One of the few areas staying the same for UConn football as the Huskies move from former head coach Bob Diaco’s defense to that of Billy Crocker is in the trenches. Both Crocker’s 3-3-5 and Diaco’s 3-4 feature only three down linemen. The Huskies’ front line has its share of playmakers, but the primary focus will be taking up blockers to free up the linebackers and even blitzing defensive backs to make plays.
Luke Carrezola - SR - Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Carrezola has been a constant presence on the Huskies’ defensive line for the last two seasons, starting 24 games and recording 19.5 tackles per loss in that span, the most on the team. He occupied a hybrid DE/LB role in the 3-4, where his top-end combination of size and speed allowed him to excel on the edge. This season, Crocker’s more aggressive approach could lead to some more TFLs and sacks after he had just three last season. As a possible NFL prospect, a strong senior campaign would make professional dreams a reality.
Sheridan Lawley - RS JR - Abbottsford, British Columbia
Lawley will be backing up Carrezola against Holy Cross after playing in all 12 games last season, recording five tackles and one sack.
Foley Fatukasi - RS SR - Far Rockaway, New York
Much like Carrezola, Fatukasi has been a mainstay on the line for the past few seasons, appearing in all 37 of UConn’s games over the past three years, and has a chance in the NFL Draft. After being named an All-American Athletic Conference honorable mention in 2015 after recording 50 tackles (eight for loss), three sacks and four forced fumbles, Fatukasi was solid last season with 43 tackles and three sacks. He will likely be playing in between Carrezola and Cole Ormsby as an interior tackle.
Kevin Murphy - RS SO - West Chester, Pennsylvania
Murphy was a well-regarded recruit three years ago and should see a more prominent role this season as a traditional nose tackle. Last year, he recorded eight tackles and one sack in 11 games.
Cole Ormsby - RS SR - Windsor, Connecticut
Ormsby was tied for the team lead in sacks last season with four and had nine quarterback hurries. He should be able to put similar numbers at a minimum this season. The 6-foot-3, 264-pound Ormsby could see an uptick from production as opponents try to double Fatukasi or Carrezola, leaving Ormsby a chance to dominate one-on-one matchups on the outside.
James Atkins - RS JR - Saugus, Massachusetts
Atkins has played sparingly in his time with UConn, playing just three games in 2015 and not seeing any game action last year. Despite the lack of experience, he managed to show enough to Randy Edsall and Crocker to make the two-deep. His 6-foot-5, 266-pound frame makes him an imposing matchup for opponents to deal with.
Connor Freeborn, Philippe Okounam, Noel Brouse, Andrew Migliaccio and Carlton Steer are the other returning linemen on the roster, with Caleb Thomas joining as the only true freshman. Okounam, 6-foot-5, and Garson, at 6-foot-7, are intriguing options for the future due to their size but have yet to see game action at the collegiate level.
With the core of Ormsby, Fatukasi, and Carrezola, the Huskies’ defensive front should be able to pressure quarterbacks, but its overall success will likely depend on how well the less experienced rotational players adjust to the speed of the collegiate game.