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The big 2014 UConn football preview: Diaco's Huskies have plenty of questions

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

UConn showed decent growth after Paul Pasqualoni's firing but must replace quite a few defensive weapons. How quickly can new head coach Bob Diaco craft something interesting to attract attention at this basketball school?

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Starting over

But while Pitt (the second time around) and WVU hired young, offensively-minded up-and-comers in the coaching ranks, UConn went conservative. They hired an infinitely more experienced, defensive-minded coach in former Syracuse head man Paul Pasqualoni.

Once I realized that Pasqualoni is somehow only 61 years old (my first guess would have been much closer to 70 -- he's been around forever), I warmed to the hire a bit. Though he couldn't quite replicate the success that his predecessor Dick MacPherson found at Syracuse, his profile was probably raised by successor Greg Robinson's struggles. Pasqualoni won 107 games in 14 seasons at The 'Cuse and finished with the best conference record in the fledgling Big East six times. He inherits a team in transition, in a conference in transition. I cannot tell you if this was a good hire, but the thought process -- if the conference's stable of coaches is young and, in some cases, high on offensive potential, then going with experience and defense could pay off -- was one I can defend. So they've got that going for them.

I tried as hard as I could to talk myself into UConn's hire of Paul Pasqualoni three years ago. I really did. He's got a good defensive mind, and he knows the northeast. But hires that feel underwhelming often feel that way because they are indeed underwhelming, and sometimes going against the grain simply means going against what is most likely to work.

UConn was likely in need of a reset following Randy Edsall's departure to College Park, and some temporary stagnation or regression was perhaps to be expected. And despite a faulty record, UConn was mostly stagnant in Pasqualoni's first two years -- the Huskies ranked 63rd in the F/+ rankings in Edsall's last season and (because of a stout defense) 54th and 61st in Pasqualoni's first two. But with impatience growing (and let's be honest: there was impatience from the start), UConn completely collapsed at the beginning of the 2013 season. The Huskies began the season 0-4, and Pasqualoni was dismissed.

Enter Bob Diaco. The 41-year old was born in New Jersey, played college football at Iowa, and spent the last four seasons as a member of the Brian Kelly coaching tree at Cincinnati and Notre Dame. He is young and enthusiastic, and he knows exactly what he's getting himself into.

I asked Diaco recently what he encountered when he took the job in December and what he realized needed immediate change. His response:

The care and cleanliness of the facility. The locker room, the player lounge, the hallways, the traffic in the building. It had basically become a free-for-all.

We had to raise the team's expectations and understanding of our expectations for how they treated things. We had to make a lot of changes for them in the building to help shine everything up so it became something respectable looking again. [...]

Right now, we're working to eliminate the things that cause losing. It's every day. Performance on the field is just a microcosm of lifestyle. That's what we're focused on -- changing the culture here for the football team. A lack of attention to detail, a lack of physical and mental conditioning, a lack of expectation and confidence due to poor preparation. Communication and presentation. Making sure we're operating at a high level there. And you're talking about inside the play, and you're talking about just in the day. It's all the same. I could name another 100 things that we've tried to inspect hard in these first few months. Everything that's being consumed in this facility.

UConn actually played pretty well in the last month of the season and returns a lot of the reasons for late-season offensive competence. With a couple of breaks, they could potentially compete for a minor bowl bid this year. But this does take on the feel of a Year Zero situation like the one Willie Taggart inherited at USF. Diaco is young, enthusiastic and charismatic and has a lovely résumé. He could certainly turn out successful in short order. But we'll forego actually defining any sort of expectations for the 2014 season.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 93
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
29-Aug Towson N/A 18-33 L 17.3 - 27.5 L
14-Sep Maryland 63 21-32 L 23.3 - 33.1 L
21-Sep Michigan 37 21-24 L 14.3 - 20.3 L
28-Sep at Buffalo 80 12-41 L 15.0 - 26.8 L
12-Oct South Florida 99 10-13 L 18.2 - 20.8 L -8.1
19-Oct at Cincinnati 64 16-41 L 33.1 - 36.3 L -6.7
26-Oct at Central Florida 21 17-62 L 15.3 - 33.0 L -8.3
8-Nov Louisville 12 10-31 L 25.5 - 20.1 W -6.0
16-Nov at SMU 84 21-38 L 22.7 - 35.2 L -6.1
23-Nov at Temple 98 28-21 W 11.8 - 23.2 L -7.9
30-Nov Rutgers 91 28-17 W 30.9 - 23.3 W -5.8
7-Dec Memphis 83 45-10 W 43.2 - 20.0 W 2.4
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -11.9% 109 +1.0% 59 -2.3% 101
Points Per Game 20.6 108 30.3 86
Adj. Points Per Game 22.5 105 26.6 58

2. Sustainable improvement

It was pretty early in the year for a firing, but nobody could be too surprised when Pasqualoni was fired four games (and four losses) into the 2013 season. UConn had managed to drop a tight home game to Michigan and stay reasonably close to Maryland, but ... when you enter the season on a hot seat, you probably can't afford to lose to Towson and Buffalo by a combined 74-30. Sure Towson was a strong FCS team, and sure, Buffalo was a pretty good MAC team, but ... 74-30. Towson and Buffalo.

Improvement was slight directly after Pasqualoni's termination, but it grew.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Opponent 26.9, UConn 17.5 (minus-9.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 3 games): Opponent 30.0, UConn 22.2 (minus-7.8)
Adj Points Per Game (last 5 games): UConn 26.8, Opponent 24.4 (plus-2.4)

There were still plenty of down moments along the way, but after righting the ship a bit in October, UConn was downright decent in November. The Huskies looked semi-competent against Louisville, then ripped off three increasingly impressive wins to end the season.

If you are good enough for long enough over the last half of the season, and if the reasons for your improvement return the next season, then this step up could be sustainable. UConn's step toward offensive competence could indeed be a sign of good things to come, but losses on the defense give me pause.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.05 107 IsoPPP+ 94.7 90
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 36.9% 114 Succ. Rt. + 87.8 103
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 33.5 116 Def. FP+ 94.4 111
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.9 95 Redzone S&P+ 88.8 101
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.9 ACTUAL 25 +4.1
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 114 107 104 96
RUSHING 121 91 93 101
PASSING 65 113 107 77
Standard Downs 105 95 113
Passing Downs 106 102 39
Q1 Rk 73 1st Down Rk 103
Q2 Rk 105 2nd Down Rk 100
Q3 Rk 112 3rd Down Rk 101
Q4 Rk 93

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Casey Cochran 6'1, 226 So. 3 stars (5.7) 111 175 1293 11 4 63.4% 4 2.2% 7.1
Tim Boyle 6'4, 212 So. 3 stars (5.7) 59 133 621 0 8 44.4% 18 11.9% 3.4
Chandler Whitmer 6'1, 193 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 71 129 896 5 6 55.0% 19 12.8% 5.0
Michael Ecke 6'4, 173 So. NR

3. Putting it on Cochran's shoulders

So here's what we know from new offensive coordinator Mike Cummings' time running the Central Michigan offense: standard downs are for rushing, and passing downs are for passing. CMU ran about three percent more than the national average on standard downs and passed almost 11 percent more than average on passing downs. That puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback to make tough throws; that also means quite a bit of opportunity (and, yes, pressure) on Casey Cochran. The presumptive starter for 2014, Cochran was far and away the most effetive of three quarterbacks in last season's pass-heavy system; he took far fewer sacks than Tim Boyle or Chandler Whitmer, he threw fewer interceptions, and he was completed more passes to his own team. He started the spring game and acquitted himself alright, and he seems to have strong odds of starting on August 29 against BYU. He was well-regarded out of high school and could give Diaco and Cummings a rather high-quality signal-caller for the foreseeable future.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Lyle McCombs RB 5'8, 175 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 159 670 5 4.2 5.7 31.4%
Max DeLorenzo RB 6'0, 207 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 99 349 5 3.5 2.1 32.3%
Martin Hyppolite RB 33 160 1 4.8 3.7 39.4%
Deshon Foxx WR 5'10, 172 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 14 59 0 4.2 2.3 57.1%
Chandler Whitmer QB 6'1, 193 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 18 0 1.6 2.1 18.2%
Tim Boyle QB 6'4, 212 So. 3 stars (5.7) 9 39 0 4.3 6.9 44.4%
Jazzmar Clax FB 5'11, 239 So. 3 stars (5.5) 7 11 0 1.6 1.3 14.3%
Casey Cochran QB 6'1, 226 So. 3 stars (5.7) 6 6 1 1.0 1.5 16.7%
Joshua Marriner RB 5'8, 192 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Arkeel Newsome RB 5'7, 170 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Ron Johnson RB 6'0, 215 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)




Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Geremy Davis WR 6'3, 215 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 114 71 1085 62.3% 27.9% 53.0% 9.5 211 8.8 120.0
Deshon Foxx WR 5'10, 172 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 75 43 534 57.3% 18.3% 51.6% 7.1 -19 7.0 59.0
Shakim Phillips WR


42 28 406 66.7% 10.3% 71.4% 9.7 73 7.4 44.9
Sean McQuillan TE 6'4, 237 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 34 25 196 73.5% 8.3% 80.0% 5.8 -88 6.0 21.7
Lyle McCombs RB 5'8, 175 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 31 20 75 64.5% 7.6% 42.9% 2.4 -167 3.1 8.3
Brian Lemelle WR 5'10, 160 So. 3 stars (5.6) 29 16 177 55.2% 7.1% 83.3% 6.1 -33 4.3 19.6
Dhameer Bradley WR 5'9, 168 So. 3 stars (5.7) 29 13 119 44.8% 7.1% 37.5% 4.1 -73 5.8 13.2
Max DeLorenzo RB 6'0, 207 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 14 8 69 57.1% 3.4% 70.0% 4.9 -34 6.2 7.6
Spencer Parker TE 14 3 25 21.4% 3.4% 53.8% 1.8 -48 1.9 2.8
John Green WR 5'10, 177 So. 2 stars (5.4) 11 5 40 45.5% 2.7% 57.1% 3.6 -33 3.2 4.4
Kamal Abrams WR 5'11, 186 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 9 4 34 44.4% 2.2% 100.0% 3.8 -25 0.3 3.8
Noel Thomas WR 6'1, 183 So. 3 stars (5.5) 3 3 32 100.0% 0.7% N/A 10.7 2 0.0 3.5
Quinn Thompson TE 6'4, 244 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Thomas Lucas WR 6'2, 194 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Tommy Myers TE 6'5, 237 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)







4. All the experience in the world

Players responsible for almost every rushing and receiving yard return in 2014. This is almost never going to be a bad thing, even for an offense that needed a bit more talent and play-making ability than it actually had.

In Lyle McCombs, UConn has a low-efficiency back who does strong things rare open-field opportunities. In Geremy Davis, the Huskies have a strong No. 1 wideout, capable of breaking off big plays (15.3 yards per catch) with minimal all-or-nothing risk (62 percent catch rate). In Josh Marriner, Dhameer Bradley, Brian Lemelle, and incoming freshman Arkeel Newsome, UConn has youngsters with pretty high expectations. If a couple of youngsters are able to surpass veterans, UConn could have the benefit of both experience and new blood, and Cochran will have plenty of options overall.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 93.6 2.32 2.87 33.0% 55.0% 26.9% 73.1 3.3% 14.3%
Rank 91 123 103 120 114 125 105 30 122
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Steve Greene LG 32
Kevin Friend RT 30
Jimmy Bennett LT 27
Alex Mateas C 6'4, 315 Sr. NR 16
Tyler Bullock RG 14
Gus Cruz RG 6'4, 309 Sr. 2 stars (5.0) 10
Dalton Gifford RT 6'5, 309 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 6
Xavier Hemingway LT 1
Tyler Samra RG 6'2, 299 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 1
Kyle Schafenacker LG 6'3, 290 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Bryan Paull C 6'4, 304 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Tommy Hopkins OL 6'6, 298 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)

5. What happens up front?

Remember how I said that Cummings was more likely than average to run on standard downs and pass on passing downs? It probably bears mentioning that UConn was 123rd in standard downs line yards and 123rd in passing downs sack rate. Granted, the sack rates improved dramatically when Cochran was in the game instead of the dreadfully sack-prone Boyle and Whitmer; still, that's not a great combination, especially when you factor in the experience level. UConn must replace four players who had combined for 103 career starts.

Four others with experience return (33 career starts), but an already shaky line got thinner over the offseason. This puts a pretty solid damper on potential skill-position enthusiasm.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.23 99 IsoPPP+ 97.2 79
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.3% 32 Succ. Rt. + 103.2 46
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 27.4 107 Off. FP+ 91.6 122
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.9 40 Redzone S&P+ 101.2 54
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.7 ACTUAL 24.0 +1.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 52 50 46 65
RUSHING 23 32 26 71
PASSING 89 79 79 61
Standard Downs 65 45 99
Passing Downs 48 61 33
Q1 Rk 56 1st Down Rk 57
Q2 Rk 110 2nd Down Rk 59
Q3 Rk 32 3rd Down Rk 71
Q4 Rk 8

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 107.7 2.43 2.43 31.7% 66.7% 25.2% 56.8 3.4% 4.0%
Rank 36 10 6 6 62 7 118 96 114
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Shamar Stephen DT 12 40.5 6.4% 10.0 3.0 0 1 0 0
Jesse Joseph DE 12 27.5 4.3% 6.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Tim Willman DE 12 26.0 4.1% 8.0 3.0 0 2 1 0
Julian Campenni DT 6'0, 298 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 12 19.5 3.1% 2.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Angelo Pruitt DT 6'3, 297 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 17.0 2.7% 6.0 1.0 0 1 0 0
Reuben Frank DE 6'3, 246 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 16.5 2.6% 3.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Mikal Myers DT 6'0, 295 So. 3 stars (5.5) 8 3.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Elijah Norris DE 11 3.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kenton Adeyemi DT 6'4, 266 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 5 2.0 0.3% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
B.J. McBryde DT 6'5, 318 Sr. 2 stars (5.2)






6. A very good run defense rebuilds

From preview to preview, I find myself pointing out one of the following two phenomenons quite often when talking defense. These aren't the only two options, mind you, but they're common: either your strength gets stronger and your weakness gets weaker (because key stars are returning while weak units suffered from attrition) or your strength gets weaker and your weakness gets stronger (because strength and weakness were determined in large part by the experience on hand).

For UConn, 2014 sees very much the latter. An experienced, seasoned front seven played quite well for much of the season, with Shamar Stephen hitting 10 tackles for loss from the tackle position and Yawin Smallwood playing the role of play-making tackling machine. They're gone, as are three other members of last year's starting front seven. Angelo Pruitt has quite a bit of potential at tackle, and linebacker Jefferson Ashiru was strong against the run; plus, a lot of highly-touted youngsters -- sophomore tackle Mikal Myers, four-star linebacker (and Florida transfer) Graham Stewart, three-star redshirt freshman linebackers Cameron Stapleton and Jalen Stevens -- could get a chance to thrive. Still, you're moving from proven entities to potential, and that will likely cause a step backwards in the run defense.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Yawin Smallwood LB 12 84.5 13.3% 9.5 4.0 1 9 2 0
Jefferson Ashiru LB 6'2, 233 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 41.0 6.5% 8.0 1.0 0 2 0 0
Ryan Donohue LB 11 18.0 2.8% 0.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Marquise Vann LB 6'0, 232 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 9 12.0 1.9% 0.5 0.0 0 1 0 1
Graham Stewart LB 6'2, 236 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 8 9.5 1.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Brandon Steg LB 6'2, 228 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 4.5 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jon Hicks LB 6'2, 236 So. 2 stars (5.4)
Cameron Stapleton LB 6'4, 226 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jalen Stevens LB 6'3, 218 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Vontae Diggs LB 6'4, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Tom Rodrick LB 6'3, 240 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)






7. A very bad pass rush rebuilds

The front seven had plenty of strengths in 2013, but pass rushing was not one of them. The Huskies were big and effective against the run but ranked a woeful 118th in Adj. Sack Rate. This did no favors for a defensive backfield that was struggling with shuffled lineups and youth.

Only three Huskies logged more than 2.0 sacks in 2013, and all three (Stephen, Smallwood, and end Tim Willman) are gone. We'll see how Diaco and defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter go about generating pressure on quarterbacks; the secondary should be more equipped to cover effectively this fall, but that doesn't matter if the quarterback has too much time to find a target.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Obi Melifonwu S 6'4, 208 So. 3 stars (5.5) 12 54.5 8.6% 3 0 2 5 2 0
Byron Jones CB 6'1, 191 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 51.0 8.1% 2 0 3 8 0 0
Ty-Meer Brown S 7 41.0 6.5% 2 0 0 0 1 1
Andrew Adams S 6'0, 199 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 8 35.0 5.5% 0.5 0 2 4 0 0
Taylor Mack CB 9 33.0 5.2% 1.5 0 3 9 1 0
Jhavon Williams CB 5'11, 191 So. 2 stars (5.4) 10 22.0 3.5% 0 0 1 1 1 0
David Stevenson CB 5'9, 170 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 4 13.5 2.1% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Tyree Clark CB 5'10, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 7 13.5 2.1% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Wilbert Lee S 6'1, 207 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 10.5 1.7% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Javon Hadley CB 5'11, 159 So. 2 stars (5.4) 5 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ellis Marder CB 6'1, 195 So. 2 stars (5.4) 6 3.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Floyd S 6'1, 214 So. 2 stars (5.4) 12 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jamar Summers CB 5'11, 178 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)






8. Get to know Obi

UConn had nine defensive backs log at least 10.0 tackles in 2013; only two played all 12 games. Endless shuffling and injury created setbacks and experimentation, and that almost always hurts in the present tense. As good as UConn was against the run, the Huskies were only 79th in Passing S&P+.

The good news about shuffling and youth is that it createst a decent reservoir of experience. Of the nine players with 10 tackles, two were freshmen and four were sophomores. Potentially important players like Jhavon Williams got more playing time than perhaps was expected, and that could pay off. But the stars of the group are the two who did, in fact, manage to play in all 12 games. Senior Byron jones is a steady corner (perhaps "star" is overstating it, but stars are relative), and safety Obi Melifonwu held his own and proved an interesting, hard-hitting prospect while leading the unit in tackles as a freshman. He is probably a name to remember for the coming seasons.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Cole Wagner 71 39.8 3 22 19 57.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Chad Christen 54 60.7 11 0 20.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Chad Christen 27-27 8-8 100.0% 2-8 25.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Lyle McCombs KR 5'8, 175 Sr. 24 18.5 0
Deshon Foxx KR 5'10, 172 Sr. 10 18.2 0
Lyle McCombs PR 5'8, 175 Sr. 13 3.1 0
Brian Lemelle PR 5'10, 160 So. 7 3.1 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 101
Field Goal Efficiency 90
Punt Return Efficiency 100
Kick Return Efficiency 87
Punt Efficiency 74
Kickoff Efficiency 94
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 99

9. Clean slate

A thin roster often bleeds over into special teams, where the second- or third-stringers aren't athletic enough to prevent or create good returns, and you end up deciding between playing your starters (and risking injury) or having bad special teams. It makes sense, then, UConn's special teams unit was below average across the board in 2013. Punting and place-kicking were mediocre, coverage was sketchy, and returns left a lot to be desired, but they all hovered around the same level. For worse or (probably) better, though, it all starts over. A few new names here probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. And if the incumbent return men are either usurped or given better blocking, that wouldn't hurt either.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
29-Aug BYU 32
6-Sep Stony Brook NR
13-Sep Boise State 18
19-Sep at South Florida 77
27-Sep Temple 87
11-Oct at Tulane 90
23-Oct at East Carolina 72
1-Nov Central Florida 24
8-Nov vs. Army 101
22-Nov Cincinnati 54
29-Nov at Memphis 95
6-Dec SMU 74
Five-Year F/+ Rk -0.4% (57)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 91
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -1 / 1.8
TO Luck/Game -1.2
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (8, 6)

10. Year zero

It's a beautiful football facility. I can't imagine there's a better one. It's as nice and easy for the student athletes to navigate in as any I've seen. It's a functional space, and it's used by a lot of athletes, and that's nice. There's a very large, really nicely done indoor building here that's used by the university. Athletics uses it, and it trickles down to the student body -- it's used from beginning of the morning through the end of the night.

Spirits are high at UConn right now, even if it doesn't necessarily have a lot to do with football. Dual basketball championships created more than a little buzz, and Diaco is attempting to pounce on the UConn brand and create some momentum.

Of course, UConn's basketball programs have been strong for basically all of UConn's FBS history. Things that make everybody happy don't make the football team good. Diaco is both selling and creating a brand at the moment, and it will be interesting to see how successful he is at it.

Honestly, UConn isn't too many breaks from being relatively decent this year. There is potential at quarterback and experience in the skill positions, and there is a much more stable secondary on defense. Still, the questions are pretty serious. How quickly can the offensive line grow competent? How quickly can the defense rebuild? How quickly can Casey Cochran thrive in a new system? The answer to none of these questions is "immediately," so it would probably be best to aim low and let the Huskies surprise you this season.

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