Inside The Press Box: UConn

  • FILE - In this April 14, 2018, file photo, head coach Randy Edsall talks with his team at the end of Connecticut's annual spring NCAA college football game in East Hartford, Conn. UConn will host Central Florida to open the regular season on Thursday, Aug. 30. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) Jessica Hill

Staff Writer
Published: 10/25/2018 2:22:52 PM

Most of the time, these beat writer blogs are written by fantastic writers across the country with whom I have only an email relationship. Then there’s this week, when I had a chance to email and then speak with the talented Alex Putterman from the Hartford Courant. Alex graduated two years after me at Northwestern, so he and I spent plenty of long nights near one another in the newsroom of The Daily Northwestern.

As much as I would have loved to reminisce about our times in Evanston, we spoke this week about UConn, a team struggling almost as much as UMass this season. The Huskies are 1-6 this year with that one win coming against FCS Rhode Island. Here’s what Alex had to say about UConn’s season thus far.

Q: Let's begin with this past weekend. I think most people would agree that was UConn's best performance of the season. What did the Huskies do differently against USF that spurred that performance?

A: UConn changed some things schematically against South Florida, using five defensive backs and only two linebackers, but the biggest difference seemed to concern focus and energy. They were rested following a week off, they were playing for teammate Eli Thomas (who is in the hospital after suffering a stroke) and they were probably just sick of getting blown out. It didn’t hurt that quarterback David Pindell was fully healthy after being slowed by a minor knee injury.

Q: Much like Mark Whipple, Randy Edsall is in his second stint with UConn after having a lot of success in his first tenure. How patient is the fan base with this latest rebuilding effort and are there signs that Edsall's method is working?

A: The fan base does not seem overwhelmingly patient with Edsall, but they don’t have much choice in the matter. The previous two coaches left the program in ugly shape, and Edsall is building things up as best he can. As for whether his approach is working, it’s probably too early to tell, given that the current group of freshmen is his first full class. We’ll know more next year about whether this recruiting process is headed in the right direction.

Q:  What are some of the reasons quarterback David Pindell is leading UConn in rushing this season?

A: The biggest reason Pindell leads UConn in rushing is that he’s very fast and extremely agile. He can find yardage on designed runs and make things happen when plays break down. The Huskies seem to move the ball best when he’s using his legs, which makes him a guy UMass will have to key in on. It’s worth noting that running back Kevin Mensah has had a nice season as well (527 yards rushing, 4.4 yards per carry, four touchdowns).

Q: I think we've gone long enough without addressing the Huskies' defense, so I'm going to throw a two-parter at you. How would you describe that unit and what are the issues that have plagued the group  this season  ?

A: UConn’s defense has been the worst in the country this season and maybe one of the worst in decades. Last in FBS in yards allowed per game, last in FBS in points allowed per game. Most of the issues can be attributed in whole or in part to the unit’s extreme youth. Most games, the Huskies start between six and eight freshmen on D, with the rest of the lineup filled out by sophomores.

Q: UConn wins if...

A: UConn wins if the defense plays more like it did in the first half against South Florida last weekend and less like it has played the rest of the season. These guys are years away from being anything like an elite defense, but if they can form a competent one, Pindell and company should be able to put up enough points on UMass to keep the Huskies ahead.

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