaps. Since Boyle is "listed" as the No. 3, it seems to indicate his development and/or grasp of the new offense hasn’t come to a point where he can overtake either of the elder statesmen in this group. Thus, it comes down to Cochran and Whitmer.
Now, I am fully aware there are many months to go before the season opener, and the coaches have not publicly put stock into the loose depth chart they’ve put together for tomorrow. However, strictly from a quarterback perspective, it’s safe to assume that what we see from these two tomorrow likely mirrors how they’ve performed in practice and therefore done to determine the opening night starter. Why?
Well, for one, Whitmer is a redshirt senior. In the simplest of terms, regardless of the new playbook in his backpack, you what kind of quarterback you’re going to get with him under center. There’s enough tape out there for all to see and use to pen his scouting report in sharpie.
Next, even with a small, four-game sample size, we’ve seen that Cochran’s style of play isn’t one that lends itself to much variance or inconsistency. First and foremost, he is a good decision-maker, which instantly limits the number of egregious mistakes Cochran is likely to make that will have a severe negative impact on a given game. Second, he doesn’t have the strongest arm or fastest legs, which puts a cap on the number of 50, 60-yard touchdowns he can positively create for UConn in the bat of an eyelash.
In a different way, what you see is also what you get with Cochran. The difference is, given his youth, he has more room to improve, which he may have already done in practice. We just don’t know.
Bottom line: Should all of the quarterbacks perform similarly on Saturday, summer practice will carry more meaning for them than any other position group on the team. But, if Cochran performs well in the spring game, ignore any coach’s quotes you read in the Sunday paper. He’ll be the Huskies’ starter against BYU, and that’s that.
P.S.- Sorry about saying we wouldn’t spend much time on this. If you’ve read me, you probably should have known that was a lie from the get-go.
Bob Diaco, just like all of the former Virginia coaches that litter his defensive staff, learned defense under former Cavalier coach Al Groh. Groh is a long-time teacher of two-gapping, 3-4 defense, and it is a mystery as to what kind of scheme his young, dashing protégé will deploy in Storrs … err, East Hartford.
Earlier this year, I detailed why I believed switching immediately to a 3-4 defensive system would be a mistake, while also opining on the position changes certain Huskies could make in the event that happens anyways. Overall, I don’t believe the UConn has the personnel to execute this kind of scheme, and smart coaches don’t try to pound square pegs into round holes, let alone 11 of them. The best headmen mold the peg and the opening until each fits perfectly with the other.
In this case, I think Diaco will mix in some of the principles that he and his staff know best– those learned under Groh– with the previous 4-3 concepts taught under Hank Hughes/Don Brown. Last season, the Huskies did slide into a few 3-4 fronts, but the issue in 2014 is many of those key, versatile front seven pieces are gone. How the likes of Jefferson Ashiru, Julian Campenni and Angelo Pruitt fit in is anyone’s guess outside the Burton complex.
We won’t learn much about the new defensive schemes tomorrow for the simple fact that Diaco and co. won’t want to reveal their truest intentions to the rest of college football. That’s fine. But, if this unit is headed for a 3-4 alignment fulltime, we will see some of it in the spring game. Keep an eye out.
Offensive line combinations: Center Alex Mateas and guard Gus Cruz stand as the lone returning starters from a year ago. I can't decide if this is a good thing.
Special teams: Who kicks, who punts? More importantly, who returns. Huskies were dreadful a year ago after Nick Williams left for the Washington Redskins.
Wide receiver: Provided Geremy Davis is healthy, this group is going to be just terrific this season.
Not expected to play tomorrow: WR Shakim Phillips, WR Dhameer Bradley, OG Gus Cruz, CB David Stephenson, CB Tyree Clark, LB Brandon Steg, TE Michael Boland, OL Samuel Murphy, QB Kivon Taylor (suspension)