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UConn football position preview: Defensive backs

The Huskies’ listed starters have not seen a lot of playing time, but most have a couple of years with the program.

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the position groups on this year’s UConn football team, the defensive back situation is probably the most worrisome, at least on paper.

Former starters Omar Fortt and Ian Swenson are now linebackers, and an entirely new crop of players are listed on the 2021 depth chart due to position changes, losses to graduation, and some transfers.

Before Randy Edsall released a depth chart, it would have been hard to make a guess as to who the leading candidates would be for starting roles. Diamond Harrell (38 tackles in 2019), Kyle Williams (20 tackles), Jeremy Lucien (16 tackles), and Myles Bell (15 tackles) are the returning players with the most experience. But two years later, anyone could earn a spot or a chance to compete for playing time during this upcoming season.

As it turns out, Bell and Lucien have been named starters at cornerback, though Bell is in an “OR” situation on the depth chart with junior Tre Wortham, a junior college transfer. Harrell, now a senior, is sharing a starting safety job with redshirt sophomore Jalon Ferrell.

At the other safety position, the depth chart lists another “OR” between Malik Dixon and Durante Jones, a redshirt freshman and a freshman, respectively.

So three out of the four starting defensive back positions have no clear starter and none of the players have much in the way of proven success at the college level. And of the seven starters listed, four are underclassmen.

That said, this group has good size—every listed starter is over six feet tall— plus a lot of these players were three-star recruits. They should do better than their 2018 or 2019 counterparts (a very low bar), and most of these guys should stick around in 2022, at which point this could be a pretty strong unit. The Huskies are building for the future and hoping for the best now, kind of like our feelings for this team as a whole.

It may be a tough ride this year, though. Luckily for the UConn defense, the front seven should be pretty strong, but the secondary is going to take its lumps. Fresno State this weekend may be one of the best offenses on the schedule, a tough matchup for this team’s first game after its extended break from live football. Looking down the schedule, even teams like Purdue, Wyoming, and Yale will test this group, and games against Clemson, UCF, and Houston may get really ugly.