Last year the defensive line was solid against the run, but were lacking in one major area: the pass rush. When you only manage a measly 16 sacks, it's hard to stop anyone.
Bob Diaco plans on utilizing a 4-3/3-4 hybrid scheme to keep defenses guessing on where the pressure will be coming from. This should create advantageous situations for the defensive linemen to get to opposing quarterbacks. Factor in the new culture, and the commitment to the weight room that the coaching staff has instilled, and there is some real breakout potential in this group.
#47 Reuben Frank, (R)Senior, 6'4 246
Diaco's grand scheme relies heavily on Reuben Frank, who will spend half of his time with his hand in the ground at defensive end and half of his time rushing the edge from outside linebacker. Frank's positional journey has been a grand one. He chose UConn over Syracuse and entered as a defensive end/linebacker before being shifted over to fullback.
Last year, he was converted back to his original position with mixed results. Frank played in all 12 games last season, finishing with 21 tackles and a pair of sacks. His best game came against Michigan when he had three tackles and a sack. The coaching staff has been very pleased with his offseason, best articulated by Diaco who simply said, "Frank is getting it." Look for a solid year from Frank.
#90 Julian Campenni, (R)Junior, 6-0 299
Campenni comes into the season as one of five returning starters on defense. He will be the starting nose guard and offers a wealth of game experience. He played in 10 games in the 2012 season, starting twice, and had 10 tackles (2.5 for a loss). Last year he started 11 games finishing with 29 tackles (2.5 for a loss) and a sack. His best game came against USF when he totaled 4 tackles and a sack.
Campenni has said that he is ready to be a leader and credited former UConn linemen Twyon Martin, Kendall Reyes, and Shamar Stephen as role models who showed him how to lead and succeed.
#97 B.J. McBryde, (R)Senior, 6-5 304
McBryde has paid his dues as he enters his 5th year on campus and has finally earned a starting nod after winning the tackle job this offseason. McBryde certainly has the size for the position and has a chance to be a big time run stuffer on the inside. He has seen time in 18 games over the last three seasons, recording seven tackles in total. Bob Diaco recently stated that he has been impressed with McBryde's energy and athleticism.
#56 Angelo Pruitt, (R)Senior, 6-2 287
The third senior on the defensive line, Pruitt will be the starting defensive end on Friday. He too, like Campenni, brings valuable in-game experience to the line as he has started 19 games in the last two years. Last year Pruitt tallied 25 tackles (6 for a loss) and a sack. His best game came against Michigan when he had six tackles including two behind the line of scrimmage.
Pruitt was quoted recently in the Hartford Courant as saying, "Every day I can't wait to get back out on that field...this is it, gotta get work done and I'm just so excited." There seems to be a hungry attitude coming from the starters on the defensive line, and I for one am excited to see the strides they have made since last season.
#95 Kenton Adeyemi, (R)Junior, 6-4 268
The Wethersfield, Connecticut native gave B.J. McBryde a run for his money in the position battle for starting defensive tackle, ending up at number two on the depth chart. Adeyemi has six games of experience over the last two years and his best game statistically came last year against Rutgers when he had 4 tackles.
#92 Mikal Myers, (R)Sophomore, 6-1 312
Myers won the backup nose guard spot coming out of camp and earned some playing time last year entering eight games and recording five tackles. Myers was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and chose UConn over Penn State.
#93 Folorunso Fatukasi, (R)Freshman, 6-4 307
Fatukasi made the two deep defensive end depth chart for the BYU game after redshirting last season. He was Second Team All-Queens/Long Island as a senior in high school.
#57 Cole Ormsby, (R)Freshman, 6-3 248
The hybrid defensive end/linebacker won the job as Reuben Frank's understudy coming out of training camp after redshirting his freshman year. Ormsby had a decorated high school career at Windsor High School in Connecticut, leading the state with 17 sacks his senior year on his way to being named the Hartford Courant Defensive Player of the Year.
#99 Sean Marinan, (R)Sophomore, 6-1 264
Marinan comes from Connecticut high school football powerhouse Xavier, and helped lead them to back-to-back titles as an upperclassman. He did not see any time in 2013, but was named to the 2013 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team.
#96 James Atkins, Freshman, 6-5 258
Atkins is on the thinner side by defensive line standards and will more than likely redshirt this season. Last year he made the Newark Star Ledger All-Prep Team on defense playing for Blair Academy in New Jersey.
Someone needs to step up this season. In the past guys like Cody Brown, Lindsey Whitten, Trevardo Williams, and Kendall Reyes were getting into the backfield to keep offenses on their heels. This year the line brings game experience, size and athleticism, but that all means nothing if it doesn't translate to turnovers and sacks. All eyes will be on Reuben Frank in the hopes that he can consistently provide games similar to the one he had against Michigan last year. We will get a glimpse of just how far this unit has come Friday night, when they have their hands full with one of the biggest dual threat quarterbacks in the nation in BYU’s Taysom Hill.