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2014 Connecticut Recruiting Class Analysis

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 5, 2014


Connecticut Huskies 2014 ... Head Coach: Bob Diaco


Connecticut Huskies

2013 Record: 3-9
8/29 Towson L 33-18
9/7 OPEN DATE
9/14 Maryland L 32-21
9/21 Michigan L 24-21
9/28 at Buffalo L 41-12
10/5 OPEN DATE
10/12 USF L 13-10
10/19 at Cincinnati L 41-16
10/26 at UCF L 62-17
11/2 OPEN DATE
11/8 Louisville L 31-10
11/16 at SMU L 38-21
11/23 at Temple W 28-21
11/30 Rutgers W 28-17
12/7 Memphis W 45-10


- The 2014 Recruiting Class

Team Concerns For 2014: The ground game. Whenever the Huskies have had success, it was usually fueled by the defense and the running game. After ranking 119th on the ground in 2013, while averaging just 2.6 yards per carry, UConn must get back to basics on offense. While young QB Casey Cochran gave the passing attack a late lift, it’s now up to a beleaguered offensive line to create more daylight for the running backs and generally win a few more battles at the line of scrimmage.

The 2014 Class Is Heavy On ... Running back. New head coach Bob Diaco didn’t come up with a whopper, but he picked and choosed his spots getting Arkeel Newsome, a 5-8, 180-pound scatback who could be the cornerstone of the offense. There are other, bigger options, but the class works only if Newsome is great. Vontae Diggs is a good-looking linebacker who needs to hit the weights, and guard Lamont Bradford will be a starter if he adds at least 15 pounds of good weight.

2013 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 60. That Class Was Heavy On ... The passing game. UConn needs more offensive weapons, and it's trying to get them for the passing game with quarterbacks Tim Boyle and Richard Lagow each big passers who can push the ball down the field, and if everything works out well, Noel Thomas, Brian Lemelle and tight end Tommy Myers should help make the air show go. Corner Javon Hadley from Miami is one of the team's better recruits, and linebacker Jalen Stevens is a good get out of South Carolina, but inside linebackers Junior Joseph, Cory Jasudowich and Matt Walsh are all interesting big-tackling prospects.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 67. That Class Was Heavy On ... Quarterbacks. Paul Pasqualoni didn’t have a chance to do much of anything last year, and it showed with a mediocre class that might have been the weakest in the Big East. This year, he needs an upgrade in talent across the board, but he also needs to find a quarterback to build around – or at least challenge Scott McCummings and/or Mike Nebrich down the road. The running game was bad last year, but the passing game has to improve quickly if Johnny McEntee can’t get the job done. 

2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 78. That Class Was Heavy On ... Variety. New head coach Paul Pasqualoni didn’t have time to do much, but he was able to come up with his bookend offensive tackles for the near future with Paul Nwokeji and Xavier Hemingway talented prospects who’ll be great with two years in the weight room. Kamal Abrams should be the team’s No. 1 target in 2014, and linebackers Marquise Vann and Jefferson Ashiru fit the UConn mold and Deson Foxx has more speed than the normal Husky running back, but all eyes will be on quarterback Michael Nebrich to see if he can finally add some pop to the passing game. With his 4.5 speed, he’ll be more of a runner than a bomber.

2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 67. That Class Was Heavy On ... Linebackers. The stars of the class might be quarterbacks Scott McCummings and Ty-Meer Brown, and they'll have dangerous receiver prospects to throw to in Tebucky Jones and Geremy Davis, but the best aspect of the class is at linebacker with Brandon Steg a sure-thing All-Big East star for the inside and Reuben Frank, Yawin Smallwood, and Josh Alexander all defenders to get excited about.

2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 72. That Class Was Heavy On ... receivers. Although the Husky quarterbacks haven’t exactly been crisp since Dan Orlovsky graduated, they haven’t been helped by the receivers either. Connecticut had one of the worst units in the country a year ago, which explains why the position got so much attention from Randy Edsall and the staff. Three of the four commits rank among the top 150 receivers, led by Ft. Lauderdale product Dwayne Difton.

at Connecticut 45, Memphis 10
Basically … Memphis scored first on a 43-yard Jake Elliott field goal, and then it was all Connecticut. The Huskies went on a run of 31 points with Lyle McCombs scoring on an 11-yard touchdown pass and a seven-yard scoring run. Casey Cochran threw four touchdown passes with Deshon Foxx scoring from 18 and 32 yards out, and Geremy Davis catching a 15-yard touchdown pass. Memphis only got into the end zone on a ten-yard Keiwone Malone catch in the third, but the Huskies had the game in hand.
- Connecticut QB Casey Cochran completed 36-of-54 passes for 461 yards and four scores.
- Memphis QB Paxton Lynch
- Connecticut WR Geremy Davis caught 15 passes for 207 yards and a score, and Deshon Foxx caught 11 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
- Total Yards: Connecticut 538 – Memphis 257

at Connecticut 28, Rutgers 17
Basically … Connecticut took advantage of three turnovers and got two Casey Cochran touchdown passes and two Max DeLorenzo touchdown runs on the way to a stunning win. Rutgers still needs a win to become bowl eligible, and blew it against the Huskies after getting up 17-14 on a three-yard Justin Goodwin touchdown run. UConn scored 14 unanswered points, all in the fourth.
- Connecticut QB Clint Cochran completed 25-of-33 passes for 311 yards and two scores.
- Rutgers QB Chas Dodd completed 16-of-35 passes for 286 yards and two picks.
- Rutgers was -3 in turnover margin and converted 4-of-14 third down chances, but connected on all three of its fourth down chances.
- Connecticut WR Deshon Foxx caught nine passes for 117 yards

Connecticut 28, at Temple 21
Basically … Down 21-0, Connecticut owned the second half with Casey Cochran running for a score and finding Geremy Davis for a 33-yard touchdown as part of a run of 28 unanswered points. The defense came up with the key score for the win as Yawin Smallwood returned a pick 59 yards for a score. The Owls got a touchdown run and a scoring pass from P.J. Walker and Zaire Williams ran for an 18-yard touchdown, but they turned it over three times.
- Temple outgained UConn 372 yards to 235.
- Connecticut QB Casey Cochran completed 8-of-18 passes for 111 yards and a score with a pick.
- Connecticut RB Max DeLorenzo led all rushers with 61 yards and a score on 18 carries.
- Temple QB P.J. Walker completed 26-of-46 passes for 280 yards with a score and a pick, and he ran 19 times for 32 yards and a score.

at SMU 38, Connecticut 21
Basically … Garrett Gilbert threw four touchdown passes with two to Keenan Holman from one and 20 yards out and two to Jeremy Johnson from four and five yards away. Connecticut would make it a game as Casey Cochran found Sean McQuillan for a one-yard touchdown and Geremy Davis from 26 yards away to pull within seven in the fourth, but the Mustangs controlled the final few minutes with a Chase Hoover field goal and a 35-yard pick six from Stephon Sanders 35 seconds later.
- SMU QB Garrett Gilbert completed 33-of-52 passes for 353 yards and four scores, and he ran seven times for 23 yards.
- Connecticut RB Lyle McCombs ran 17 times for 103 yards
- Connecticut QB Casey Cochran completed 25-of-42 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns with two picks.
- SMU WR Jeremy Johnson caught 12 passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

Louisville 31, at Connecticut 10
Basically … Teddy Bridgewater only threw one touchdown pass, but the defense and special teams did most of the work for the Cardinals with a blocked punt for a score and a pick six from Terrell Floyd on the way to a 31-3 lead. Connecticut turned the ball over five times and didn’t get into the end zone until there were 35 seconds to play on a 14-yard Kamal Abrams catch.
- Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater completed 21-of-37 passes for 288 yards and a score with a pick. He also ran seven times for 21 yards.
- Connecticut QB Tim Boyle completed 14-of-29 passes for 113 yards and three picks. Casey Cochran completed 6-of-9 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown.
- Louisville committed 12 penalties for 101 yards to Connecticut’s two for ten yards. The Cardinals were +4 in turnover margin.
- Louisville’s Terrell Floyd came up with two interceptions, taking one for a touchdown.

at Cincinnati 41, Connecticut 16
Basically … Brendon Kay threw four touchdown passes – with two to Chris Moore from eight and 27 yards out – and ran for another as Cincinnati throttled UConn. The Huskies could only manage a 26-yard Chad Christen field goal early as the Bearcats took a 34-3 lead into midway through the third quarter. Max DeLorenzo ran for a 12-yard touchdown for UConn and Marquise Vann returned a fumble for a score, but UC had the game well in hand.
- Brendon Kay is getting hot at just the right time. The UC quarterback completed 17-of-24 passes for 300 yards and four scores, and he ran for a touchdown. Helping the cause is wildcat runner Jordan Luallen, who led the team with 51 rushing yards while adding a little bit of a passing touch.
- Interim UConn head coach T.J. Weist wants to give Tim Boyle a shot to show what he can do, but the dropback passer is making too many young mistakes. He threw for 310 yards, and he wasn’t bad at times, but he also threw three picks. It would be nice if the O line and running game could help, but both were awful against the Bearcats.
- As if things weren’t bad enough for the Huskies, now they have to go to UCF and follow it up with Louisville. It’s going to take a minor miracle not to be 0-9 going into a winnable game at Temple.
- This is where Cincinnati has to roll. It might not have been a fun start to the season, but now the Bearcats are 5-2 with east games against Memphis and SMU up next. They’re going to end up in a bowl, and now it’s time to fight for the AAC title. However, they don’t play UCF – they’ll need a little help.

South Florida 13, at Connecticut 10
Basically … Aaron Lynch returned a fumble 44 yards for a score and Marvin Kloss hit two field goals including a 44-yarder to give USF the lead for good in the final four minutes. UConn started out the scoring with a field goal and got a Lyle McCombs 52-yard scoring dash in the second, but that was it – the Huskies didn’t score in the almost three whole quarters.
- USF is 2-0 in the AAC. Even with all the problems to start the season and all the embarrassments, the Bulls are unbeaten where it matters. There still might not be any offense with just 228 yards, and the passing game is embarrassing with Bobby Evald completing 8-of-28 throws for 106 yards with a pick, but the defense took care of the win.
- Connecticut got 164 rushing yards out of Lyle McCombs, but the passing game didn’t show up with Tim Boyle completing just 15-of-43 passes for 149 yards. He was under constant pressure, but he got help from McCombs and he still couldn’t hit the midrange throws.
- Aaron Lynch might not be the force of will USF was hoping he’d be, but he gave the team the big scoop and score it needed along with three tackles with a sack. He did a nice job getting to the quarterback. Linebacker DeDe Lattimore was the star with 11 tackles with a tackle for loss.
- Connecticut moved the ball better, it came up with more yards, and the defense held firm time and again, not allowing a USF offensive touchdown, but it just couldn’t get within scoring range in the second half. The team should’ve been able to do more with McCombs running so well.

at Buffalo 41, Connecticut 12
Basically … Buffalo forced four turnovers, with Najja Johnson returning an interception for a first quarter score, and the offense got into the act with Branden Oliver running for a five-yard score and Joe Licata throwing three touchdown passes. Connecticut managed two Chad Christen field goals early, but was down 28-6 before Lyle McCombs ran for a two-yard score. UB scored 13 unanswered points in the second quarter, highlighted by Patrick Clarke field goals from 49 and 50 yards out.
- UConn, what the heck was that? It was almost as if Michigan beat the Huskies twice – they didn’t even show up. The passing game was bad, the running game worse, and a bad season has just turned into a disaster. Nothing is going to work unless the ground attack starts doing something positive. It gained just 27 yards.
- It’s not like Buffalo was perfect, but Branden Oliver was a steadying factor with 90 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, while Joe Licata had a nice day completing 10-of-19 passes for 177 yards and three scores with just one pick. UB didn’t explode, but it did enough to pull away.
- The Husky defense did what it could. Linebacker Yawin Smallwood continues to be a superstar, coming up with 12 tackles, but there wasn’t any pass rush whatsoever from the line.
- The Bull defense played at another level with more pop and quickness with five sacks. Linebackers Khalil Mack and Lee Skinner combined for 18 tackles.

Michigan 24, at Connecticut 21
Basically … Michigan was sloppy and mistake-prone for around the first 39 minutes on the way to a 21-7 deficit. The Wolverines scored first on a 17-yard Devin Gardner run, and then it was all UConn with Chandler Whitmer throwing two touchdown passes and Ty-Meer Brown returning a fumble 34 yards for a score. The Wolverines rallied with Fitzgerald Toussaint running for a 35-yard score, and capitalizing off an interception with a 12-yard touchdown run. A 21-yard Brendan Gibbons field goal gave Michigan the lead for good, and the defense held on in the final few minutes.
- The positive way to look at it for Michigan is that it’s 4-0 and got through adversity. As rough as the last two games have been, at least the team knows it can rally back when it’s struggling. The negative? Devin Gardner has to be better. He ran well, but he was way too shaky and indecisive on his throws, finishing with just 111 yards and two picks.
- Connecticut had Michigan down, and couldn’t put the game away. Chandler Whitmer couldn’t convert a third down stop – UConn converted just 1-of-11 chances – and he threw a horrible, game-changing interception – but it was a brilliant play by Desmond Morgan - when the team didn’t need to press.
- Yawin Smallwood might be the best linebacker Michigan faces all year. He came up with 13 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. He destroyed the Michigan offense at times.
- Michigan is going to get tagged soon if it keeps screwing up. From the Devin Gardner butt fumble for a UConn score, to the errors on special teams, the four turnovers were almost disastrous. That won’t work against anyone good.

at Maryland 32, at Connecticut 21, Sept. 14
Basically … Maryland broke open a tight game in the third quarter with 12 straight points starting with a 49-yard interception return for a score from Dexter McDougle and a safety on an intentional grounding call. C.J. Brown ran for a 41-yard score and hit Stefon Diggs for a 12-yard touchdown. Connecticut got on the board first with a five-yard Lyle McCombs touchdown run, but only managed a field goal before Shakim Phillips caught a 75-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth.
- It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but Maryland keeps on winning and keeps on generating offense. The steadiness of starting quarterback C.J. Brown, and his 122 rushing yards, has meant almost everything; there’s a passing game this year. He’s getting off to a nice start.
- Connecticut bombed away with the passing game, with Chandler Whitmer throwing for 346 yards, but there were way too many mistakes. The pick six was a gamechanger, and there were a few too many misfires and errors when he tried to press. There’s potential for the passing game, but the offense needs to be more consistent.
- Yawin Smallwood continues to be a bright spot in a disastrous season. The UConn linebacker made 14 tackles and was decent in pass coverage, too.
- Maryland is finding defensive playmakers. Cole Farrand came up with 12 tackles, Dexter McDougle made two picks including the big play that broke the game open, and Marcus Whitfield and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil combined for 5.5 sacks. The Terps might not be rock sold, but there are some nice pieces.

Towson 33, at Connecticut 18, Aug. 29
Basically … Towson running back Terrance West ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns, putting the game away in the final minute on a five-yard run. Connecticut couldn’t get the ground game going and couldn’t slow down West and the Towson running game that kept the ball for over 36 minutes. Chandler Whitmer hooked up with Shakim Phillips for two touchdowns for the Huskies.
- Yawin Smallwood tried to do his part. The run defense might have struggled a bit, but the all-star came up with 16 tackles and was in on everything.
- Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. UConn can’ do it. It’s not for a lack of trying, but Lyle McCombs couldn’t find any room to move.
- Welcome to the first day of the last year of the Paul Pasqualoni era. You can’t lose to Towson at home. Ever.

Spring Analysis

Why To Get Excited … George DeLeone is no longer calling plays on offense. DeLeone became a lightning rod for criticism for a necrotic offense that averaged only 17 points per game. In his place steps T.J. Weist, whose eight returning starters are about to get introduced to a far more attacking style of play-calling from its new coach.

Why To Be Grouchy … the Huskies are losing a ton of talent on defense. Of last season’s five All-Big East performers, only one, LB Yawin Smallwood, is still in Storrs. While Connecticut has developed a tradition of feisty defenses over the past seasons, beleaguered head coach Paul Pasqualoni and his assistants will need to develop new stoppers at each level beginning in the spring.

The Number One Thing To Work On Is … fixing the offensive line. At least three seniors are expected to man the front wall, but a veteran presence guarantees little for this unit. At the heart of last season’s offensive stumbles was an O-line that ranked 100th nationally in sacks allowed, and did a poor job of creating space for RB Lyle McCombs, the team’s top offensive threat.

Team Concerns For 2013: Will the offense ever work? The Huskies averaged a pathetic 17.75 points per game with no running game and way too many turnovers. It all starts with a line that gets four starters back, but has to be far stronger in pass protection. Turnover margin has to start becoming a positive after coming up with a mere six picks and six fumble recoveries. The special teams have to be far stronger, especially on kickoff returns, averaging under 20 yards per try, and punting, averaging under 36 yards per boot.

Non-Conference Games: Towson, Maryland, Michigan, at Buffalo
Realistic Best Case Record: 8-4
Worst Case Record: 4-8
Likely Finish: 5-7

Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Towson, at Buffalo, at SMU, at Temple, Memphis

Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: Maryland, Michigan, USF, at Cincinnati, at UCF, Louisville, Rutgers

Schedule Analysis: With a big home stretch to start the season, the pressure will be on to beat Maryland after the Opening Day layup against Towson. With Michigan to follow and South Florida to start the Big East campaign, four of the first five games are in Storrs – being 4-1 would be great, but 3-2 might have to do. However, with the road game at Buffalo, there’s a nasty stretch of three road games in four and five in seven with the two home games coming against USF and Louisville. Fortunately, UConn gets Rutgers at home, but it might come down to the regular season finale against Memphis to have a shot at a bowl game.

The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... The passing game. UConn needs more offensive weapons, and it's trying to get them for the passing game with quarterbacks Tim Boyle and Richard Lagow each big passers who can push the ball down the field, and if everything works out well, Noel Thomas, Brian Lemelle and tight end Tommy Myers should help make the air show go. Corner Javon Hadley from Miami is one of the team's better recruits, and linebacker Jalen Stevens is a good get out of South Carolina, but inside linebackers Junior Joseph, Cory Jasudowich and Matt Walsh are all interesting big-tackling prospects.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 67. That Class Was Heavy On ... Quarterbacks. Paul Pasqualoni didn’t have a chance to do much of anything last year, and it showed with a mediocre class that might have been the weakest in the Big East. This year, he needs an upgrade in talent across the board, but he also needs to find a quarterback to build around – or at least challenge Scott McCummings and/or Mike Nebrich down the road. The running game was bad last year, but the passing game has to improve quickly if Johnny McEntee can’t get the job done. 

2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 78. That Class Was Heavy On ... Variety. New head coach Paul Pasqualoni didn’t have time to do much, but he was able to come up with his bookend offensive tackles for the near future with Paul Nwokeji and Xavier Hemingway talented prospects who’ll be great with two years in the weight room. Kamal Abrams should be the team’s No. 1 target in 2014, and linebackers Marquise Vann and Jefferson Ashiru fit the UConn mold and Deson Foxx has more speed than the normal Husky running back, but all eyes will be on quarterback Michael Nebrich to see if he can finally add some pop to the passing game. With his 4.5 speed, he’ll be more of a runner than a bomber.

2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 67. That Class Was Heavy On ... Linebackers. The stars of the class might be quarterbacks Scott McCummings and Ty-Meer Brown, and they'll have dangerous receiver prospects to throw to in Tebucky Jones and Geremy Davis, but the best aspect of the class is at linebacker with Brandon Steg a sure-thing All-Big East star for the inside and Reuben Frank, Yawin Smallwood, and Josh Alexander all defenders to get excited about.

2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 72. That Class Was Heavy On ... receivers. Although the Husky quarterbacks haven’t exactly been crisp since Dan Orlovsky graduated, they haven’t been helped by the receivers either. Connecticut had one of the worst units in the country a year ago, which explains why the position got so much attention from Randy Edsall and the staff. Three of the four commits rank among the top 150 receivers, led by Ft. Lauderdale product Dwayne Difton.


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