UConn Football began spring practice in March, getting onto the field for the first time as a team since the St. Petersburg Bowl loss in December. This Saturday's spring game will conclude on-field activity until the start of preseason camp in the summer.
Since the end of last season, the Huskies have lost a couple of players to transfer (most notably Dhameer Bradley, Thomas Lucas, Josh Marriner, and Tim Boyle) while gaining a very talented transfer from Vanderbilt in cornerback Tre' Bell.
The Huskies should be on the cusp of a breakthrough season in 2016, with the spring game offering the first opportunity to see this year's version of the squad. Gates will open Saturday at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at 1 p.m. with the game kicking off at 3 p.m. and teams and format to be announced later.
Admission is free and the forecast is looking mighty fine, so no excuses! Get out and support the team!
You can listen to the action on the UConn IMG network, where Joe D'Ambrosio will be joined by former Husky quarterback Casey Cochran on the call.
Here are a couple of things we'll be keeping an eye on during the action.
1. Quarterback play behind Shirreffs
After a rock-solid sophomore season, Bryant Shirreffs has a strong handle on the starting quarterback job. Behind him on the depth chart is where it will get interesting.
Junior college transfer Garrett Anderson may push Shirreffs as the starter, but is looking more like the leading candidate to be the top backup this coming season.
Anderson's days playing fullback are likely over following Tim Boyle's transfer to Eastern Kentucky. He's more of the mobile, dual-threat under center that Diaco and his staff seem to favor, and is clearly the most experienced option after Shirreffs, having started as a freshman and getting decent time as a sophomore in junior college.
After Anderson, redshirt freshman Tyler Davis, the quarterback brought in from the class of 2015, is looking like the leading candidate for third-string duties. Class of 2015 preferred walk-on Brandon Bisack is the only other option besides Will Rishell, a redshirt junior who has strictly been a practice player in his time in Storrs.
Since Shirreffs has been nursing a wrist injury, we might have a chance to get an extended look at Anderson against Davis for the backup quarterback job, with Bisack possibly factoring in as well.
The offensive line has been the biggest hurdle to UConn's offensive success for at least five years now and this is the first season where we might finally see some legitimate progress. The line only loses one starter in Tyler Samra, and will return starting center Ryan Crozier after he suffered a season-ending knee injury before the 2015 campaign.
There will be one more change to the line, as redshirt freshman Matthew Peart has been taking first-team reps at left tackle, supplanting last year's starter Richard Levy—who is now playing guard.
With Andreas Knappe firmly entrenched as the starting right tackle, there will be competition for the two guard spots between Levy, Brandon Vechery—who stepped in admirably at center last year—Trey Rutherford, Tommy Hopkins, and Daniel Oak. Right now Rutherford and Hopkins appear to be the leaders, but a lot can happen between now and the season opener against Maine.
UConn's offensive line was tested in last year's spring game by the Huskies' stellar defensive line, and that will certainly be the case again this year. The offensive line struggled mightily in last year's spring game, which served as an appropriate harbinger for what was to come in the season.
Hopefully, this year we see a more stable performance from the O-line against Foley Fatukasi, Mikal Myers, Cole Ormsby, Luke Carrezola, et al.
3. EJ Levenberry
The highly-acclaimed transfer from Florida State is finally eligible and will be expected to make an immediate impact at linebacker, where he'll likely be starting in graduating senior Graham Stewart's position. Nothing will be handed to him, however, as he has been practicing with the second team defense and will have to earn his way into the lineup at a position with great numbers for the Huskies.
Saturday will offer Husky fans the first chance to see the former 4-star recruit live, which should be pretty exciting.
4. Billy Williams and the F position
Another newly eligible transfer, Billy Williams won Scout Team Player of the Year at the Huskies' 2015 postseason banquet. He'll be playing the "F" position, which was first introduced to us last year when quarterback Garrett Anderson switched into the hybrid fullback/H-back position and afterward Bob referred to needing an "F" in the lineup with Tommy Myers injured.
The position was reintroduced on National Signing Day when prized Connecticut recruit Jay Rose signed with UConn at the F as well. One of the reasons Rose chose to do so was the opportunity to see playing time early in his career. On Saturday, we will see which roles the F occupies and what Rose's competition there looks like.