A lot has changed since Randy Edsall’s last tenure at UConn. However, two things are still the same: The Huskies have a dynamic playmaker at running back but are still searching for an answer at quarterback.
Arkeel Newsome - SR - Ansonia, Connecticut
Starting at running back, Arkeel Newsome is not only the Huskies’ best offensive player, he could be one of the best in the entire conference. Despite playing behind a bad offensive line during the first three years of his career, his yards-per-carry have increased every season from 4.0 to 4.3 and finally 4.9 last season.
With his speed and quickness, Newsome is capable of making defenders miss and is seemingly always a threat to take it to the house. Last season, he ripped off a 67-yard run against Cincinnati and he ran away with a 90-yard touchdown against East Carolina the previous season.
Not only is Newsome electric running the ball, he’s also a threat coming out of the backfield. After catching 45 passes as a sophomore, Newsome regressed, along with the rest of the offense, last season to just 25 catches. However, with so much youth at receiver, look for offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to try and get the ball into the Ansonia native’s hands in space as much as possible.
Jason Thompson - RS JR - Shelton, Connecticut
As much of a weapon as Newsome is, the staff will need to manage his workload in order to keep him fresh towards the end of the season. After releasing the two-deep depth chart on Wednesday, it appears Jason Thompson and Nate Hopkins will be the ones to help shoulder the rest of the load.
Last season, Thompson started one game against Cincinnati after Arkeel Newsome was suspended for the first quarter. He carried the ball three times for 20 yards, good for 6.7 yards per carry. Hopkins, meanwhile, redshirted last season but collected three touchdowns in the spring game.
Nate Hopkins - RS FR - Flower Mound, Texas
The two backs are perfect complements to each other, as Thompson’s 5-foot-7 frame is better for a scat/third down back, whereas the 6-foot-1, 218 pound Hopkins is more suited for running between the tackles and short-yardage situations. The Texas native will have a lot to offer the Huskies for many seasons to come.
Ja’Kevious Vickers - RS FR - Belle Glade, Florida
Vickers could also get snaps as the fourth running back, especially if someone goes down with an injury. A member of the class of 2016 with Hopkins, Vickers collected 54 yards in the spring game.
Kevin Mensah - FR - Worcester, Massachusetts
Mensah was a late addition to the Huskies, joining the program this summer. The Worcester native reclassified to this season, however he will likely redshirt the season. His skillset is more in line with the scat-back role.
David Pindell - JR - Columbia, Maryland
Lining up in the same backfield as the running backs is the Huskies’ new starting quarterback, David Pindell. The junior college transfer beat out incumbent starter Bryant Shirreffs in camp and will be handed the reigns of the new offense.
Last season at Lackawanna CC, Pindell threw for 2,424 yards while collecting 51 with his feet. He also protected the ball well, throwing just seven interceptions to 31 touchdowns.
Pindell’s dual-threat ability is similar to his predecessor, although he comes with a stronger and more accurate arm. His athleticism will also help him if the offensive line struggles as it has in years past.
Bryant Shirreffs - RS SR - Jefferson, Georgia
If Pindell struggles or goes down with an injury, Bryant Shirreffs is the top back up. He started the last two seasons for the Huskies and has shown to be able to make plays with his legs and inconsistent at best with his arm. However, he is a solid insurance policy for the staff.
Marvin Washington - FR - Orlando, Florida
The third member of the quarterback competition, Marvin Washington, will likely redshirt the season. He was a signing day flip from UCF and appears to be well-liked by the new staff.
Jordan McAfee - FR - Everett, Massachusetts
The other quarterback from the class of 2017, McAfee was injured during training camp and did not compete for the starting job. He is a quarterback to watch in the future, but will redshirt this season.
Brandon Bisack - RS SO - Fairfield, Connecticut
Bisack started the spring game opposite Bryant Shirreffs after Donovan Williams went down with an injury, but has since fallen back on the depth chart. A walk-on from Fairfield, CT, Bisack would need a lot to happen in order to see the field this season.
Under Lashlee’s new offense, everybody is expecting a major turnaround from the offense. It shouldn’t be difficult to rise from last season’s horrendous performance, but for the unit to become a strength, Pindell and the running backs need to step up.