Due to the rapidly evolving nature of college sports, it’s tough to know what UConn Football will look like in five years, particularly given UConn’s placement in that business’s hierarchy.
Fans of schools like Ohio State or LSU are lifelong members of their conference, and even non-powers like Duke or Arizona can say the same. Their discussion around the direction of the football program doesn’t have nearly the same kinds of twists and bends as the path forward for schools in the American Athletic Conference.
To further complicate matters for UConn, the football team is undergoing its third head coaching change since 2011, not including the mid-season takeover of interim head coach T.J. Weist in 2013.
With so much on the line as Randy Edsall’s second tenure at UConn is underway, here are five key questions UConn Football will answer in the next five years.
Will they become competitive in the AAC?
Though UConn fans are lukewarm about the current conference affiliation, and understandably so, it is the program’s home for at least the near future, maybe longer.
In that time, the Huskies need to prove they can be a competitive football team against what has become a challenging conference slate. So far, they have not fared very well in the AAC years.
UConn Football showed a lot of potential from 2000-2011 but stopped growing and started declining in the six years since. Downgrading conferences hurt, but there were bigger problems afoot at the time, particularly at head coach.
With Randy Edsall back, we can expect a return to the familiar 7-5 range and perhaps greater upside if he can keep it moving up.
Who will be the head coach?
I don’t think Edsall plans on leaving UConn for another college job. He’s 58 years old, so has close to a decade in him if he can succeed once again in Storrs.
I think he’ll still be at the helm in five years. Let’s hope so.
Will they find an answer at quarterback?
Quarterback play has been an Achilles heel for a while now but the future appears bright. Benedict, who UConn hired from Auburn, and Edsall brought in Auburn OC Rhett Lashlee to lead the offense. It has already paid dividends on the recruiting trail in the form of junior college passer David Pindell and former UCF commit Marvin Washington.
2016 recruit Donovan Williams and 2017 signee Jordan McAfee will also be competing for the starting role. My guess is Pindell starts for the next two years and then McAfee takes over. He has the size, speed, and arm strength of a prototypical modern quarterback and I think that will give him an advantage over the rest of the competition.
What will recruiting look like?
Football recruiting is an interesting jam. On one hand, we can only expect so much when UConn’s regional competition for talent has recently been granted an advantage over the Huskies.
In 2007, an offer from UConn was on or close to the same level as Syracuse, Rutgers, or Pittsburgh. Today, those schools have the upper hand due to major conference affiliation.
Still, Edsall and his staff have, in an impressively short amount of time, pulled some big wins. Beating Temple for Pindell and also flipping Temple commit Rob King is remarkable considering the Owls’ recent history of success, albeit with a different coach.
Flipping BC commit TJ Gardner and landing a commitment from in-state linebacker Dillon Harris and his impressive offer list bodes well for where Edsall and his staff can take recruiting, and the program as a result.
Perhaps most importantly, new O-line coach J.B. Grimes will need to help the Huskies find new pipelines to fill one its glaring weaknesses over the past 5+ years. While there is some potential with the youth on the line, the Huskies desperately need to find stability for this position group. He has good contacts across the south, where I think UConn may increasingly begin going to find talent up front.
Which conference will they be playing in?
Susan Herbst and David Benedict led the charge as UConn wagged its tail for the dog-and-pony show of the Big 12’s investigation into expansion. Just about every AAC school threw its hat in the ring and will continue to do so should any opportunity to upgrade open up.
That said, my guess is UConn is still in the American five years from now but may be close to a move at that time. The ACC launching a conference television network makes UConn a more valuable commodity thanks to its popular live basketball programming and a large fanbase to tap into should other sports, such as soccer or baseball, receive more television coverage.
UConn could get the call as an expansion partner to Notre Dame, who may want conference affiliation in order to have a better shot at a College Football Playoff bid if the money is comparable to its current NBC deal.
The Big 10 may want to make a move on the Risk board and further move into the northeast region while adding a basketball power and a burgeoning program to its relatively new hockey conference.
Or, the entire NCAA conference structure could collapse and give way to a new system. You never know.
The AAC really isn’t a bad place for UConn Football in the short run, what UConn needs to do now is win.