UConn football’s first two games of the season were far from surprising. The nature of the losses may have been a bit more than expected but anything other than 0-2 would’ve required divine intervention. It simply confirmed what we already knew: The Huskies are at the very start of a long and probably painful rebuild.
“This is a massive rebuild,” head coach Randy Edsall said. “We’re doing everything we can but if someone thinks we can take some fairy dust and just sprinkle and think it’s gonna change, you might as well go and keep drinking alcohol or something because this isn’t easy.”
Edsall compared the program when he left in 2010 to Boise State and used them as a measuring stick for where the two programs are close to a decade later.
“Our program was here (holding his hand by his head) when I left in 2010, just like Boise State’s,” Edsall said. “There’s stayed there, this one went here (moving his hand down).”
While the coach did leave rather abruptly for Maryland after the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, it shouldn’t have come as a huge shock to UConn administrators. After all, it’s common for college football coaches to move to a new job if they perceive it as an upgrade. The difference between Edsall leaving and Boise State’s head coaches jumping ship is the infrastructure in place to handle said departures.
“They’ve lost coaches and they’ve promoted from within and they’ve kept the same system all the way through,” Edsall said. “They hired a guy from within because they knew what it took to be successful there and they kept it going.
“That didn’t happen here.”
Now, it’s up to Edsall to fix the mess and try to bring the program back to a respectable level.
“It’s just a shame what happened from 2011-2017. You can’t get it back,” he said. “But it’s a great lesson that when you don’t do the right things how quickly it can go.”
There’s a handful of changes to UConn’s defense. Edsall declared safety Omar Fortt doubtful for Saturday’s game after the sophomore sustained a concussion against Boise State. Jeremy Lucien became the third freshmen to start at cornerback opposite Tahj Herring-Wilson in as many weeks, while Darrian Beavers moved from linebacker to defensive end.
Edsall felt that with the team’s shift from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3 defensive scheme, Beavers would be more effective on the edge.
“When I looked at Darrian and watched him play at linebacker — not that I don’t think he could be a good linebacker — I think he could be a better defensive end especially in the scheme we’re playing now,” Edsall said.
“So now you take him and put him at defensive end, he’s going to be practicing there every day instead of maybe going there to do some things from a pass rush standpoint. He’s there working it every day and I think he’ll end up making us that much better.”
In the season opener against UCF, the Huskies made a big change along the defensive line by changing from a three-man front to a four-man front. Overall, as mentioned above, the team is playing a modified 4-3 scheme, with the third linebacker playing the hybrid safety/linebacker “Husky” position.
Edsall says the change in scheme is simply a product of the players they have to work with.
“I just felt when I took a look at our personnel with the young men we brought in with Lwal [Ugauk], Jonathan [Pace] and Pierce [DeVaughn], I said this is the direction we have to go to have the most success moving forward.”
While a lot of college coaches are recruiting smaller linemen on either side of the ball due to the prevalence of spread offenses, Edsall is sticking to a more old-school philosophy.
“If you don’t win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, you got no chance. You got no chance,” he said. “You can have all those pretty boys you want out there running the ball, catching the ball, but look at your successful teams. It’s what they have up front.”
However, with so many young linemen on the depth chart, it takes time to develop them into impact players.
“You see the youth in there, we have a chance to be pretty good up front on defense with time,” Edsall said. “All I can do is control what I can control to put ourselves in the position to continue to get better this year and get better next year and so forth.”