Connecticut Preview - Offense
Connecticut Huskies
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Connecticut Huskies Preview 2006 - Connecticut Offense

What you need to know ... It's all about the line. Injuries, inexperience, and general problems up front proved to be too much for the rest of the offense to overcome. The starting five should be better this year, but the lack of depth could mean another nightmare if injuries strike again. The receiving corps is fast, Terry Caulley should be a 1,000-yard back with his knee finally back to normal and bruising fullback Deon Anderson back on the team after leaving last year, and the quarterback situation will eventually sort itself out with four decent prospects to choose from.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Matt Bonislawski
82-162, 836 yds, 6 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Terry Caulley
141 carries, 659 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Brandon Young
28 catches, 371 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Terry Caulley
Player that has to step up and become a star: The entire offensive line
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman OT Mike Hicks
Best pro prospect: Senior FB Deon Anderson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Caulley, 2) Anderson, 3) TE Dan Murray
Strength of the offense: Running back
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line

The quarterback situation never got settled last year with the nightmare on the line killing any sort of consistent pass protection and injuries to Matt Bonislawski and D.J. Hernandez preventing anyone from developing. On the plus side, three quarterbacks return with starting experience with Dennis Brown also getting a couple of starts in as a freshman. It's a four horse race with Billy Cundiff getting every shot to win the starting job, but he's still likely a year away from being the man. Bonislawski has the best overall potential to start this year, but Hernandez is the better runner.
The key to the unit: Find a quarterback who can take charge and consistently lead the offense.
Quarterback Rating: 6.5

Projected Starter
- Matt Bonislawski, Sr. - 82-162, 50.6%, 836 yds, 6 TD, 7 INT, 62 carries, 239 yds, 3 TD
Bonislawski never had a chance behind a porous offensive line, but he showed amazing toughness trying to fight through a broken clavicle. He returned a month after getting hurt filling in against Pitt, but he was soon knocked out for the year. "Bones" is an athletic passer with the mobility to take off at any time and the arm to push the ball downfield without a problem. He has to cut down on his interceptions and has to crank up his efficiency to get and keep the starting job. 

Top Backups
- D.J. Hernandez, Soph. - 46-90, 515 yds, 6 TD, 1 INT, 64 carries, 28 yds, 1 TD
Hernandez was thrown to the wolves when Matt Bonislawski got hurt and played reasonably well, but he struggled in a loss to Cincinnati before breaking his wrist. He had a terrific game in the season finale against Louisville throwing for 255 yards and three touchdowns without an interception to give him a bit of momentum going into the quarterback race. He doesn't have the arm of Bonislawski, but he's a tremendous runner and a dangerous option.
- Dennis Brown, Soph.  28-54, 293 yds, 51.9%, 2 TD, 2 INT
Brown got the call against Rutgers and West Virginia and didn't play poorly considering he was thrown into the mix as a freshman. He isn't the runner D.J. Hernandez and Matt Bonislawki are, but he has an accurate arm and good poise under pressure.
- Billy Cundiff, RFr.
Considered to be the most talented of the quarterback options, Cundiff still needs time to develop. Even though he's getting every chance to win the starting job, he's the only quarterback in the mix without any experience putting him back in the race. However, he has the arm to quickly be a part of the starter discussion.

Running Backs
Expect things to be better this year even with the early departure of Cornell Brockington to the NFL draft. Terry Caulley appears to finally be back to his old self two-and-a-half years since his horrendous knee injury. He'll be the school's all-time leading rusher after gaining 112 more yards, and he should be on his way to a 1,000-yard campaign thanks to the return of crushing lead blocker Deon Anderson after he left the team last season. Lou Allen is a diamond in the rough as both a big tailback and an athletic fullback. 
The key to the unit: Getting the groove back. Terry Caulley has to run like he did in 2003 and Deon Anderson has to block like he did in 2004.
Running Back Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Terry Caulley, Sr. 141 carries, 659 yds, 6 TD, 4.7 ypc, 27 catches, 176 yds
Caulley returned from an awful knee injury that sidelined him for the better part of two seasons and led the team in rushing. Barring another disaster, he'll be the school's all-time leading rusher after no more than two games needing a mere 112 to break the record. Problems on the offensive line didn't give him the room to run that he enjoyed early in his career when he sped off to over 1,800 yards and 22 touchdowns averaging six yards per carry before the knee injury, but he wasn't quite back to his pre-injury form. Now he's healthy and should be more effective with improvement up front. He might only be 5-7 and 185 pounds, but he's tough.

- Fullback Deon Anderson, Sr.
Anderson is back after leaving the team last year due to unspecified reasons. He's a walk-on, but he's an important one as one of the Big East's best blocking fullbacks. He's a crushing playmaker for the running game at 249 pounds leading the way to some huge UConn rushing seasons. Don't expect him to see the ball very much if at all.

Top Backups
- Lou Allen, Soph. - 86 carries, 381 yds, 4.4 ypc, 3 TD, 5 catches, 47 yds, 1 TD
One of the most versatile and vital cogs to the offense last year, the 247-pound Allen can play wither fullback or tailback. He has the size and strength to be a good lead back for Terry Caulley, and he has the speed to be a workhorse of a tailback like he was against South Florida rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown.
- Donald Brown II, RFr.
Brown's excellent combination of size and speed should make him a key backup right away. He's a powerful 207 pounds with good breakaway speed.
- Fullback Stanley Williams, Jr.
The return of Deon Anderson and the emergence of Lou Allen pushes Williams to the bench, but the walk-on has the is a very strong blocker for his 225-pound size. It'll be a shock if he gets a carry.

The receiver production was average last season mostly because of the mediocre play of the quarterbacks. That should change as long as the line improves in pass protection and gives the passers more time to let the patterns develop. There isn't a lot of top talent in the corps, but there's more than enough speed and athleticism to be dangerous with Brandon McLean, Ellis Gaulden and Nollis Dewar able to run with anyone in the Big East. Brandon Young is an experienced receiver ready to grow into the number one role and make more big plays. Tight end Dan Murray is a tremendous receiver and will be on the short list for All-Big East honors.
The key to the unit: Using all the speed to stretch the field and hit more home runs.
Receiver Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- Brandon Young, Sr. - 28 catches, 371 yds, 13.2 ypc, 2 TD
Talk about consistent, Young caught 22 passes as a freshman, 28 as a sophomore and 28 as a junior in his comeback year after missing all of 2004 recovering from a car accident. Now he's the team's number one target and put up far bigger numbers after struggling a bit last year with an ankle injury. He has the deep speed to be far more dangerous.

- Brandon McLean, Jr. - 15 catches, 180 yds, 12 ypc
A key backup as well as a good special teamer, McLean will step into the starting role vacated by Jason Anderson. He's not big at a rail thin 5-10 and 166 pounds, but he's a tremendous athlete with next-level speed and quickness. The coaches will do whatever it takes to get the ball in his hands in space.

- Tight end Dan Murray, Sr. - 23 catches, 296 yds, 12.9 ypc, 3 TD
Back for his fourth year as the starter, the All-Big East tight end will continue to be one of the key targets in the passing game with 60 career grabs for 815 yards and nine touchdowns. He has the speed to get deep and make big plays across the middle, but he's an average, but improving, blocker.

Top Backups
- Ellis Gaulden, Soph. - 1 catch, 6 yards
The sophomore is one of the team's most interesting receiver options. He doesn't have a lot of experience, but he's a big target at 6-2 and 192 pounds with big-time leaping ability. He won the high jump at the Big East Indoor Championships setting a mark at just over seven feet.  
- Nollis Dewar, Soph. - 7 catches, 103 yds, 14.7 ypc, 2 TD
The 6-4 sophomore is one of the team's biggest receiver options with enough deep speed and leaping ability to be a dangerous option behind Brandon Young. He got lost in the shuffle last year, but that won't happen this season. 
- Seth Fogarty, Jr. - 6 catches, 43 yds, 7.2 ypc, 1 TD
A true possession receiver last year, Fogarty made a little bit of noise as a freshman making a touchdown catch against Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the 6-0, 206-pound junior's football career might be over after suffering a leg injury after an ATV accident.
- Tight end Steve Brouse, Soph. - 3 catches, 44 yds, 14.7 ypc
Brouse is a little bigger than starter Dan Murray and has the hands to be a bigger part of the passing game. He'll make his biggest impact on special teams this year and should be a big-time producer in the offense in 2007.

Offensive Linemen
2005 was a nightmare for the line with a rash of injuries not helping an already shaky situation. Even with all the inexperience and all the problems the line still had a decent year run blocking. Pass protection was a different story allowing 35 sacks and rarely giving the quarterbacks time to breathe. There's experience returning this year, but not a whole bunch of obvious talent with sophomore guard Immanuel Hutcherson one of the keys to the team's success as the anchor up front. Former defensive linemen Matt Applebaum and center Keith Gray have to start playing more like experienced blockers while sophomore William Beatty and huge Mike Hicks have to shine right away at tackle. Getting the starters straight is hard enough; forget about quality depth for now.
The key to the unit: Stay healthy long enough to develop some sort of continuity and be much better in pass protection.
Offensive Line Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- OT William Beatty, Soph.
Beatty is a smart, athletic tackle who stepped in and turned into one of the team's most promising linemen starting four games and seeing time in eight. He came on at the end of the year showing enough potential to become the team's rising star on the left side.
- OG Matt Applebaum, Sr.
The former defensive lineman started every game last year at left guard and proved to be a major surprise as a run blocker. However, he's a bit limited in pass protection and will be pushed hard for the starting job by Brian Kersmanc.
- C Keith Gray, Soph.
Gray started last season as a defensive tackle and ended up starting at center. He's a tough 283-pound blocker who became solid for the ground game.
- OG Immanuel Hutcherson, Soph.
The line was in desperate need of stability last year and found it in Hutcherson. The 286-pound sophomore started every game and should be the anchor of the line and the one the team runs behind.
- OT Mike Hicks. RFr.
The massive 6-7, 336-pound Hicks will get the first shot at replacing Grant Preston on the right side. He's ridiculously strong and has the big frame to become a mauling pass blocker. The question is whether or not he has the feet to be a consistent pass protector, but he's good on the move with impressive speed for his size.

Top Backups
- OG Brian Kersmanc, Jr.
Kersmanc was supposed to be one of the team's new rocks up front after seeing a little bit of time in 2004, but it didn't happen. At 6-5 and 309 pounds he's a bigger option than the 292-pound Matt Applebaum at left guard and will be a key reserve in the rotation if he doesn't win the starting job outright.
- OT Dan Ryan, RFr.
While not nearly as big or imposing as Mike Hicks, the 6-8, 295-pound Ryan is hardly tiny. The walk-on will battle for the starting job on the right side but will likely spend the year as a reserve.

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