2008 CFN Connecticut Preview
2008 UConn Offense
2008 UConn Defense |
2008 UConn Depth
2007 CFN Connecticut Preview
2006 CFN Connecticut Preview
What you need to know:
The Huskies would like to take some of the restrictions off QB Tyler
Lorenzen, a capable downfield passer, but his wide receivers are
among the least scary in the Big East. Instead, the program will
strive for modest gains in the passing attack while continuing to
lean heavily on the running tandem of Andre Dixon and Donald Brown.
One of the keys to the ground game will be to find a replacement for
all-star G Donald Thomas. A terrific drive blocker from the right
side, he leaves a big void at the position that coaches hope can be
filled by massive converted tackle Zach Hurd.
Passing: Tyler Lorenzen
197-347, 2,367 yds, 13 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Andre Dixon
167 carries, 828 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: D.J. Hernandez
30 catches, 404 yds, 2 TD
the offense: Junior RB Andre Dixon
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OG
Unsung star on the rise: Senior QB Tyler Lorenzen
Best pro prospect: Dixon
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Dixon 2) Junior RB
Donald Brown 3) Senior TE Steve Brouse
Strength of the offense: The running backs
Weakness of the offense: The passing game,
Projected Starter: For the first time in a few
years, the Huskies begin a season with an incumbent behind
center. And a pretty capable one at that. Senior Tyler
Lorenzen had a solid debut in his first season out of
Palomar (Calif.) Community College, going 197-of-347 for 2,367
yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions, adding 328 yards and
a score on the ground. An outstanding all-around athlete at 6-5
and 222 pounds, he’s a better passer than the numbers indicate
and a dangerous runner when he leaves the pocket. After
finishing 97th nationally in passing, Connecticut
would like to open things up a bit this fall, believing Lorenzen
is capable of doing much more in his final year in Storrs.
Projected Top Reserves: The defection of Dennis
Brown to Norfolk State means sophomore Zach Frazer and
redshirt freshman Cody Endres will duke it out to
determine Lorenzen’s backup. Frazer is a 6-4, 233-pound transfer
from Notre Dame who’s expected to be the future at the position
once Lorenzen graduates. While a crash course in mechanics may
be needed before the opener, he has a powerful arm and the most
natural ability of any Husky passer since Dan Orlovsky.
Although Endres is the likely No. 3 on the depth chart and
missed much of spring, the staff is still excited about his
long-term potential. Another sizable quarterback at 6-4 and 231
pounds, he’s raw, but possesses the toughness and velocity to
eventually contend for more playing time.
Watch Out For… an expanded role for Lorenzen. With
a full season under his belt, the senior is far more comfortable
than when he first arrived at Connecticut. The Huskies would
like to see more downfield passing from Lorenzen, who’s been
hamstrung by a shortage of quality receivers.
Strength: Big arms. At an average of 6-4 and 230
pounds, the Huskies’ three quarterbacks make quite a presence in
the pocket and can really sling the ball downfield. Now all they
need is a few receivers with the jets to stretch a defense and
make good use of all those cannons.
Weakness: Durability. A disturbing trend of
nagging injuries has begun to develop with Lorenzen. Last
spring, there was a knee problem. At the end of the season, he
was hampered by the knee and a thumb injury. In April, he was
forced to skip the spring game with an ankle injury. Lorenzen is
a big target who takes a lot of hits, so Frazer had better be
ready to don his helmet at a moment’s notice.
Outlook: Compared to this time last year,
Connecticut is on solid ground at quarterback, with Lorenzen
back for a final season and Frazer being groomed as the heir
apparent. The passing game should be much improved from last
year, but only if some of the young receivers quickly develop
into consistent targets.
Projected Starters: Connecticut doesn’t have a
starting running back. It has two. Juniors Andre Dixon
and Donald Brown are interchangeable parts out of the
backfield, both capable of rushing for 1,000 yards.
Dixon was a huge surprise a year ago, stealing the spotlight
from his more heralded teammate and earning a spot on the
All-Big East Second Team. Despite entering the season buried on
the depth chart, the 6-1, 202-pounder slashed his way to 828
yards and three scores on 167 carries, adding 24 catches for 280
yards and another score.
Although Brown entered the season as the Huskies most valuable
offensive player, he got off to a slow start and was upstaged by
Dixon. He eventually got on track, rushing for 455 yards of his
821 yards over the final four games, flashing the power and
speed through the hole that made him a freshman sensation. The
5-10, 208-pound Brown comes into this season a little leaner and
a lot more focused on recapturing some of the carries that Dixon
stole in 2007.
Sophomores Anthony Davis and Anthony Sherman are a
couple of blue-collar fullbacks that split time last year, and
might do so again. At 5-11 and 242 pounds, Davis is a
one-dimensional blocker who didn’t carry the ball in his first
season. His sole objective is to be the lead blocker for Dixon
Sherman was one of a handful of true freshmen to play in every
game, starting twice and making a dozen tackles on special
teams. At 5-11 and 239 pounds, he’s a little more athletic and
versatile than Davis, carrying the ball six times, catching two
passes, and occasionally lining up as an H-back.
Projected Top Reserves: Out of Robbie Frey
and Kelmetrus Wylie, one of the two redshirt freshmen
backs are going to secure the No. 3 spot and earn some carries
late in lopsided games. Like Dixon, the 6-0, 195-pound Frey has
good speed and doesn’t waste any motion when getting to the
Wylie, on the hand, is a 5-10, 207-pound thumper who likes
contact and refuses to be arm tackled. With a ton of confidence
and good all-around skills, he has the make-up to be the Husky
feature back once there’s more clearance atop the depth chart.
Watch Out For… Dixon and Brown to both get at
least 150 carries for a second straight year. The Huskies favor
the ground game, and as long as there’s minimal separation
between the two juniors, both are going to get their 10-15
touches a game.
Strength: Two quality backs. With the emergence of
Dixon to go along with Brown, Connecticut boasts two runners
who’ve proven they can carry the load when needed. Each ran for
at least 800 yards last year, giving both a chance to stay fresh
and the program a much-needed insurance policy.
Weakness: A home-run hitter. As good as Dixon and
Brown are, neither is the type of back who’ll frighten opposing
defenses with his speed or long ball potential. While both are
very effective, north-south runners, it would be nice to
occasionally insert a jackrabbit capable of burning a gassed
defense in the second half.
Outlook: Although Brown wasn’t supposed to have
company in the Connecticut spotlight, Dixon’s emergence has been
a huge plus. The two will continue to be the workhorses of a
conservative offense that prefers to control the clock and set
up the pass with a steady diet of runs.
Projected Starters: The hunt for quality receivers
was exacerbated by the transfer of leading receiver Terence
Jeffers to a school that’ll better use his talents. That leaves
as the starters senior D.J. Hernandez and junior Brad
Kanuch, a couple of productive veterans who won’t frighten
any Big East secondaries. Hernandez is a grinder, a 6-1,
211-pound former quarterback who’ll make the tough grabs and
drag tacklers like a tight end. In his first season at the
position, he caught 30 passes for 404 yards and two touchdowns.
Among the veterans, the 6-0, 190-pound Kanuch is the closest
thing the Huskies have to a deep threat. He’s averaged at least
16 yards per catch in each of the last two seasons, catching 27
passes for 433 yards and a touchdown in 2007. In order to
improve on those numbers, Kanuch must do a better job of getting
separation from the defender and finding a soft spot in the
Connecticut’s most dependable receiver is going to be 6-4,
252-pound senior TE Steve Brouse, a third-year starter
with soft hands and a penchant for getting open in the middle of
the field. In his best season in Storrs, he caught 26 passes for
286 yards and four touchdowns, generating some interest from the
NFL as a tight end, or possibly an H-back.
Projected Top Reserves: Throughout the spring,
redshirt freshman Kashif Moore displayed some of the
flash and elusiveness that this group has been missing. While
only 5-9 and 177 pounds, he has the quickness and
change-of-direction skills to take a short slant from Lorenzen
and through the opposing secondary.
Senior Marcus Easley is one of the hardest workers on the
team, a former walk-on who’s previously gotten on the field as
special teamer. At 6-3 and 212 pounds, he has outstanding size,
but needs to improve in all facets of his game to earn the
confidence of the quarterbacks.
Like Easley, Robert Theoudele is another huge target
looking to make an impact on offense in his final season. At 6-4
and 220 pounds, he’s a former linebacker whose biggest attribute
might be as a downfield blocker on running plays.
The biggest upside of the reserves belongs to senior Ellis
Gaulden, but he’s recovering from a foot injury, another in
a long line of setbacks. Although he’s 6-2 and 192 pounds with
ideal speed and leaping ability, until he’s physically able to
compete, Husky fans won’t know if he’s a giant tease or an
Behind Brouse is senior Martin Bedard, the program’s
long-snapper and a viable option off the bench at tight end. The
6-3, 233-pounder played in all 13 games a year ago, starting
three and catching three passes for 42 yards.
Watch Out For… senior CB Darius Butler to
get his wish of playing some wide receiver. One of the Huskies
top overall athletes at 5-11 and 181 pounds, he should get 10-12
snaps a game to inject some athleticism and big-play potential
into the Husky passing attack.
Strength: The tight ends. Brouse has really come
on as a pass-catcher since replacing Dan Murray in 2006, and
Bedard is a senior who won’t hurt the team when he’s on the
field. In an offense predicated on the mid-range passes, Brouse
is a safe bet to set a career-high in receptions, while
contending for all-league honors.
Weakness: A lack of playmakers. There’s a good
reason why Randy Edsall finally relented, and allowed his best
cover corner to play some offense—he has no other choice. It’s
tough mining game-breaking receivers out of the Northeast, a
hurdle Boston College has been staring at for decades.
Outlook: The hope is that Moore contributes right
away and Gaulden is healthy enough to finally take his track
speed and high jumping ability to the field. Without a lot of
help, Hernandez and Kanuch will be eminently ordinary,
preventing Lorenzen and the passing game from making any forward
progress this season.
Projected Starters: Even though the Huskies lose
just one player, current Miami Dolphin Donald Thomas, the line
is going to have a different and more than one new face. In an
attempt to get his five most physical blockers on the field,
Randy Edsall opened up the competition in the spring and quickly
began shuffling the deck. The two biggest surprises are the new
front-runners at guard, redshirt freshman Moe Petrus on
the left side and sophomore Zach Hurd on the right. The
6-2, 283-pound Petrus soared up the depth chart in April,
flashing the physicality and footwork that Edsall and his staff
have been craving. A mature 22-year old, he’s not the typical
first-year player who’s going to be shaken by his new role.
Like Petrus, Hurd seized an opposing in March and April, moving
inside from tackle and routinely dominating at the point of
attack. At 6-7 and 305 pounds, he’s already one of the biggest
Huskies, adding about 10 pounds of muscle through an intense
offseason conditioning program. Still a little rusty learning
the new position, Hurd will spend much of the few months trying
to absorb every page of the playbook.
Senior Keith Gray is the returning starter at center and
one of the leaders of the offensive line. At 6-2 and 276
pounds, he won’t overpower anyone, but he’s quick off the snap
and as fundamentally sound as any other Husky lineman.
The favorite at right tackle, junior Mike Hicks, also
spent time at left guard last season. Edsall permanently moved
him to tackle in the spring, feeling his long arms and 6-6,
329-pound frame was a better fit for walling off edge rushers.
Hicks could stand to lose a few pounds and improve his technique
if he’s going to remain atop the depth chart through the
Senior William Beatty is back for his second year as a
full-timer at left tackle and his final audition for pro
scouts. Still somewhat of an unfinished product, he’s an
outstanding athlete with the ideal 6-6, 300-pound frame for a
tackle. Thomas was flying well below the NFL radar this time
last year, so there’s hope for Beatty if he can put it all
Projected Top Reserves: Applying heat to Hicks at
right tackle is junior Dan Ryan, a five-game starter from
a year ago. At 6-8 and 290 pounds, he’s an imposing specimen
with plenty of experience and the long arms to jolt rushers of
their stance. Ryan is, at worst, a quality backup who’ll be even
better when he adds more upper body strength.
The Huskies’ top reserve guard is junior Alex LaMagdelaine,
a versatile lineman who can also fill in at center if necessary.
Although the 6-3, 307-pounder hasn’t exactly flourished over the
last two seasons, getting passed on the depth chart by younger
players, he does provide experience and leadership to the second
Backup center Trey Tonsing has eight starts at the pivot,
but that was way back in 2005, before he was suspended for a
year and supplanted by Gray. Even if the 6-3, 301-pound former
walk-on is no threat to the top spot, he brings much-needed
senior know-how to the B team.
Watch Out For… the new guards. The coaching
staff has been very impressed by the tenacity and maturity of
Hurd and Petrus, who are being given a chance to help transform
a Husky line that’s seeking an infusion of new energy.
Strength: Depth. While it’s taken a few years to
get to this point, Edsall finally has a two-deep at the
offensive line that has a good mix of talent and experience.
Five linemen have started games at some point in their career,
and the second team has players that’ll compete for playing time
and won’t freeze up if pressed into action.
Weakness: Pass protection. While there were modest
improvements, mainly due to Tyler Lorenzen’s elusiveness, the
Huskies were still one of the Big East’s worst pass protectors
for a second straight year. They yielded 30 sacks and too many
pressures for a team that doesn’t pass often, creating an open
competition when the program convened for practice in the
Outlook: Connecticut believes its getting better
in the trenches, but by how much will depend on the development
of the new guards, Petrus and Hurd. If they’re as ready as they
appeared to be in April, the line will be a plus.