As we all know and have discussed here at length, UConn's terrible offensive performance so far this season has been highlighted by extremely poor play on the offensive line.
Through four games, the UConn offense is averaging 61 rushing yards/game, which puts them at 123rd in the nation. The passing game hasn't fared much better, ranking 103rd in the nation with an average of 189 yards/game. Fans might excuse the game against South Florida because of the rain, but this has been a pattern.
How does one fix the problems we've been having offensively?
Improvement will come with experience, better recruiting, and maturity. It must be expected that if UConn continues to play freshmen such as Trey Rutherford and Ryan Crozier, that it will benefit those guys in the long run. I've already seen in UConn's first four games it seems these two players specifically have trouble picking up stunts and blitzes-they should become better with experience. The hope is that Rutherford and Crozier can become firmly entrenched as starters within two years.
Other linemen such as tackles Richard Levy and Andreas Knappe, both redshirt sophomores, need to work on technique and that comes with coaching and repetition. If they don't play with better technique then we'll continue to see the holding penalties. Most of the players appear to be really buying into Diaco's strength and dieting plans, so if these young players can get smarter and stronger in the coming years, there is some hope for the future.
Here is what the O-line could look like next year:
T - Richard Levy - JR
G - Trey Rutherford - SO
C - Kyle Bockeloh - JR
G - Ryan Crozier - SO
T - Andreas Knappe - JR
Connecticut product Steve Hashemi, who was a late addition to the Class of 2014 by Diaco, is a candidate for one of these starting jobs as well, perhaps at right tackle. As you will notice, these players are all underclassmen so hopefully all five can return the following year, which would be Bob Diaco's third. Year three would be the first to really have expectations out of the Bob Diaco era.
So is there any talent coming in? Well, as of right now, there is not much. The recruiting class for 2015 does not have any commitments from any offensive lineman. However, there are a few prospects still holding offers from the Huskies:
(All rankings are courtesy of Rivals.com and 24/7 Sports)
Matthew Burrell, OG
Burrell seems to be really high on going to Ohio State.
Daniel Clifford, OT
Hoboken (Hoboken, NJ)
Clifford seems to be pretty high on the Huskies. He also holds offers from Buffalo, East Carolina, and Iowa State.
Richie Kallay, OG
Central Catholic (Clearwater, FL)
UConn appears to be only school that has shown interest in him
There are some pretty highly rated recruits that have already been offered scholarships from Diaco and staff in the class of 2016:
Anthony Long, OT
Long plays both sides of the ball and could possibly play defensive tackle at the college level.
Richard Merritt, OG
Archbishop Carroll (Washington, DC)
Sources say Merritt seems to be close to committing Alabama
Although, Diaco and staff are not recruiting offensive lineman too heavily, it should be pointed out that the current linemen are very young. Only center Alex Mateas and Gus Cruz are seniors, while most of the others are redshirt sophomores or freshmen. Additionally, Diaco and his staff appear to be better at recruiting than their predecessors. The offensive line will be the most important aspect of the rebuilding project.
Without some sign that help is on the way, it looks like we will be counting on the talent at hand to drive improvement in the short term. Down the road, in as early as two but long as four years, the promise of Diaco's recruiting skills must pay off. Otherwise there better be some junior college or graduate transfers who we hear about in the coming months.
Improving the offensive line will be the key to whether or not Bob Diaco can turn this thing around. We know he will be able to recruit defenders, and quarterback is definitely important too, but with Tim Boyle and Tyler Davis I think we can feel confident that there are some answers. The roster is filled with talented young players at running back and wide receiver. The only position where the future does not appear set also happens to be the greatest weakness on the team. This should be an interesting development to watch in the coming months and years.