With UConn football opening the season very soon against Maine, anticipation has been building for many diehard Husky fans. However, UConn's slow-paced, lackluster offensive play over the past few years has struggled to drum up much interest to the more casual fans.
That's about to change. The offensive line should be better, quarterback Bryant Shirreffs has a year under his belt, and the Huskies come into the season with a very talented group of pass-catchers. The receivers also have a new coach in former Michigan assistant Erik Campbell.
The leader of the group is senior wideout Noel Thomas. Last season, Thomas was the Huskies' primary target through the air, bringing in 54 catches for 719 yards, including the game-deciding touchdown against Houston. Thomas also had a number of amazing catches throughout the season, catching balls that seemed certain to be incomplete. Thomas returns as the Huskies best weapon on offense and should be one of the best receivers in the conference, and maybe the country.
Next to Thomas in the slot, Tyraiq Beals had a very successful season as a true freshman. He was third on the team with 24 catches while also hauling in two touchdowns. With his skillset, Beals figures to be a weapon via crossing routes and slants over the middle, but also with the occasional deep ball. Behind Beals on the depth chart is true freshman Quayvon Skanes, who Diaco has already mentioned will likely see time as a returner, but could also make an impact spelling Beals. Both players have the ability to make plays after the catch, a vital skill coming out of the slot.
Lining up across from Thomas on the outside will be another sophomore in Hergy Mayala. Like Beals, Mayala saw time as a true freshman but didn't make much of an impact. Still, he showed flashes of promise and should find himself in single coverage often so he will have a good chance at seeing more throws his way this year.
One of the biggest wildcards on the team is senior WR Brian Lemelle. A former three-star recruit, Lemelle had a very strong freshman season back in 2013 but then he struggled to see the field again, making only seven catches over the past two seasons and missing the last six games of 2015 with an injury. There's no denying his ability; if he can finally put it all together in his senior season, he may be a breakout player.
Wide receivers aren't the only players featured in UConn's passing attack. UConn's staff likes to use tight ends, perhaps more than any other college team in the country. Tommy Myers handled a variety of jobs before going down with a season-ending leg injury. The Huskies struggled to replace him, trying quarterback Garrett Anderson, defensive end Luke Carrezola, and offensive tackle Steven Hashemi to fill the gaps. There should be better depth this year, as Zordan Holman has a year under his belt after being on last year's two-deep and converted quarterback Tyler Davis looks like he could make an impact this year as well.
While Myers played a move tight end, Alec Bloom was the team's vertical threat off the line. Towering at 6-foot-6, 261 pounds, Bloom was able to bring in 22 passes for 314 yards. He is a nice complement to Myers and both should see more targets this season.
A lot of things need to go right for this offense to improve, but when it comes to passing game, the Huskies have more than enough options who can get open and make plays. If all goes well, we could finally see some serious activity on the scoreboard at The Rent for the first time in a while.