2011 Connecticut Preview – Offense
Connecticut OT Mike Ryan
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Connecticut Husky Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Gone is Joe Moorhead and his up-tempo, no-huddle offense. Enter George DeLeone and a return to a more conservative, familiar approach to moving the chains. Consistent with their past, the Huskies want to rely on the run to set up the pass. It's going to be a practical approach to the upcoming season since they're breaking in a new quarterback out of an inexperienced group that includes Michael Box, Scott McCummings, Johnny McEntee, and Michael Nebrich. The strength of the unit will be a line that welcomes back all-stars Mike Ryan and Moe Petrus at left tackle and center, respectively. However, who runs behind them? The early departure of workhorse Jordan Todman has the program pinning its hopes on former USC blue-chipper D.J. Shoemate. With so many question marks, it should be another busy year for PK Dave Teggart.
Star of the offense: Senior LT Mike Ryan
Passing: Michael Box
6-17, 65 yds, 0 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: D.J. Shoemate
28 carries, 115 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Michael Smith
46 catches, 615 yds, 2 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior RB D.J. Shoemate
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Ryan Griffin
Best pro prospect: Ryan
Top three all-star candidates:1) Ryan, 2) Senior C Moe Petrus, 3) Griffin
Strength of the offense: The offensive line, pass protection, depth at receiver, tight end
Weakness of the offense: Uncertainty at quarterback, passing game, big plays, running back, the guards, third down and red zone efficiencies
State of the Unit: Zach Frazer has graduated. Cody Endres has been dismissed from the program. Connecticut is once again in a position to be developing a consistent quarterback. It's a perennial pursuit for a program that hasn't had a next-level passer since Dan Orlovsky graduated seven years ago. The competition will be heated and closely watch over the next few months.
If there' a favorite in this battle, it's 6-3, 209-pound sophomore Michael Box, who started the Louisville game last October before leaving with a head injury. Lightly recruited out of the state of Georgia, he appeared in five games, going 6-of-17 for 65 yards and an interception. A student of the game, he needs to prove he can make the right decisions and maximize the talent of the Husky receivers.
There's no shortage of competitors looking to force the coaches to think outside the box. Junior Johnny McEntee has little experience, but did go viral in the offseason with a trick-shot video that generated an enormous buzz. An accurate 6-3, 221-pounder, he puts a nice touch on his passes. Redshirt freshman Scott McCummings is a highly regarded recruit from the 2010, who was sharp in the spring. A 6-2, 227-pounder, he has a live arm and the athleticism to avoid pressure and make things happen with his feet. Rookie Michael Nebrich is already on campus and the new staff's first quarterback recruit, but has a lot of ground to make up to win this job.
Watch Out For … McCummings. A lack of experience won't keep him from climbing the depth chart and surpassing his elders. He's confident without being cocky and has the smarts to pick up his role in the offense quickly. With a new staff, everyone is starting from the same place, and McCummings has already turned a few heads.
Strength: Tomorrow. The Huskies are chock full of young quarterbacks whose best days are ahead of them. Everyone on the roster has at least two years of eligibility remaining, and recent recruiting classes have brought talented kids with upward mobility.
Weakness: Experience. Sure, the Huskies' best days are ahead of them, but what about this day? Box is the only quarterback to have started a game, and that didn't go especially well. Whoever gets the ball from Pasqualoni is going to make his share of mistakes as he adapts to a completely new role in the offense.
Outlook: There's reason for optimism—and concern—regarding Connecticut's quarterback situation heading into 2011. On the one hand, a young starter will be anointed as the future, succeeding inconsistent veterans. On the other, the learning curve will be steep, giving defenses a chance to stack the line to stop the run. Stay tuned because this will be the most important competition of the year in the Nutmeg State.
Unit Rating: 5.5
State of the Unit: Since the Fiesta Bowl, Connecticut's situation has gone from bad to worse. Not only did 1,700-yard rusher Jordan Todman leave early for the NFL, but backups Robbie Frey and Meme Wylie opted to transfer out of the program. For a school that's traditionally hitched its offensive wagon to a feature back, it's perilously thin in the backfield and desperately seeking a go-to guy and some much-needed depth.
All of a sudden, junior D.J. Shoemate has become a very important athlete in Storrs. The former USC transfer has elevated to the top of the depth chart and is the early favorite to receive the bulk of the carries. Eligible immediately, he started one game and went for 115 yards and a score on 28 carries, but failed to impress. A powerful 5-11, 217-pounder, he's looking for a fresh start with a new coaching staff taking over.
Shoemate's competition will come from senior Jonathan Jean-Louis sophomore Martin Hyppolite and redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs, none of whom have much experience. Jean-Louis has appeared in 30 games, but mostly as a defensive back and special teamer. Hyppolite has ideal size at 6-0 and 214 pounds, and the 5-8, 163-pound McCombs has potential as a change-of-pace.
The graduation of talented Anthony Sherman leaves the offense searching for a new fullback as well. Redshirt freshman Reuben Frank is a 6-3, 229-pounder who'll have first dibs on the position and minimal challenges unless others are switched over to the backfield.
Watch Out For … the rookies. Things get even more interesting in the summer when DeShon Foxx and Max DeLorenzo . The latter is a north-south runner, while the former has game-breaking speed and cutback ability.
Strength: Between-the-tackles running. Assuming Shoemate has some kind of role in this offense, the Huskies can trot out a 217-pound downhill runner who can break tackles and pick up more yards after contact. Running behind a veteran line, Shoemate will be especially tough to stop in short yardage.
Weakness: Proven talent. While Shoemate certainly had the accolades and press clippings coming out of Servite (Calif.) High School three years ago, what has he done since? He did frustrate Randy Edsall's staff in 2010, which limited his touches. After him, the drop-off is steep.
Outlook: Opportunity is knocking, D.J. And now would be an ideal time to answer the call. For a multitude of different reasons, Connecticut is pining for a back who can carry the ball 20-25 times a game and take some pressure off the young quarterbacks. If Shoemate squanders this chance to be a focal point of the offense, the Huskies will be forced to rely on some extremely green alternatives.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: Last year, Connecticut rebuilt at wide receiver and tight end. This year, it evolves around the return of five of its top six pass-catchers. Typically light on playmakers in this area, the Huskies now have the talent and experience to provide the quarterbacks with more support than they've had in quite some time. And considering the youth and uncertainty behind center, it couldn't come at a better time.
Senior Michael Smith wound up leading the team in receiving, catching 46 passes for 615 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-0, 202-pounder raised the level of his game in 2010, providing the passers with a consistent target and a reliable set of hands. Trading spectacular for steady, he's a tough all-around competitor who'll make the difficult grab and block downfield to support the running game.
Joining Smith as a veteran among the wide receivers is 5-9, 180-pound senior Kashif Moore, who has 21 career starts and caught 36 passes for 452 yards and four touchdowns in 2010. More of a slot receiver, he has the quickness and athleticism to take a quick hitch and navigate through a secondary. Junior Isiah Moore, no relation, has started seven games over the last two seasons, making 15 receptions for 147 yards and a score last fall. He gives the offense a bigger option, using a long 6-1 and 188-pound frame to glide past and rise above opposing defensive backs.
The Huskies are well-stocked at tight end with a pair of complimentary juniors. Eight-game starter Ryan Griffin is the best receiver of the duo, catching 31 balls for 245 yards and a touchdown. A 6-6, 243-pounder, he has a wide catch radius and the athleticism to beat opposing linebackers. John Delahunt, on the other hand, is the better blocker. While only 6-3 and 243 pounds, the Canadian import with the H-back build drives blocks like a fullback and caught five passes for 75 yards last year.
Watch Out For … more work for the tight ends. It all makes sense. The tight ends are reliable and the inexperienced quarterbacks will be looking to play it safe. After combining for 36 receptions in 2010, Griffin and Delahunt should be up around 50 this fall.
Strength: Veteran leadership. Unlike this time last year, the receivers are a more reliable group dotted with experience and steady vets. It's a cast dominated by upperclassmen, which shows in the way they prepare and do the little things well.
Weakness: Stretching the field. Where are the big plays? They were virtually non-existent last season, allowing defenses to shorten the field. Of the 357 passes thrown a year ago, just one went for more than 50 yards, a dearth of explosiveness that needs to be addressed.
Outlook: By the national bar this is an average group, but by Connecticut, it's a solid collection of receivers and tight ends. They won't make a lot of mistakes, and will do the little things, like running tight routes and blocking, well. Long on stability and short on star power, the wideouts and tight ends will prove to be an asset to the new quarterback.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: The Huskies are becoming known for their offensive lines, no-name, blue-collar groups that excel in run blocking. The latest edition is determined to keep that trend going. Three starters return from 2010, but both guards have graduated, making the interior one of the priorities of the offseason.
The new star up front is 6-5, 333-pound senior Mike Ryan, a massive tackle who's going to attract NFL scouts to Storrs this season. He started the first five games on the right side before moving to the left side, winding up on the All-Big East first team. A powerful blocker, he'll improve his grade by remaining in top shape and sharpening his footwork against the league's quicker edge rushers.
The Huskies are also set at the pivot with 6-2, 293-pound senior Moe Petrus, a starter in each of the last 39 games. A versatile and heady rock in the middle of the line, he's everything a coaching staff looks for in a top-notch center. A leader up front, he showed the awareness and athleticism to earn second team All-Big East and finally get the recognition he deserves.
The third returning starter up front is 6-4, 283-pound junior Adam Masters, who started the first four games at left tackle before finishing the season at right tackle. He's added weight, but needs to bulk up further without losing the light feet that have gotten him to this point. The only other tackles to get on the field in 2010 were 6-9, 290-pound junior Jimmy Bennett and 6-5, 290-pound sophomore Kevin Friend . Bennett has upside, but has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Friend is a riser, a talented pass blocker who started two games last season.
All eyes will be on the guards, who'll be looking to succeed Zach Hurd and Mathieu Olivier. Little-used senior Gary Bardzak is moving over from center in order to bolster the team's depth. He'll be joined by a slew of inexperienced underclassmen, such as sophomores Steve Greene and Tyler Bullock, and redshirt freshman Gus Cruz, who are all looking for playing time. At the end of spring, Greene had taken a lead for the starting job on the right side.
Watch Out For … the competition at guard. While not nearly as crucial as the backfield battles, it'll still go a long way toward the line's cohesiveness and the offense's overall success. There are a lot of big bodies in the mix, but precious little experience, making the offseason a key time for developing a two-deep.
Strength: Pass protection. The Huskies led the Big East in sacks allowed in 2010, yielding only 15 in 13 games. With Ryan manning the left side, joined by two other tackles with starting experience, the quarterbacks ought to feel secure once again.
Weakness: The guards. The most experienced guard on the roster, Bardzak, is a journeyman center. If the kids can't come through, the Huskies will struggle to run the ball between the tackles and be vulnerable to the pass rush up the middle.
Outlook: While there are holes on the interior of the line, assistant coach Mike Foley always seems to find a way to patch together a viable blocking unit. This fall figures to be no different. Yeah, the guards will be green, but Ryan and Petrus form a terrific foundation to build around.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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