UConn's offense has some major question marks heading into the season, most of which are familiar to fans who have been watching these past few years.
The quarterback situation hasn't been stable since 2004, when Dan Orlovsky took his talents to the NFL after leading the Huskies to an 8-4 season and a win in the Motor City Bowl.
The offensive line has been an issue for the past three years, and remains a question mark going into this season.
But running back has long been an area of strength for UConn Football. This year is no different, as the running game should be a large part of the offense. Unlike previous years, where the UConn ground attack featured a main back, the Huskies will count on multiple runners who bring a diverse array of skills.
Ron Johnson will be the primary back, and will also be handling short-yardage situations. He is a prototypical downhill runner, listed at 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, with Diaco saying he could get up to 230 pounds by the start of the season.
"Ron's gotta be a battering ram," said Diaco, "He's gotta be a low redzone, third down, critical down, black zone kind of guy."
Johnson, a Louisville de-commit, was a late addition to the 2014 recruiting class by Diaco. He starred at Palmetto Ridge High in Naples, Florida and was UConn's leading rusher last year with 429 yards and 3 touchdowns. He shouldn't have any trouble improving on those numbers as the starter.
This off-season, Bob Diaco added Frank Verducci to the coaching staff as co-offensive coordinator. Verducci has a history of working with run-first offenses in his stops at Notre Dame and Florida, there should be plenty of touches to go around.
Some of those touches should go to redshirt sophomore Josh Marriner, "I don't think there's any doubt, that there's a significant role for Josh," Diaco said. He specified that Marriner was an ideal 3rd down back because of his complete skillset, "the combination of pass protection, hands, speed, he does a lot of things well there."
Marriner is someone who the coaches really liked going into last year, but he finished with just 183 yards from scrimmage. Hopefully he can have a greater impact in a more clearly defined role this year.
Arkeel Newsome came to UConn with a lot of hype, and was able to deliver some exciting plays last year as a true freshman, including the 74-yard touchdown shown above. He finished with 730 return yards, averaging over 20 yards per return, and gained 343 yards from scrimmage with two touchdowns. Going into this year, the mission is simple:
"Arkeel, we've got to get the ball in space," Diaco said after the spring game, "Just have to do it. Kicking game, offense, all kinds of ways." Newsome has an obvious ability to make people miss and be a home run hitter for an offense desperately looking for some pop.
Max DeLorenzo, the leading returning rusher heading into last year, is now a senior and should be a consistent secondary contributor. "Max is another guy that's a jobs guy," said Diaco, " [Max] ran well today, (has) soft hands...there's plays in the menu on 1st and 2nd down that he runs well."
With such a comprehensive skillset among the running back unit, and a coaching staff looking to focus on the running game, this should be a strength for the Huskies. The offensive line issue persists, but if the blocking can improve at all, we could see a lot of production from the running backs this year.