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UConn Football 2017 Staff Predictions

Bookmark this so you can laugh at us after the season ends.

Ian Bethune - The UConn Blog

Just a few more hours until kick-off! Our staff got together to make some guesses for how this season will turn out.

Offensive MVP

Aman Kidwai: David Pindell. Quarterback is the most important position on the field and Pindell represents a big upgrade for the Huskies. If this season is to go better than expected, which is very possible, he’ll have a lot to do with it.

Shawn McGrath: David Pindell. Arkeel Newsome is going to be the popular vote and he is probably the best player on the offense, but if Pindell is a capable passer, then it will really allow Newsome to be who he can be. Otherwise, teams will load eight men in the box and the Huskies will struggle to move the ball.

Daniel Connolly: Arkeel Newsome. He's going to be picked by everyone else but his skillset is so valuable and he's just head and shoulders above everyone else. That's not a knock on anyone -- Arkeel is just really damn good.

Ian Bethune: I'm going with David Pindell. He has the keys to a high octane offense and a lot off good weapons around him. He'll distribute the ball around in Rhett Lashlee's offense.

Dan Madigan: Arkeel Newsome. Newsome has been one of the few bright spots in the UConn offense these past few years, and will continue to be a top contributor this season. His ability to run between and outside the tackles combined with solid pass-catching skills should make him the focal point of Rhett Lashlee's up-tempo offense, leading to a lot of yards and touchdowns.

Defensive MVP

Aman: Junior Joseph. So many people to choose from here, but I think Joseph can take his game to the next level this season and may be the greatest beneficiary of the new scheme.

Shawn McGrath: Jamar Summers. He took a step back last year and in the Syracuse game particularly, he needed help over the top and the coaching staff didn’t adjust. If he can get back to 2015 Jamar Summers, that will help what might be the shakiest defensive unit.

Daniel Connolly: Luke Carrezola: Not too put pressure on him, but I don't think anybody is going to be able to block Carrezola this season. Teams are going to try, but sorry, it's not going to work.

Ian Bethune: I'm going with co-defensive MVP's. Foley Fatukasi and Luke Carrezola. Both of these guys can be totally unblockable at times and that won't change in the 3-3-5

Dan Madigan: Jamar Summers. After an outstanding season in 2015, Summers wasn't as great in 2016 and even got burned by some top wide receivers. This year, I think Summers will return to his 2015 form with multiple interceptions on his way to becoming the next UConn defensive back in the NFL.

Breakout Offensive Player

Aman: Keyion Dixon. Still room on the bandwagon folks, but not for long.

Shawn McGrath: Pindell. He’s new and going from junior college to the American Athletic Conference is a big difference, but I think that he’s up to the task.

Daniel Connolly: Keyion Dixon: I'm certain Aman is going to join me in this prediction. Keyion's potential is through the roof and he's going to put it all together soon. When he does...well...I wouldn't want to be on the opposing sideline.

Ian Bethune: Glastonbury, CT native Keyion Dixon is my breakout offensive player. Just a redshirt freshman, he'll have a role in the offense and as he garners the trust of Edsall and Lashlee plus his quarterback, Pindell, he'll see his number called more often.

Dan Madigan: Tommy Myers and Alec Bloom. The tight ends were grossly underutilized last season, something that should almost certainly change this season. Myers and Bloom are both athletic with good hands and will serve as two big-time red zone targets for David Pindell.

Leading Receiver

Aman Kidwai: Hergy Mayala. He’ll be the top outside receiver and has been under the radar despite being one of the Huskies’ most talented receivers last year.

Shawn McGrath: Tyriaq Beals. He was the second guy behind Noel Thomas last year and while he won’t replace Thomas, Beals will succeed being the No. 1 guy.

Daniel Connolly: Tyraiq Beals: With the new quick-strike offense, I think Beals agility will allow him to get separation quickly and catch a lot of short passes that he can turn into bigger gains.

Ian Bethune: Quayvon Skanes will see a lot of time in the slot and with his speed, he should be able to break open some big gainers.

Dan Madigan: Tyraiq Beals. I was really impressed with Beals' play last season, and while he isn't the second coming of Noel Thomas, he won't have to be in order to succeed in this offense. Beals has enough speed and pass-catching ability to be both a big-play maker and reliable target when it really matters.

Breakout Defensive Player

Aman: Tre Bell. This feels a little unfair, but having Bell lock down that corner position will be huge for the Huskies’ young secondary. If I need to go with someone younger, I’ll take Tyler Coyle.

Shawn McGrath: Tyler Coyle. He’s listed as a starter on the first two-deep of the year and he has solid size (6-foot-1, 202 pounds). With Obi Melifonwu and John Green gone, he will be given ample opportunity to succeed.

Daniel Connolly: Omar Fortt: I had the chance to see Fortt at Michigan's satellite camp at Cheshire Academy in 2016 and have been impressed with him ever since. I was stoked when he came to UConn and I think the extra practices in the spring will give him a chance to excel sooner rather than later.

Ian Bethune: Chris Britton has a chance to be something special at linebacker. He finally saw the field in redshirt sophomore year and showed some promise. He's earned one of the starting linebacker jobs and is going to end up with a lot of tackles.

Dan Madigan: Junior Joseph. Joseph has been pretty productive during his time with the Huskies, but still hasn't gotten as much hype as E.J. Levenberry did prior to his injury or Vontae Diggs. I think Joseph makes his final season his best and establishes himself as one of the best linebackers in the American Athletic Conference.

Most Improved Unit

Aman: Quarterback. I think David Pindell is the upgrade we’ve been looking for for a while. He’s a good fit for the scheme, has playing experience, and should be able to drive significant improvement for what has been a really cruddy offense. I’ll also give a shout to the receivers here, who are going to step up and fill Noel Thomas’ shoes as a group.

Shawn McGrath: I think that the offense as a whole will be much improved. The offensive line is full of experienced players and I think that Rhett Lashlee’s offense will allow players to succeed.

Daniel Connolly: Punt returns. If Jordan Swann returns a punt for 24 yards tonight, it will eclipse the Huskies’ total return yardage from the past two seasons.

Ian Bethune: This should be a no-brainer for everyone. The offense. They were one of the worst in the country last year and didn't score a touchdown in the first quarter of any game. So if UConn scores a touchdown in the first quarter versus Holy Cross tonight, they've already won most improved unit.

Dan Madigan: It has to be the offense, who simply cannot be as bad as they were last season. Lashlee's new offense, Newsome and more frequent use of the tight ends will help make up for the loss of Noel Thomas and help the Huskies score more than they did last season.

Most Important Game of the Season

Aman: UVA, 9/16. If UConn can beat a downtrodden UVA team in week 3, than this is a better team than most think. If not, we’re in a developmental season.

Shawn McGrath: Boston College. The former Big East rival decimated them in Chestnut Hill last year and it was just embarrassing. It’s imperative for them to put up a fight at Fenway Park this year in what should be a unique experience.

Daniel Connolly: Boston College: There's not a whole lot of pride with the football team right now. Give me the damn win over BC in their backyard after they were too scared to come to the Rent and I'll call this a successful season even if that's the only game we win.

Ian Bethune: I think every game this season is important. But the USF game will let the Huskies know where they stand offensively and defensively for the rest of the year.

Dan Madigan: 9/16 at Virginia. A road win would do wonders to keep the Edsall era 2.0 optimism alive, especially if the Huskies suffer big home loss to USF. Even though UConn hasn't won on the road since 2015, the Cavaliers are beatable, and beating a Power-5 team on the road could give UConn the momentum it needs to have a shot at a bowl game.

Upset Pick

Aman: Boston College. Last year’s effort was downright embarrassing. Randy Edsall knows how much this means for the program, regardless of the record, and will make it happen.

Shawn McGrath: USF is the only elite team on the schedule and will likely be ranked headed into their meeting on September 9, so the Bulls have to be the pick.

Daniel Connolly: USF: USF gonna USF.

Ian Bethune: Given that Boston College smoked us last year at BC and they play in the ACC, I say UConn surprises them at Fenway Park on a late field goal.

Dan Madigan: 10/28 vs Missouri. Is it likely? No. But when this home-and-home series was announced a few years back, I said that UConn would topple Mizzou when they got to the Rent. A lot has changed with the Huskies since then, but I'm going to stick to my word.

Wildcard

Aman: I think no matter what happens on the field, games at the Rent will be fun in a way they haven’t been before and attendance ends up higher than any Diaco season.

Shawn McGrath: UConn will be 3-1 at the end of September and have some real momentum to get themselves in bowl contention with early October games against Memphis and Temple.

Daniel Connolly: UConn will wear a new uniform this season, most likely an alternate. I'd also guess (and hope) this is also the last season of the current uniforms before Edsall gets his way for a total overhaul that brings the Block C back.

Ian Bethune: Not only will UConn return a punt this year (see the arm raised just about every time last year by whomever some coach now at Nebraska bad out there as a "punt returner"), they will have a punt return for a touchdown. That is something we haven't seen since Deshon Foxx did in 2014.

Dan Madigan: Three different Huskies will have at least 21 punt return yards, more than UConn had as a team all last season.

Final Record

Aman: 5-7. I’m really feeling it right now, but I think the upgrade at quarterback and offensive coordinator will pay huge dividends. It will put less pressure on the O-line, get more out of the skill position talent, and actually be able to move the ball in a way that befits modern tackle football.

Shawn McGrath: I think that this team’s floor is 3-9 (wins against Holy Cross, Virginia, East Carolina) and wouldn’t be surprised if they end up there, but out of SMU, Tulsa, Missouri, UCF and Boston College they will be able to eke out two more wins.

Daniel Connolly: 4-8: I'm really high on this team but I think it'll be a classic team that wins the games they can and loses the ones they're supposed to. But I think there's going to be two or three games this season that are close which could push this team into a bowl if the bounces go their way.

Ian Bethune: 6-6 I think UConn will surprise a few teams that took them for granted and will get back to a bowl game in Edsall's first year back in Storrs.

Dan Madigan: 4-8. This team may be better than 4-8, but the schedule is tough enough this to not allow for much wiggle room. The best chance for the Huskies to improve on this record is to win a game on the road, something they haven't done since a 7-3 thriller in New Orleans over Tulane in 2015. Despite a relatively challenging schedule, there are some games on there that are certainly winnable. A bowl game is certainly within reach, but four wins is much more likely.

What do you think? Share you predictions in the comment section below!