2007 Connecticut Preview |
2007 UConn Defense Preview
2007 UConn Depth Chart
2006 CFN Connecticut Preview
What you need to know:
For two years running, the Husky offense has been painfully
inept, particularly in the passing game. Tyler Lorenzen was
recruited from the ranks of the junior colleges to specifically
address that vertical shortcoming. His arrival pushed D.J.
Hernandez to slot receiver and set up a heated competition with
sophomore Dennis Brown that’ll resume in August. While
quarterback is a question mark, running back is not. Sophomore
Donald Brown exploded on to the scene in 2006 with almost 700
yards and five scores in a torrid five-game stretch to finish
the season. With a bunch of linemen back, he’s poised for a
monster season in an offense that still uses the run to set up
Passing: D.J. Hernandez
86-147, 849 yds, 9 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Donald Brown
161 carries, 895 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Larry Taylor
29 catches, 261 yds, 1 TD
Star of the
Sophomore RB Donald Brown
Player that has to step up and become a star:
Junior QB Tyler Lorenzen
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Terrence
Best pro prospect: Brown
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Brown 2)
Lorenzen 3) Jeffers
Strength of the offense: Brown
Weakness of the offense: Pass blocking, depth at
Ever since current Detroit Lion Dan Orlovsky graduated in 2004, UConn
has been searching unsuccessfully for his heir apparent at quarterback.
It may have found him in Junior College All-American Tyler Lorenzen,
a 6-5 dart-thrower who threw for 26 touchdowns and just three
interceptions at Palomar (Calif.) Community College, while running for
another 836 yards and eight scores. The battle for the starting job
could go right through the summer, however, for a Husky offense facing a
sense of urgency, Lorenzen and his dual-threat potential will eventually
win out. He’ll have to learn an entirely new system after running the
Comets’ spread attack, but he’s got the pinpoint accuracy and
athleticism to spark an offense that averaged just 141 yards a game
through the air in 2006.
Projected Top Reserves: Trying to keep Lorenzen from
elevating to the top of the depth chart will be sophomore Dennis
Brown, who is no stranger to leading the offense. He redshirted in
2006, a year after being thrust into the starting role for two games as
a true freshman. He was gone last fall, yet shouldn’t be forgotten.
Brown is substantially thicker and stronger since arriving as a lanky
185-pound kid and still has the wheels to make positive yardage when
he’s flushed from the pocket.
Watch Out For…Lorenzen. It’s never easy wearing the
savior label, but Lorenzen chose UConn over a bunch of other schools
because he wants to play right away and get an opportunity to shine in a
major conference. Beyond the obvious physical attributes, he’s a very
bright kid with the unique advantage of having a brother, former
Kentucky star Jared Lorenzen, to call for advice on making plays at this
Strength: Athleticism. All three quarterbacks vying for
the start do the one thing Orlovsky couldn’t during his tenure, escape
pressure or pick up first downs on designed runs. That penchant for
quick feet and good speed will serve the eventual starter real well,
especially playing behind a suspect Husky line that allowed 31 sacks a
Weakness: Proven passers. Lorenzen’s future is purely
speculative and there’s no proof that either Hernandez or Brown can
ignite a passing game that was 110th nationally in 2006 and
is short on game-breaking receivers. None of the three can stretch a
defense with their arm strength or can be counted on to connect on
passes beyond the short routes.
Outlook: After D.J. Hernandez showed last year showed that
he was never going to be a big-time quarterback, it’s incumbent upon
Lorenzen or Brown to be a revelation in 2007, a possibility if he gets
support from the offensive line and a couple of quality receivers with
Projected Starters: The silver lining in last year’s
dismal 4-8 season was the emergence of Donald Brown as the new
feature back and a potential Big East star for the Huskies. As a
relatively unknown freshman reserve, he exploded for an average of 134
yards on the ground in five conference games, including 199 against a
Rutgers run defense that was among the nation’s elite at the time. At
5-11 and 215 pounds, Brown is a power-speed slasher that’s durable
enough to endure the pounding of 30 or more carries a game which is what
he’s likely to see as the focal point of the Husky offense.
Anthony Davis is in the starting lineup for the sole purpose of
opening holes for Brown. A 5-10, 235-pound bulldozer, he spent last
year learning the ropes as a redshirt freshman.
Projected Top Reserves: Giving Brown breathers this fall
will be junior Lou Allen, the only upperclassman in a group of
very young backs. A reliable veteran of 22 career games, he’s a 6-1,
238-pound load that can wear out tired defenses and pick up the tough
yards. While not a game-breaker or a feature back, Allen’s experience
and leadership are luxuries for a UConn backfield that’s long on
potential and real short on returning lettermen.
Sophomores Andre Dixon and redshirt freshman Robert McClain
will battle it out for the third tailback spot on the depth chart
and a chance to pick up some mop-up carries late in blowouts. A
terrific all-around athlete at 6-2 and 200 pounds, Dixon saw action on
special teams in four games a year ago. The speedy McClain led the
Huskies in kickoff returns in 2006 and was named Offensive Scout Team
Player of the Week three times.
Watch Out For… McClain. The pecking order is pretty much
set here, but McClain is the one player with a unique skill set who can
challenge for more playing. Unlike the players around him, the 5-9
jitterbug can explode for long runs and has soft hands out of the
backfield that might warrant opportunities as a third-down option.
Strength: Brown. With Brown, the Huskies have the
potential for a balanced offense and a young player they can ride for
the next three years. Without him, the already feeble UConn offense
would be completely punchless in 2007. Now that a star was born late
last fall, Husky fans can’t wait to see what their prodigy will do in
his first full season of action.
Weakness: Veteran depth. After Allen, the Husky backfield
consists of three sophomores and three redshirt freshmen, only one of
which has ever had a carry at this level. If Brown gets injured or
suffers through a sophomore slump, this unit will struggle to plug in a
back that can slide in and support a passing game that was among the
worst in the country in 2006.
Outlook: Not since the days before Terry Caulley tore up
his knees almost five years ago has there been so much excitement about
a young back in Storrs. It’s warranted. Brown has the ability to be
the next best thing to Steve Slaton and Ray Rice in the Big East,
particularly with the offensive line returning so many contributors from
last year’s squad.
Projected Starters: Terrence Jeffers and Brad
Kanuch suffered through some growing in 2006, but starting the final
eight games as freshmen will really start paying dividends in 2007.
Despite being somewhat raw and undersized as a receiver, Kanuch used
sprinter speed in his first year to average more than 22 yards on his 13
catches, making him far and away the Huskies’ best deep threat.
Fundamentally, he grew as the season progressed, a trend that must
continue into this fall.
Jeffers made strides as well last year, catching 17 balls for 200 yards
and two scores, while limiting his mistakes toward the end of the year.
Although he doesn’t have Kanuch’s separation speed, he’s much stronger
physically at 6-2 and 210 pounds and can make catches above defensive
When UConn goes three-wide, senior Larry Taylor will be the man
in the slot, taking short hitches or bubble screens and looking to
slither for big yardage. Only 5-6 and 173 pounds, Taylor is a
fleet-footed gnat in the open field and one of the most dangerous return
men in the country.
Injuries to starting tight end Dan Murray in 2006 opened the door for
junior Steve Brouse to enjoy a breakthrough season one year
earlier than expected. A sure-handed receiver who’s improving as a
blocker, he developed faster than any other Husky receiver last year,
finishing second on the team with 19 catches for 216 yards.
Projected Top Reserves: Brandon McLean lost his starting
job last October and then was suspended following two arrests within the
course of a week. His absence creates an opportunity for converted
quarterback D.J. Hernandez to have an immediate impact in the
slot. A terrific all-around athlete at 6-1 and 210 pounds, he looked
comfortable at his new position in the spring game.
UConn’s biggest pass-catcher is junior Robert Theoudele, a 6-4,
210-pound former linebacker who’ll be looking to pilfer some playing
time away from McLean. His redshirt season now in the rear view mirror,
Kevin Poles is set to back up Taylor in the slot. A 6-2 target
with good wheels, he’ll get an early chance to contribute at one of
UConn neediest positions.
Brouse’s caddy at tight end will be Canadian import Martin Bedard,
a junior who was the team’s long-snapper for the first seven games of
2006 before dislocating his elbow.
Watch Out For…junior Ellis Gaulden. Those UConn
fans that have waited to see Gaulden in action may finally get their
wish later this year. Arguably the best all-around athlete at receiver,
the junior with the good speed and great ups has been hampered by
injuries in each of the last two seasons. Finally healthy, Gaulden is
itching to infuse the corps with a much-needed jolt of athleticism and
Strength: Upside potential. The Husky receivers won’t be
confused with any of the better groups in the country, but their best
days surely lie ahead. Jeffers and Kanuch only scratched their
potential as surprise freshman starters in 2006 and Brouse performed
surprisingly well when Murray was injured last fall. With that season
behind them, this unit should make strides on the extra experience
Weakness: Big-play receivers. Kanuch has the speed to
occasionally get behind a secondary, but the Huskies are a collection of
unproven targets without that one big-play threat that attracts all
kinds of defensive attention. Consistency, a problem that plagued them
in 2006, won’t disappear in 2007.
Outlook: For the passing game to get out of the Stone Age,
it’ll take contributions from the quarterback, the pass blockers and the
receivers. The pass-catchers should be better in 2007, but they’ll
still be a collective liability that drops too many passes, runs so-so
routes and fails to stretch the field enough to open things up for the
Projected Starters: Although the offensive line was
literally a sore spot in 2006, UConn is hoping that injuries, which
forced so many kids into the lineup, will begin reaping benefits this
season. Seven Husky linemen that started games and earned letters a
year ago are back this year, creating a fiercely competitive environment
in Storrs. The bookends at tackle will be junior William Beatty
and sophomore Mike Hicks, a pair of hulking, 6-6 linemen that
were in the lineup last year, but missed time with injuries. An
athletic left tackle with really good feet, Beatty was off to a good
start before breaking his leg in the Oct. 7 loss to South Florida. A
work-in-progress that needs better upper body strength, he has
The 335-pound Hicks was saddled with a nagging ankle injury and an MCL
strain late in the year, but a new season has him back on track to
becoming the Huskies most devastating run blocker. To be a complete
tackle, however, he needs to improve his footwork in order to handle the
Big East’s faster edge rushers.
After missing most of 2006 with a separated shoulder, junior Keith
Gray is expected to return to man the pivot for the Huskies. Now in
his third season at center, the former defensive lineman is quick off
the snap and was the line’s leader, but still needs to get much
A couple of sophomores, Lawrence Green and Alex LaMagdelaine,
will form the guard tandem after lettering last year at different
positions. Green was a reserve defensive tackle, but at 6-3 and 332
pounds, he has the frame to be a mauler once he gets comfortable in his
After filling in admirably for Gray at center over the final ten games
of 2006, LaMagdelaine is ready to shift back to guard on the right side
of the line. Although he got schooled at times last fall, those dozen
games of experience will prove invaluable in his sophomore year.
Projected Top Reserves: When Beatty was lost for the year
last October, Dan Ryan stepped into the lineup and did a solid
job as a seven-game starter at left tackle. Another candidate for Jim
Calhoun’s frontline, the 6-9 sophomore will be in Beatty’s rear view
mirror all year and be no worse than a reliable reserve in the Husky
Junior Trey Tonsing has returned from a year-long suspension to
give the Huskies more depth at center. He started nine games in 2005
and will get all of the reps until Gray is able to return from his
A former walk-on, senior guard Donald Thomas played well in a
reserve role last year and will provide depth and a veteran presence at
a position that lost 2006 starter, Immanuel Hutcherson, to academic
suspension before spring began.
Watch Out For…Hicks. If he can hone his technique and
transform some of the baby fat to muscle, the mammoth sophomore has the
size and potential to be playing for a spot in the NFL two years from
now. Hicks’ continued development will go a long way to determining
just how effective this offensive line becomes in 2007.
Strength: Size and depth. Against many opponents this
fall, UConn should be able to line up and move the chains with some
old-school, smash-mouth football. The front wall is massive and far
more experienced than this time last year which bodes real well for a
running game that’s been the staple of this offense the last few
Weakness: Pass protection: Yeah, the line was shuffled
like a deck of cards in 2006, but it’s been almost three years since the
Huskies have been able to pass protect with any regularity. Even with a
nimble quarterback playing most of the season, UConn was still 96th
nationally in sacks allowed, a sobering stat that must be reversed if
the offense is going to have any success through the air in 2007.
Outlook: Provided the line can stay healthy for the first
time since 2004, the Huskies have more depth and experienced returners
than they’ve had in years. While the unit will excel in opening holes
for Donald Brown and Lou Allen, especially on the right side, pass
protection, which was an Achilles heel in 2006, will dog the
quarterbacks again in 2007.