Randy Edsall was always known for his defensive prowess around these parts, and when he hired Billy Crocker to bring his 3-3-5 scheme to UConn, it came with the promise of a disruptive defense that confused offenses with pressure from all over the field.
So far, the defense has been butt. So butt, in fact, that it is keeping UConn from fielding anything close to a legitimately competitive team this season, even though the offense appears to have the talent to be alright.
Through six games in the 2018 season, UConn is last in the S&P+ Ratings, an overall measure of efficiency accounting for performance on both sides of the ball. S&P+ is one of the most widely accepted tempo-free and EYE TEST (TM) free rankings out there, and in its relatively short FBS existence, the Husky football program has found a new low in it.
In case you’re an analytics truther and prefer the traditional stats, UConn is extremely bad in those as well. The Husky defense is dead last (130th) in FBS in yards per carry with 7.8, nearly one full yard per carry below the 129th-ranked team. Their 658.2 total yards allowed per game are also last in the country, 107 yards PER GAME (!!!!) more than the next-worst team. At 9.2 yards allowed per play, the UConn defense is allowing 1.6 more yards per play than 129th place.
This is not just a bad defense. It’s not only the worst defense in college football this year, it’s one of the worst defenses in the modern era of the game. The next-lowest yards per game allowed since 2003 is 571 by Texas Tech in 2016. UConn would need to lower its total by about a hundred to avoid lowering that bar.
Edsall: “We’re looking at the big picture. We’re not looking at the picture taking place right now."— Neill Ostrout (@NeillOstrout) October 7, 2018
The big picture is that UConn football is under more fire than it has ever been before, with more and more of the public questioning the validity of continuing to sponsor a program at the FBS level. In the “picture taking place right now,” UConn football is setting all kinds of bad records, and this idea of a defensive scheme shift has been a dud.
When a team is rebuilding, there is a reasonable expectation that things won’t go great, and may get pretty ugly in the early going. This is beyond that.
To make matters worse, or at least slightly more confusing, the offense is not undergoing the same kind of rebuild. It’s actually got some really good playmakers and a senior quarterback whose talents are being wasted by an intentional decision to go younger than a football team has ever been. Why is David Pindell here if Edsall wasn’t looking to be competitive for these two years?
The cupboard was not that bare when Edsall took the reins over from Bob Diaco, particularly defensively, that the two-deep be so filled with freshmen. Sure, bringing in too many transfers and jucos can hinder development, but Edsall appears to have messed up the mix, or perhaps experienced more roster attrition than he expected. Either way, he needs to admit to a mistake and stop insisting that this was all part of the plan.
There is a chance these numbers improve, and UConn does deserve some leniency I suppose for playing one of the toughest schedules in the country to start the season. Still, this team allowed 49 points to FCS Rhode Island. Unless the defense can find some bright spots across the final stretch of the season, the decisions made by the coaching staff on that side of the ball deserve a whole lot of scrutiny.