A little over nine months ago, on November 26, 2016, a UConn team led by Bob Diaco put on another shameful display of American tackle football against Tulane. Against the team the Huskies were tied with for last in the conference, they lost 38-13. It was the fourth straight blowout loss of the season and left the program in a dark place.
Even though the idea disgusted most of the fan base, conventional wisdom suggested Diaco would get one more year to right the ship. Objectively, Diaco deserved to go, but the Husky athletic department has been cash-strapped ever since being relegated to the American Athletic Conference and firing him would have incurred a seemingly untenable buyout fee.
And yet, there we were, on the morning of December 26, blessed with the news that Diaco was out and that a replacement was coming quickly. Speculation ran rampant, but soon we found out a familiar face was returning to Storrs/East Hartford.
If we didn’t know already, we knew for sure at this point that athletic director David Benedict is a smooth operator. He kept the Diaco firing under wraps, and when he made the controversial decision to bring Randy Edsall back, it was not met with universal excitement. Far from it, in fact.
But Benedict stood by his decision and the ensuing weeks gave Husky fans plenty of reasons for optimism for the Edsall Era 2.0. It wouldn’t be the first time a head coach returned to a school and achieved success.
First, Edsall was contrite and sincere in his introductory press conference, which was a good first step in getting Husky fans who felt spurned by his departure back into the fold. Second, Edsall came at a pretty reasonable price. Given the aforementioned financial circumstances, further hampered by Diaco’s buyout, this was good for the school and also for the assistant coaching salary pool.
The first four assistant coaching hires came from within Edsall’s circle. They were former players, people who had worked with him at UConn and/or Maryland, and while qualified, not very surprising additions to his staff. Things really started to get interesting once his coordinator hires came to light.
Rhett Lashlee joining as offensive coordinator was a major breakthrough, and the first solid indication that Edsall 2.0 would be different. He held the same position at Auburn and promised an upgrade to an exciting style which would play well with recruits, fans, and the scoreboard. We had a great opportunity to speak with Auburn’s SB Nation site to learn about what type of scheme the Huskies would be implementing.
Billy Crocker as defensive coordinator could turn out to be almost as meaningful as Lashlee’s hire. The Connecticut native was very successful at Villanova and also brings a much more exciting style on that side of the ball than his predecessors, as we learned from our conversation with VU Hoops. We followed up with more info on the defense at AAC Media Day and again at the team’s media day.
Hey, remember that time Randy Edsall pulled a scholarship offer and the whole world overreacted? Yeah, me neither.
Meanwhile, the fanbase got a bit peeved when a home game against Boston College got farmed out to Fenway Park, but such is life in the American Athletic Conference.
On the recruiting trail, Edsall and staff had their first additions by late January and still managed to pull some big wins before National Signing Day. They beat Temple and Buffalo for David Pindell and got in-state linebacker TJ Gardner to flip from Boston College to UConn. They also added a second 2017 QB commit in former UCF verbal Marvin Washington.
We got our first chance to see the new-look Huskies in the Spring Game and they did not disappoint. The offense ran a lot of plays and looked pretty exciting, which was enough for Husky faithful. We had a chance to speak about the Spring Game performance with former Huskies Dalton Gifford and the great Dan Orlovsky in our most recent podcast, returning soon.
Dear Diary: on April 25, I decided UConn won’t be terrible this year.
We got some more good news in June when former 2016 recruit Jay Rose’s return to the program was officially announced. UConn also proceeded to go buck wild on the recruiting trail for the class of 2018, adding 15 2018 commitments by the end of July in addition to about five scholarship players who joined the program in the fall of 2017.
There was some drama with the way Randy Edsall added his son Corey to the staff. Whateva.
Earlier this month, Benedict gave a really interesting, informative interview with Joe D’Ambrosio on WTIC 1080, where he revealed what he liked about Edsall and how it’s coming to bear in his first few months at the helm.
Former QBs Tyler Davis and Donovan Williams moved to wide receiver. Davis had moved to tight end last year and just moved further out the line of scrimmage this year. The Huskies also added a punter who was previously working as a plumber in Australia.
In mid-August, just a few weeks into camp, Pindell earned the starting nod at quarterback. A little over a week later, we got our first depth chart, which we broke down in detail here. We also broke down the roster at every position group and did a series of over/under guesses for the offense and defense (coming soon). We’ll have roundtable predictions and a crapload of pregame coverage here across the day as well as our normal thorough game coverage here and on the Twitter.
Ultimately, the point of reviewing all this is to encourage all ye Husky faithful. UConn Football is in a much, much better place than it was nine months ago, better than we could have ever imagined. Here’s to beating the world’s very low expectations and proving that the future is bright.