UConn's defense has always been the team's anchor, and through the years some very talented defensive backs have moved their way through UConn and into the NFL. Despite being inexperienced at cornerback, the Huskies are returning both starting safeties this year and are hoping to improve on last year's abysmal pass defense.
Andrew Adams - RS SR - 6-feet, 198 pounds - Fayetteville, Georgia
The elder statesman of the secondary, Adams started all 14 games for the Huskies last year at free safety. His four interceptions on the season were good enough to lead the team, with three of those coming in UConn's upset victory over UCF. He also led the team in pass deflections, and finished second on the team in tackles, with 96.
Adams has seen playing time since his redshirt freshman season, where he even started a couple of games. He had two interceptions in a sophomore season which started late for him due to injury. A productive playmaker, and now a redshirt senior, Adams will need to serve as a leader for a unit which struggled to prevent big plays and avoid penalties.
Obi Melifonwu - RS JR - 6-foot-3, 216 pounds - South Grafton, Massachusetts
Obi has been a starter since his redshirt freshman season, where the athletic prospect stepped into a safety role and started 23 straight games. While his size and athleticism are off the charts, Melifonwu has struggled with being a complete defensive back in his understanding of the game. He committed a number of penalties last year and was beaten a few times on deep routes- which can't be happening in a defense predicated on preventing big plays.
Diaco believes Melifonwu and Adams are the best safety tandem in the conference. Last year he told the Hartford Courant that Melifonwu was "the most talented safety I've ever been around."
Hopefully nearly two years working with co-defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter, a former All-American safety, has helped Melifonwu reach his full potential.
Junior Lee - RS SR - 6-foot, 209 pounds - Brooklyn, NY
After redshirting, Junior Lee has seen time as a backup and in special teams with increasing production. He may see more time this year on the field in dime and nickel packages but his calling card for this team is on special teams, where he excels.
Ellis Marder - RS JR - 6-foot-1, 199 pounds - Windermere, FL
Marder has seen time sparingly across his time at UConn, but may be in line for a larger role next year. For now he will occupy the backup strong safety spot behind Andrew Adams.
Jhavon Williams, RS Jr, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds - Delray Beach Florida
Jhavon Williams comes into the season as one of the unheralded players on what should be a loaded defense. Williams played across from Byron Jones last year and assumed duties as the top corner when Jones went down with a shoulder injury. With Jones currently in the NFL, Williams will be the No. 1 cornerback this season. With the support of a strong front seven in front of him, and one of the top safety tandems in the conference behind him, the redshirt junior is definitely in a position to succeed. He doesn't need to be a shutdown corner, he just has to limit completions to him and prevent big plays.
Jamar Summers, Sophomore, 6-foot-0, 185 pounds - Orange, New Jersey
One of the many true freshmen to play last year, Jamar Summers will be playing opposite Jhavon Williams at cornerback this season. Summers is the only returning cornerback to have an interception last season, and he also has the best size of any corner that will likely see the field at 6 feet tall. While the difference seems small, an extra inch or two could be the difference between a pass break-up and the bail sailing over his hand. As a true sophomore, he's bound to struggle or get beat at some points, he will just need to limit those moments and lean on his experienced teammates.
Javon Hadley, Junior, 5-foot-10, 175 pounds - Miami, Florida
Hadley will be the No. 3 cornerback for the Huskies, which is basically a slot corner. While taking away outside threats is important, slot receivers can be the most devastating receiver on the field (See: Welker, Wes), and their mix of quickness, speed, and small stature makes them hard to cover and even harder to take down after the catch. Luckily for the Huskies, coaches and teammates have been raving about Hadley's development. If that can translate onto the field, the Huskies defense should be in good shape.
John Green, RS Jr, 5-foot-10, 187 pounds - Miami, Florida
Green is a converted wide receiver who saw his first action at corner last season. As it stands currently, Green will be the first one off the bench as either a sub or an injury replacement. It's important not to underestimate the need for quality depth at cornerback. I wouldn't be surprised if Green manages to climb the depth chart this season, as he flashed lockdown potential in limited action last season.
UConn's front seven is expected to range from strong to exceptional this season. Question marks in the secondary are keeping many from believing that this can be an excellent defense this year. At this moment, Andrew Adams is the only defensive back who we can place our confidence in. Because, for all of his physical skills, Obi Melifonwu has struggled with penalties and positioning. The corners are relatively inexperienced but certainly have the talent to succeed.