Author’s disclaimer: This column is called Hot Take Tuesday. The opinions and predictions contained in this column will not all be accurate. In keeping with the hot take tradition of sports (particularly football) media, you’re probably better off taking in the spirit of the take rather than the words themselves. Don’t worry, at the end I’ll tell you how seriously to take it.
UConn football has some problems. We all knew this, of course; it was just a matter of how serious those problems were that would determine how good the Huskies would be this season. After two games, these problems look quite pronounced, but it’s still possible that this is just a consequence of playing two ranked teams in the first two games of the season—it would have taken a miracle for UConn to play well in these games.
But the problems still persist, and some of them aren’t going to be fixable this season. The players’ skills don’t mesh together perfectly yet (it typically takes until the third or fourth year in a coach’s tenure to get that together), many starting positions are filled by freshmen and sophomores who have the inexperience commonly associated with underclassmen, and perhaps most importantly, it’s hard to tell whether or not there’s enough talent on the team to compete this season.
But even with those issues factored in, it’s hard to look at the team and think the coaching staff has maximized the Huskies’ chances for success this season. Obviously, some of this is due to Bob Diaco’s poor recruiting practices that at one point left Edsall’s staff scrambling for bodies, but have the coaches this year done enough to make sure the team is on the right track?
It seems unlikely. Let’s start with the FBS-worst defense, the one that’s given up 56 and 62 points in the Huskies’ first two games, for an average of 59 points against per game—the highest in the country by a full touchdown.
In only two games, UConn has given up six touchdowns of 30 yards or more, four of which were from opposing territory. Inexperience and youth are only so responsible for this degree of struggle.
The defense is showing the same weaknesses as last season—lack of communication, susceptibility to deep passes, and poor technique—and there appear to be very few on-field adjustments made to mitigate these weaknesses. Billy Crocker is in his second season overseeing a unit that’s made no progression from last season.
Meanwhile, the UConn offense may look better, but it’s still fourth from last in points scored per game, and something’s not working quite right there either. The offensive issues showed up most prominently in Saturday’s game against Boise State, when the offensive line was charged with several false start penalties as a result of miscommunication and the playcalling often seemed to go nowhere.
First-year offensive coordinator John Dunn brings a lot to the table, but it appears he hasn’t figured out his players’ skills yet and hasn’t truly put anyone in the situation that they’re best suited to help the team in.
UConn is inexperienced, recovering from a coach who seemingly gave up on recruiting, and is much younger than all of its opponents. But these issues don’t have to spell failure, and when there is failure, it’s not always attributed to those issues.
It’s time for the coaching staff to try something different and make smarter decisions, or problems that can be overcame could lead to disaster against teams much worse than Boise State and UCF.
Hotness of take: This one’s pretty hot. While surely the coaching hasn’t been perfect, it’s far too early to make any overarching conclusions about the staff based on two games in a rebuilding year when UConn was a heavy underdog. So far, the issues with the coaching staff appear to be micro rather than macro, but I suppose it’s worth keeping an eye on to see how they adjust to weaker, more beatable opponents.
It would be hard to make the argument that there was anything the coaching staff could have done to make the Huskies anything better than 0-2 right now. They’re playing underclassmen right now; if the team doesn’t improve a year or two down the line, we can revisit this debate.