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The big 2015 UConn football guide: Bob Diaco is not a miracle worker

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The 128-team countdown needs you to be patient.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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1. If you're going to stink, you might as well stink with freshmen

Bob Diaco's first signing class, inked in February 2014, just weeks after he took the UConn head coaching job, consisted of just 16 players. It's just as well that your first class is small, as you haven't had time to get your bearings anyway. Instead of laying out a grand play -- this is where we're going to recruit, this is what we're going to sell, etc. -- you're just trying to secure previous commitments and figure out who's left.

A coach's abbreviated first class is often a space-filler before the real work. But for Diaco and the roster he inherited, it was a different story. Nine of the 16 played as true freshmen, even two offensive linemen.

Either Diaco wanted to make an imprint with "his" guys, or UConn was in desperate shape at running back, linebacker, cornerback, and offensive line, at least when it comes to filling out a two-deep. The former is optimistic, but the latter is more realistic.

The program Diaco inherited had been flagging. Too good defensively to bottom out, the Huskies had regressed for four years. Since peaking at 29th in the F/+ rankings in 2009 (the year before their unlikely Fiesta Bowl run), they sank to 62nd in 2010, then lost head coach Randy Edsall to Maryland. They replaced him with veteran Paul Pasqualoni and fell to 67th, then 75th, then 97th.

The hire of Diaco made sense. The New Jersey product had spent the previous five seasons as Brian Kelly's defensive coordinator, first at Cincinnati and then at Notre Dame. Most of his experience had come in the Midwest, but in a conference that spans from Connecticut to Houston, geography is a relative term. He is a charismatic speaker -- just look at those eyes -- and he won the Broyles Award, given to the nation's top assistant, for the job he had done with Notre Dame's defense in 2012. He was a hot commodity, and UConn got him.

If it turns out that Diaco knows what he's doing -- how to recruit, develop players, put them in position to succeed -- then we'll look back at 2014 as a necessary Year Zero, a reset for a program in need of one. UConn plummeted from 97th in F/+ to 119th, won two games (one by three points to FCS Stony Brook), lost five games by 17 or more points, and lost at home to a winless SMU in the finale. There was almost nothing redeeming, but if you are going to stink, you might as well stink with a young team. And if you turn things around, no one's going to care that you started 2-10.

Plenty of coaches have turned things around after a poor start -- my go-to examples: Lou Holtz going 0-11 in his first year at South Carolina, George O'Leary going 0-11 in his first year at UCF -- and a few second-year coaches led lovely surges just last season. But one has to just look at conference mate USF to know that a turnaround after a bad first year isn't a given.

There's no reason to write Diaco off yet, but we're still in wait-and-see mode.

2. So how's recruiting going?

"Look, the American Conference has got its name for a reason. It's a national footprint. You're playing teams in your conference in North Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee.

"If you don't recruit those states of those metro cities ... well, I guess it depends on resources, but we're definitely going into those cities. I researched direct flights from Hartford-Bradley to different cities. That's how we chose the cities we're going to go to the most. You're talking to kids about plane fare, accessibility."

According to the Rivals database, as of mid-July UConn had offered 32 2015 recruits from the state of New Jersey, 17 from Florida (the destination of many of those direct flights), 13 from Texas (hello, DFW), 11 from Illinois (hey there, Chicago), nine from Pennsylvania, and only seven from Connecticut.

When I spoke to Diaco for last year's Blueprint for a Rebuild piece, I was most curious about how he planned to reel in high-level talent in an area not known for having loads of high-level talent. His plan was to use Hartord-Bradley to his advantage.

It's a fool's errand to reach conclusions about a new coach's recruiting plan just one full class into his tenure, but I thought it would be interesting to see how Diaco performed in 2015 and where his signees came from.

It turned out to be local. Only one signee attended school in Connecticut, but four attended schools in New England, seven were from New Jersey, three were from New York, one was from Pennsylvania, and three were from the Maryland/Delaware/DC corridor. Within this group came some of the most-touted players: quarterback Tyler Davis, receivers Tyraiq Beals and Hergy Mayala, linebacker Nazir Williams, and five defensive linemen were given three-star designations by Rivals, the 247Sports Composite, or both.

In the end, only three came from outside: one from Illinois and two from Florida. If UConn begins to win in the coming years, it will be interesting to monitor if Diaco's national approach to recruiting begins to bear more fruit. But his immediate success will be determined by how well he can develop local talent.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 2-10 | Adj. Record: 2-10 | Final F/+ Rk: 119
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
29-Aug BYU 46 10-35 L 13% -26.5 0%
6-Sep Stony Brook NR 19-16 W 16% -22.8 45%
13-Sep Boise State 21 21-38 L 24% -16.7 1%
19-Sep at South Florida 123 14-17 L 14% -25.3 11%
27-Sep Temple 67 10-36 L 11% -28.9 0%
11-Oct at Tulane 93 3-12 L 9% -31.5 4%
23-Oct at East Carolina 61 21-31 L 54% 2.6 35%
1-Nov Central Florida 60 37-29 W 78% 17.9 85%
8-Nov vs. Army 121 21-35 L 17% -22.2 16%
22-Nov Cincinnati 47 0-41 L 2% -48.9 0%
29-Nov at Memphis 41 10-41 L 17% -22.3 0%
6-Dec SMU 127 20-27 L 9% -31.8 27%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 14.4 127 30.7 85
Points Per Game 15.5 125 29.8 86

3. Hope, then no hope

This was likely to be a poor season no matter what; UConn faced seven teams that would end up ranking in the F/+ top 70, and even if the Huskies held steady, they weren't going to win more than four games even if they scored a decent upset somewhere along the line.

They got the upset, cashing in on four interceptions to take down defending AAC champion UCF on Homecoming. They also lost three games to teams ranked 121st or worse in F/+. A midseason peak that featured a sudden offensive breakout against ECU and the aforementioned havoc against UCF quickly fizzled.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 6 games): 15% (average score: Opp 26, UConn 15)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 3 games): 50% (average score: Opp 32, UConn 26)
  • Average Percentile Performance (last 3 games): 9% (average score: Opp 36, UConn 10)

Following a frustrating loss to Army at Yankee Stadium -- a game in which UConn completed as many passes to Army (two) as Army did, and in which Army returned an interception 99 yards for a score with under 30 seconds left -- the Huskies basically folded, getting drubbed by Cincinnati and Memphis, then falling to a desperate SMU.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.78 102 IsoPPP+ 75.8 120
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 32.7% 127 Succ. Rt. + 77.6 127
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 32.4 115 Def. FP+ 97.0 101
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.2 126 Redzone S&P+ 88.6 100
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.3 ACTUAL 28 +10.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 126 122 127 120
RUSHING 119 121 122 116
PASSING 113 122 126 113
Standard Downs 123 126 122
Passing Downs 115 125 99
Q1 Rk 128 1st Down Rk 124
Q2 Rk 102 2nd Down Rk 127
Q3 Rk 107 3rd Down Rk 110
Q4 Rk 109

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Chandler Whitmer
124 223 1522 11 8 55.6% 25 10.1% 5.5
Tim Boyle 6'3, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8625 43 82 335 1 3 52.4% 4 4.7% 3.3
Casey Cochran
17 31 171 0 1 54.8% 0 0.0% 5.5
Bryant Shirreffs
(NC State)
6'1, 216 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7444
Garrett Anderson 6'2, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) NR
Tyler Davis 6'3, 214 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8005

4. Got a quarterback?

There was a lot of shoddy quarterback play in the AAC, and by comparison, Chandler Whitmer wasn't too bad. The Illinois transfer provided a decent run threat, and his 56 percent completion rate was better than anybody else's on the team. When original starter Casey Cochran's career ended because of concussions, Whitmer oversaw an offense that was not any worse.

But when then-sophomore Tim Boyle began taking reps, UConn fans got a glimpse at the future, and the results weren't encouraging. Boyle looked decent against a solid Memphis but went 4-for-11 for 29 yards against SMU and finished the season with a paltry 83.5 passer rating.

With a new coordinator (Frank Verducci) and a new transfer (NC State's Bryant Shirreffs) in the mix, UConn will have an opportunity to reinvent both the offense and the requirements of the quarterback. The mobile Shirreffs was the leader for the job at the end of spring ball, but it appears Boyle, Tyler Davis, and recent JUCO commitment Garrett Anderson will have a chance to unseat him in August.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Ron Johnson RB 5'11, 220 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8106 114 429 3 3.8 3.6 30.7% 0 0
Max DeLorenzo RB 5'11, 216 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7960 77 343 1 4.5 6.1 28.6% 2 2
Chandler Whitmer QB NR 51 222 2 4.4 3.3 45.1% 6 4
Arkeel Newsome RB 5'7, 176 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8519 47 188 0 4.0 4.1 38.3% 4 4
Josh Marriner RB 5'9, 196 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148 36 110 1 3.1 2.3 30.6% 1 1
Deshon Foxx WR NR 23 203 1 8.8 22.3 30.4% 4 3
Tim Boyle QB 6'3, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8625 12 7 0 0.6 N/A 0.0% 2 2

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Geremy Davis WR NR 71 44 521 62.0% 22.8% 57.7% 7.3 -15 7.3 59.0
Deshon Foxx WR NR 54 30 384 55.6% 17.3% 72.2% 7.1 11 7.5 43.4
Noel Thomas WR 6'1, 193 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8414 47 26 305 55.3% 15.1% 46.8% 6.5 -19 6.4 34.5
Dhameer Bradley WR 5'10, 173 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8316 31 15 100 48.4% 9.9% 38.7% 3.2 -93 2.8 11.3
Sean McQuillan TE 6'3, 247 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8074 27 16 158 59.3% 8.7% 55.6% 5.9 -39 5.9 17.9
Arkeel Newsome RB 5'7, 176 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8519 15 11 155 73.3% 4.8% 40.0% 10.3 25 8.5 17.5
Thomas Lucas WR 6'2, 203 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7960 15 9 122 60.0% 4.8% 46.7% 8.1 12 8.4 13.8
Kamal Abrams WR NR 13 5 43 38.5% 4.2% 61.5% 3.3 -25 3.5 4.9
Josh Marriner RB 5'9, 196 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148 8 6 73 75.0% 2.6% 25.0% 9.1 2 10.2 8.3
Jazzmar Clax FB 5'11, 249 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8496 8 5 34 62.5% 2.6% 50.0% 4.3 -27 4.6 3.8
Max DeLorenzo RB 5'11, 216 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7960 6 5 42 83.3% 1.9% 66.7% 7.0 -16 6.7 4.8
Brian Lemelle WR 5'10, 163 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8522 6 5 27 83.3% 1.9% 33.3% 4.5 -31 6.3 3.1
Alec Bloom TE 6'6, 257 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8056 4 3 40 75.0% 1.3% 0.0% 10.0 5 NR 4.5
Ron Johnson RB 5'11, 220 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8106 4 3 20 75.0% 1.3% 25.0% 5.0 -15 7.6 2.3
Tommy Myers TE 6'5, 250 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7818 2 2 8 100.0% 0.6% 0.0% 4.0 -15 NR 0.9
Tyraiq Beals WR 6'0, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7933
Hergy Mayala WR 6'1, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8126
Frank Battle WR 6'5, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8076

5. All sorts of 2016 experience

The hire of Verducci is an interesting one, both because of Verducci's unique résumé -- 35 years of coaching experience, with everyone from the Iowa Hawkeyes (he was a graduate assistant when Diaco was a defensive back) to the Buffalo Bills to the Montreal Alouettes, and with no coordinator experience  -- and because of what he said about the offense.

His goal in spring ball was to introduce basic components, then let the talent on hand determine what his system will become. In a lot of ways, this makes sense. When building an offense from scratch, it's sensible to figure out what your personnel can do. But identity is important, and while it appears that Diaco prefers a mobile quarterback, saying "We'll see" doesn't lend a ton of confidence.

One assumes there will be quite a bit of running involved, however. Not only is Shirreffs a mobile option -- in limited action at NC State in 2013, he rushed 34 times and attempted just five passes -- but it seems UConn has more at running back than receiver.

Four backs return after carrying at least 36 times. Ron Johnson showed feature-back potential as a freshman, rushing 45 times in the final two games and going for 101 yards on 23 carries against SMU. Max DeLorenzo is a big option with nice open-field capabilities (when he gets to the open field). Arkeel Newsome showed efficiency potential as a freshman (and managed to fumble four times in just 58 touches). And while Josh Marirner didn't do much with his opportunities, he was still a three-star prospect.

Meanwhile, the only returnee who a) caught at least 10 passes last year and b) averaged at least 6.6 yards per target was Newsome. Noel Thomas had a nice late run of games, snaring 18 passes for 208 yards against UCF, Army, Cincinnati, and Memphis; he is almost by default the most proven receiver. Opportunity awaits any of the three-star freshmen.

Of all the players I just mentioned, by the way, everybody but DeLorenzo is scheduled to return in 2016. This unit could develop into something, but it's going to take a while.

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 85.5 2.32 2.7 32.6% 53.6% 27.6% 67.7 5.6% 11.5%
Rank 115 123 109 118 120 126 120 83 117
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Alex Mateas C 28
Gus Cruz LG
19
Tyler Samra RG 6'2, 290 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8305 13
Richard Levy LT 6'6, 308 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7519 12
Dalton Gifford RT 6'4, 307 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8100 11
Andreas Knappe RT 6'8, 310 Jr. NR NR 7
Ryan Crozier C 6'4, 294 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7811 3
Paul Nwokeji LT 6'6, 301 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115 0
Kyle Bockeloh C 6'3, 298 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 0
Trey Rutherford LG 6'5, 296 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7808 0
Tommy Hopkins LG 6'6, 308 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7995 0
Kyle Schafenacker OL 6'3, 280 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8425 0
Brendan Vechery OL 6'6, 299 So. NR NR 0

6. Size isn't an issue

Your line stats aren't going to be good when you're blocking for freshmen and a variety of quarterbacks, but UConn's were particularly poor: the Huskies ranked 109th or worse in all but one of the stats above, and the "strength" (83rd in standard downs sack rate) wasn't much of one.

That's a shame because it seems like there might be potential. Five players return with starting experience (46 career starts), and of the 11 players listed above, five were three-stars. And size isn't an impediment, with 10 of the 11 going at least 290. Plus, as is the running theme, eight of the 11 are scheduled to return in 2016.

I would assume this big line ends up doing a lot of work in blocking for Shirreffs, Johnson, and company, and protecting Shirreffs in a lot of play-action situations. But really, the goal for every unit on this offense has to be figuring out what it's going to be and who's going to become a reliable contributor in 2016.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.78 26 IsoPPP+ 104.4 55
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 41.8% 74 Succ. Rt. + 94.4 91
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 28.7 99 Off. FP+ 95.0 119
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.6 87 Redzone S&P+ 101.6 57
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 16.8 ACTUAL 15.0 -1.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 50 67 96 55
RUSHING 71 58 88 29
PASSING 37 93 95 84
Standard Downs 72 106 47
Passing Downs 71 61 85
Q1 Rk 83 1st Down Rk 70
Q2 Rk 44 2nd Down Rk 22
Q3 Rk 110 3rd Down Rk 94
Q4 Rk 47

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 91.1 2.80 3.65 39.3% 66.0% 21.0% 51.9 2.7% 3.2%
Rank 100 44 96 70 58 42 124 110 121
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Julian Campenni NG 6'0, 302 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7780 12 26.5 3.9% 5.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Folorunso Fatukasi DT 6'4, 298 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7961 12 24.5 3.7% 3.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Mikal Myers NG 6'1, 326 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8139 12 24.0 3.6% 6.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Kenton Adeyemi DE 6'4, 287 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8167 12 20.0 3.0% 5.0 1.0 0 1 0 0
Reuben Frank DE
12 19.0 2.8% 4.0 1.0 0 2 0 0
B.J. McBryde DT
12 17.5 2.6% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Cole Ormsby DE 6'3, 257 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7900 10 12.5 1.9% 5.0 3.5 0 0 0 0
Cameron Stapleton DE 6'4, 246 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7956 9 6.5 1.0% 0.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
David Ryslik DE 6'3, 292 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8292
Kevin Murphy DT 6'2, 270 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8150
Philippe Okounam DE 6'5, 265 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8118
Connor Freebom DE 6'6, 225 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7973







7. All the components of a good run defense ...

Size? Check. The top four tacklers on the line averaged 6'3, 303, and each of the top five linebackers was at least 225.

Play-making ability? Certainly. Six linemen recorded at least three tackles for loss, as did four linebackers, and UConn ranked 42nd in Stuff Rate (run stops at or behind the line).

Depth? I think so -- seven linemen and five linebackers made at least 12.5 tackles.

In theory, there was a lot to like about UConn's run defense. But the Huskies ranked 88th in Rushing Success Rate+, meaning opponents were able to stay ahead of the chains. UConn kept big plays in check, allowing only 10 rushes of 20-plus yards (ninth in FBS), but the efficiency wasn't what it seemed it should be.

Of course, the run defense was still leaps and bounds ahead of the pass, which featured one of the nation's worst pass rushes and scant play-makers in the secondary.

The defense wasn't the problem, but it was still one of UConn's worst in recent years. It will be interesting to see what experience can do on the ground, though. Five of last year's seven linemen and four of five linebackers return, while the second string could feature more young upside than in any other area of the UConn defense.

I like the linebackers and the defensive tackles, even if there's a lot of work to be done at end, and I figure UConn's run defense will improve.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Marquise Vann LB 6'0, 226 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8104 12 82.5 12.3% 7.0 0.5 0 2 1 0
Graham Stewart LB 6'1, 228 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8913 12 67.5 10.1% 10.5 2.0 0 0 2 0
Jefferson Ashiru LB NR 9 33.5 5.0% 3.5 0.5 1 0 0 0
Junior Joseph LB 6'1, 242 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8306 11 32.5 4.8% 4.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Jon Hicks LB 6'2, 238 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8124 12 13.5 2.0% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Vontae Diggs LB 6'2, 215 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8322 12 6.5 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Luke Carrezola LB 6'3, 248 So. 2 stars (5.2) NR 6 5.5 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Steg LB
10 3.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Omaine Stephens LB 6'3, 227 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 9 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Matthew Walsh LB 6'1, 235 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7860
Jalen Stevens LB 6'3, 225 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8309
Nazir Williams LB 6'3, 225 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8190
William Richardson LB 6'3, 220 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7988








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Andrew Adams S 6'0, 197 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7694 12 80.5 12.0% 0.5 0 4 4 1 1
Obi Melifonwu S 6'3, 214 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8189 11 63.5 9.5% 3.5 0 0 3 0 0
Jhavon Williams CB 5'10, 194 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7988 12 33.0 4.9% 0 0 0 7 2 0
Byron Jones CB
7 20.0 3.0% 0 0 2 4 0 0
Jamar Summers CB 6'0, 177 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7981 12 19.0 2.8% 0 0 1 2 0 0
Junior Lee S 6'0, 209 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148 12 18.5 2.8% 1 0 0 1 0 0
John Green CB 5'10, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8069 12 8.5 1.3% 0 0 0 5 0 0
Brice McAllister CB 5'11, 193 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7865 5 6.0 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Javon Hadley CB 5'10, 165 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8248 5 5.0 0.7% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Jeremy Claflin S 6'1, 212 Sr. NR NR 8 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ellis Marder S 6'1, 191 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7913 5 2.5 0.4% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Floyd S 6'0, 214 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8186
John Green CB 5'10, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8069
Aaron Garland DB 5'11, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8141
Marshe Terry DB 6'4, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7983








8. All sorts of 2016 experience, part 2

Safeties Andrew Adams and Obi Melifonwu combined for four tackles for loss, four picks, and seven breakups, and returning corners Jhavon Williams, Jamar Summers, and John Green combined for 14 breakups and one interception. That's really not bad considering how long quarterbacks had to find open receivers, but UConn's iffy pass defense went beyond the pass rush. There were a few too many big plays along the way, as well.

That Adams and backup safety Junior Lee are the only seniors, though, is a good thing. If Diaco and coordinator Anthony Poindexter can figure out how to get pressure on passers, this should be one hell of an active unit in 2016.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Justin Wain 6'3, 209 Jr. 74 38.8 4 30 17 63.5%
Bobby Puyol 5'10, 173 Jr. 6 35.0 0 3 2 83.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Bobby Puyol 5'10, 173 Jr. 44 56.8 5 2 11.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Bobby Puyol 5'10, 173 Jr. 19-22 5-8 62.5% 4-6 66.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Arkeel Newsome KR 5'7, 176 So. 36 20.3 0
Brian Lemelle KR 5'10, 163 Jr. 5 23.2 0
Deshon Foxx PR 10 8.1 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 101
Field Goal Efficiency 83
Punt Return Efficiency 105
Kick Return Efficiency 107
Punt Efficiency 78
Kickoff Efficiency 35
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 78

9. Decent components?

UConn's kick coverage unit performed well, leading the Huskies to a No. 35 kickoff efficiency ranking despite Bobby Puyol only booting a touchback on one of every nine kicks.

That's the entire list of strengths. Puyol was better on longer field goals than shorter ones -- he was 4-for-6 over 40 yards but only 5-for-8 under 40 and 19-for-22 on PATs -- and while punts from Justin Wain were high, they weren't far. And aside from one Deshon Foxx punt return touchdown, returns were pretty much non-existent.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
3-Sep Villanova NR
12-Sep Army 121
19-Sep at Missouri 20
26-Sep Navy 44
2-Oct at BYU 46
10-Oct at Central Florida 60
17-Oct South Florida 123
24-Oct at Cincinnati 47
30-Oct East Carolina 61
7-Nov at Tulane 93
21-Nov Houston 73
28-Nov at Temple 67
Five-Year F/+ Rk -15.2% (90)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 90 / 77
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -13 / -0.4
2014 TO Luck/Game -5.2
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (6, 8)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 2.2 (-0.2)

10. Life after the reset button

There were second-year surges last year -- Sonny Dykes at California, Bret Bielema at Arkansas, Dave Doeren at NC State, Skip Holtz at Louisiana Tech, Sean Kugler at UTEP. On average, these five went from three wins and an F/+ ranking of 103rd in 2013 to seven wins and 51st in 2014. None of the five was expected to do as well as he did. That's the Year Zero effect.

Is there potential for a similar rise at UConn? Probably not. If the running game catches hold, then there's possible for improvement into the 90s or so on offense, and if the run defense improves as I expect, then maybe the defense will creep back into the 50s or 60s in Def. S&P+. Average that out, and maybe this becomes a top-80 team.

But that's too big a leap to count on, especially considering how bad the offense has been for going on five years now. The odds are much better than UConn improves to around 100th, and while that's something you can build off of, it won't result in many 2015 wins, not with only four opponents who ranked worse than 73rd last year.

I like Diaco, and I think he could still get UConn back to a bowl-level team, but this is a multi-year rebuilding project.