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UConn football prediction roundtable

This is not shaping up to be a tremendous season for the Huskies, but there are definitely some interesting parts to keep an eye on.

It’s time to start another UConn football season. We’ve previewed the hell out of it, taking a look at every opponent and position group. We podcasted about it, talking to Neill Ostrout of the Manchester Journal Inquirer. And we have an in-depth preview of today’s game, the FIRST-EVER meeting between UConn and Wagner on the football field.

Lastly, we offer you our predictions for the season. We kept it pretty simple this year. Feel free to share your thoughts and predictions of your own in the comments.

Over/Under: 2200 passing yards for QB Mike Beaudry

Aman Kidwai: This is a recent high-water mark for a UConn QB but not an unreasonable total in the era of open offenses and in a league with lots of bad defenses. Beaudry will have to stay on the field, with good health and good-enough performance, but I’ll go over because UConn will be behind in enough games where the Huskies are in catch-up mode and taking chunks of yards against laid-back prevent defenses.

Luke Swanson: Inexperience of the receiving corps will lead to Beaudry falling just short. 2100 yards passing, 60% completion, 16 TDs to 10 INTs is my prediction

Daniel Connolly: Over — As much as this will likely be a run-first team, I still think Beaudry surpasses the 2,200 mark. While UConn will probably try to control the clock and run the ball early in the game, if the defense is getting lit up and giving up a lot of points again, the Huskies will need to open it up and starting throwing the ball to get back in the game.

Bryant Shirreffs surpassed this mark in 2017 despite only playing in 8.5 games, so it’s not exactly the highest of bars. Even if the run game is humming, that will still open plenty of chances for Beaudry down the field. As long as the offense is competent, I think 2,200 is a reasonable mark for the new QB to attain.

Dan Madigan: Under, but like Luke said, it will be close. Beaudry put up solid numbers (3,215 yards, 29 touchdowns, 13 interceptions) in Division II and there’s no reason to think he shouldn’t be at least average. The lack of a dependable wide receiver is going to be the bigger problem here.

Leading Rusher

AK: I think there’ll be more of a time-share here than last year, but this will be Kevin Mensah. He’ll have a solid offensive line in front of him with eyes on improving on last year’s 1000-yard season.

LS: Kevin Mensah, it can't be anyone else, right?

DC: Barring injury, it’s going to be Kevin Mensah. As excited as I am to see a healthy Donevin O’Reilly and Art Thompkins, both those guys project to be more change-of-pace/receiving/third down backs, compared to Mensah who will be more of the workhouse/between the tackles back. Another 1,000-yard season should be the baseline for Mensah this season.

DM: It will almost certainly be Kevin Mensah, who hit 1,000 yards despite losing a ton of opportunities on the ground to David Pindell. I think Art Thompkins will be a stud on offense though, and while he we will do most of his damage in a receiving back role, I could see him out gaining Mensah on the ground in one or two games this season.

Leading Receiver

AK: Ardell Brown, the guy produced at Seton Hill. And even though it was Division II, Brown has the most playing experience on this team and will have the best shot of standing out in this crowd of talented but mostly unproven receiving options.

LS: My head says Quayvon Skanes or Zavier Scott, my heart says Heron Maurisseau

DC: Ardell Brown — From most accounts, the Seton Hill transfer Ardell Brown is a stud and should only pick up where he left off last season in Division II, when he caught 81 passes for 1,267 yards. He’s the most experienced target for Beaudry and with so much uncertainty elsewhere at the position and at tight end, Brown should get plenty of targets.

DM: Before suffering a season-ending knee injury, Zavier Scott led the team with 33 receptions in 10 games. Assuming he is back at full strength, he’ll likely be in the mix once again. Scott is a versatile player who excels at catching the ball out of the backfield and had some success in the slot last season. If Beaudry pans out to be a better passer than Pindell, Scott could be a major weapon in the Huskies’ offense.

Leading Tackler

AK: I’ll go with Dillon Harris, the junior college transfer who was a 3-star recruit and then spent some time at the junior college level at Lackawanna, former home of David Pindell.

LS: DJ Morgan, the grad transfer from Notre Dame should be able to step into a leading role immediately for a defense that is in need.

DC: Omar Fortt — I think Travis Jones will be the most disruptive player on defense for the Huskies, but I think Fortt racks up the most tackles. I’ve been driving the Fortt train since before he was in high school and now that he’s playing linebacker, Fortt seems poised to have a breakout season.

DM: Tyler Coyle led the team last season with 107 tackles, and by all accounts seems poised to do so once again. He could be the centerpiece of the revitalized defense and help the unit get in position to make a major leap in 2020.

Breakthrough Performance

AK: Mike Beaudry. I think he’s going to be solid and, with a waiver for a second year at UConn looking likely, could give Husky fans optimism for bowl possibilities in 2020 with a decent season this year.

LS: Heron Maurisseau

DC: Art Thompkins — He seems to be flying under the radar after transferring in from Toledo, but Thompkins has the potential to be an explosive receiving back for UConn. Put on any tape and his short-area quickness stands out immediately.

If UConn’s young receivers struggle out of the gate, that means the running backs will need to step up in the passing game, which would open the door for Thompkins to make big contributions from the start.

DM: Diamond Harrell committed to UConn just over two months ago, and while Edsall’s participation chart doesn’t tell us much, the Hartford Courant’s Alex Putterman projects him to be a starter alongside Tyler Coyle at safety. Clearly, Harrell is already doing a lot of things right in order to have snatched a starting spot up so quickly, and he has the size and experience to be a stabilizing presence in the secondary.

Win Total

AK: 3-9 - I think the Huskies will improve somewhat this year and should be able to beat Wagner, one or both of UMass or ECU, and then grab one against Illinois, Navy, or some wildcard Edsall Upset Special (bad weather, low-scoring, UConn benefits from special teams and defensive big plays and scoring).

LS: 2-10 has somehow become a pessimistic response to this question, but that’s the mark I think they’ll hit. A resounding victory over their FCS opponent and squeaking out one of either UMass, Tulsa or ECU will mark a big enough improvement.

DC: 3-9 — If we’re seeing real progress this season from Randy Edsall’s squad, I think three wins is totally attainable. They should handle Wagner (“should” being the operative word) and also beat UMass. Even though the latter is on the road, the Huskies should’ve beaten them last season and the Minutemen are certainly weaker in 2019. After that, one more against any of ECU, Navy, Tulsa or even Illinois doesn’t feel like it’s asking too much.

DM: 3-9 - I think two wins is the floor for this team, three wins is an attainable goal, and four or more wins would be a minor miracle. Wagner should be a lock, and if it isn’t this program has much bigger problems. Aside from that, UMass, Navy and ECU are all winnable games, and I don’t think it’s crazy to see a scenario where the Huskies win two of those matchups.

Edsall needs to win at least a little bit this year to show that he has the program going in the right direction and to get fans at least somewhat excited for life as an independent. If not, a one or two win season will have Edsall on thin ice heading into 2020.