We're not sure what Bob Diaco has in store for the defensive line this year. Whether we see more three or four-man fronts is still up in the air, but what we do know is that this unit is the strongest and deepest positional group on the team. They will need to be spectacular in order for UConn to win more games than expected.
Julian Campenni, RS Senior - 6-feet, 306 pounds - West Pittston, PA
One of two seniors on the D-line, Julian Campenni's role will be to plug the middle and destroy interior offensive lines. Diaco commented after the spring game how shocking it was that Campenni was left off of the All-AAC teams last year. All he did was start all 12 games, make 5.5 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks from a position where sexy numbers are at a premium.
There isn't much more to say here, Campenni is an absolute beast in the middle, and will be a leader both on and off the field for the team. He has been playing consistently since his redshirt freshman season and starting since he was a sophomore. Expect consistent excellence from a man who has been through a wild ride in his five years at UConn.
Kenton Adeyemi, RS Senior - 6-foot-4, 291 pounds - Wethersfield, CT
After packing on significant weight to take on the responsibilities of playing end in a 3-4 defense, Kenton Adeyemi is poised for a big season. The senior started 11 games last year, making 5 TFL. He expects the D-line to be a much more disruptive unit this year. A former 3-star recruit from Fork Union Academy by way of Kingswood-Oxford, Adeyemi is in competition for a starting role with Cole Ormsby. Expect to see a lot of both on the field regardless of who the starter is, as there will be a lot of rotation in order to keep bodies fresh.
Folorunso Fatukasi, RS Sophomore - 6-foot-4, 304 pounds - Far Rockaway, NY
After redshirting his first year on campus, Folo saw playing time immediately as a redshirt freshman, with Bob Diaco sending some pretty heavy praise his way late in the season:
"...in terms of size, speed, change of direction, he's probably he best combination of all things on the d-line. We just have to get his game to mature, he's another freshman, we just need to mature his game and as that matures he'll continue to produce and become a hard guy to block."
Fatukasi will be asked to man the other starting end role and anchor the defensive line. His growth will be instrumental to UConn's defensive dominance this season. If he, Adeyemi and Campenni can effectively take up space and disrupt blockers, it should free up the linebackers to make plays and get to the quarterback. UConn's pass rush was anemic last year, and it hurt the pass defense immensely, especially with the inexperience at corner once Byron Jones went down to injury. Hopefully it can improve behind the leadership of these three.
Cole Ormsby, RS Sophomore - 6-foot-4, 262 pounds - Windsor, CT
The Windsor High product held a part-time role on last year's team but still led the Huskies in sacks with 3.5. He also added 5 TFL. This year he is pushing Kenton Adeyemi for a starting job but will still see plenty of time on the field regardless, especially in passing situations. Currently, it seems Ormsby will be the first lineman off the bench. Diaco will be sure to find as many ways as possible to get him onto the field given his pass-rushing prowess.
Mikal Myers, RS Junior - 6-foot-1, 323 pounds - Newburgh, NY
Myers saw the field as a redshirt freshman and then last year appeared in all 12 games, making one start. His 2 sacks were good enough to tie him for second on the team with Julian Campenni, who Myers will be backing up as a nose guard, or sliding next to as a defensive tackle in a four-man front.
Sean Marinan, RS Junior - 6-foot-1, 296 pounds - Higganum, CT
Marinan has played sparingly across the past two years, mostly on special teams, but has looked good in the spring and summer. He will see more time on the field at defensive tackle in a rotational role.
David Ryslik, Freshman - 6-foot-4, 300 pounds - Freehood, NJ
A true freshman, David Ryslik has been impressive enough to be working with the second unit across the pre-season. Numerous coaches and teammates have expressed their excitement with the 3-star recruit who chose UConn over Cincinnati, Duke, Syracuse, and Temple.
The key for the D-line this year will be improving the pass rush. The run defense is expected to be very good, but UConn simply needs to do a better job of getting to the quarterback. UConn has enough talent in the secondary to have a good pass defense this year, but opposing passers can't have all the time in the world back there. If the Huskies can put more pressure on the pocket, this could be a very good year.
We only had time and space to cover the players expected to contribute this year, but you can read about the incoming freshmen (Kevin Murphy, Trey Blackwell, Phillippe Okounam) and redshirt freshmen (James Adkins, Sheridan Lawley) in our recruiting coverage from the recruiting Class of 2015 and Class of 2014.