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UConn football: Edsall on defensive improvement, why he doesn’t believe in home field advantage and more

The head coach held his weekly press conference ahead of Indiana on Tuesday.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Since the 2013 season, UConn football has gone on the road and earned a win four times (in 31 tries). The Huskies haven’t won more than two games on the road in a season in over a decade, dating back to the 2009 season. Despite this, UConn head coach Randy Edsall said he doesn’t necessarily buy into the idea of “home field advantage.”

“I think the biggest thing is that it’s no different,” he said of going on the road to Indiana on Saturday. “The stadium might look different, there might be more people in the stands but ultimately when you walk between the lines, all that focus shouldn’t matter. It’s just a matter of ‘Hey I’m lining up and playing ball, I just have to go out and execute and do my job.’

Edsall wants his players to block out all the noise — good and bad — when they’re on the field and just focus on the football.

“An old coach that I had used to say ‘Just disregard all extraneous stimuli.’ That’s really what they have to do,” he said. “Just focus in on what you have to take care of and that’s executing one play at a time as hard as you can.”

Defensive improvement

Through two games, it’s clear UConn’s defense has improved from last season’s historic level of incompetence. In 2018, the Huskies allowed fewer than 49 points just twice as season. UConn has already accomplished that feat twice in its opening two games.

Nobody is going to mistake the Huskies for Alabama. But the fact that UConn has made such a noticeable improvement is impressive. So what’s behind it?

“I think guys know what they’re doing. Guys have confidence in what they’re doing, they’re playing 11 as one,” Edsall said. “We’re still making a lot of mistakes in terms of missing too many tackles but I think everyone’s hustling around, flying around. Communication is better, guys understand what we’re doing and the effort has been better.”

Kickers

Prior to UConn’s season opener against Wagner, Edsall declined to name a starting place kicker but noted the competition was between redshirt freshmen Clayton Harris and Noah Iden, with Harris having the slight edge.

Harris not only won the job, he’s been money through two games by hitting all four of his field goals and all five extra points. As long as he keeps it up, Edsall said, there’s no competition at the position.

“No, he’s our kicker. And as long as he continues to produce like everyone else, he’ll stay our kicker,” Edsall said. “Sometimes in practice he’s not as consistent as you’d like but when you look at what he did at the game, that’s what you go by. And I think he’ll get more confidence as he continues to kick.”

Going forward, it will be interesting to gauge the coaching staff’s true confidence in Harris. His longest attempt is only 35 yards and the coaches have elected to go for it on fourth down (albeit in short yardage situations) when the kick would’ve been closer to 40 yards and beyond.

Edsall backs player-likeness legislation

California made waves in the sports world this past week after the state legislature passed a law that would allow college athletes to make money off their likeness, image and name, something currently banned by the NCAA. Unsurprisingly, Edsall — who has shown on plenty of occasions that he isn’t afraid to speak against the NCAA — supports the bill. And not only that, he wants more.

“I hope every state in the union passes the bill. I hope the governor signs it in California and I know South Carolina is doing something about it,” Edsall said. “I wish Connecticut would do something about it. It’s the right thing to do, you get tired of seeing some of these things. I hope every state passes it, I hope every state takes legislation and it’s put into effect. That’s really how it’s gonna get done, NCAA isn’t going to do anything — they’ll screw it up if they have to anyhow, just like everything else.”