Steveo’s Salvos – UConn Spring Football preview, April 10, 2016

In 2016, we’ve penned in nine teams that will appear on our schedule more than one time. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages we’re hearing about as these teams practice for their upcoming intrasquad spring scrimmages. It’ll give us an idea of what the teams will be focusing on before we get to see them play in the fall.

Connecticut (2 games) – The last time we attended UCONN games up at Pratt-Whitney Stadium up at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, it was in 2010. A lot has changed for the UConn Husky football program since back then. They were still in the Big East and we saw them defeat West Virginia in OT ,16-13, and Pitt on a muddy field, 30-28, under then HC Randy Edsall. Now a member of the American Athletic Conference East, the Huskies have been trying to rebuild under third-year HC Bob Diaco. Prior to UCONN , Diaco was the defensive coordinator under Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, and our history goes way back seeing the Cedar Grove, NJ native play linebacker for Iowa against NC State in the Kick-off Classic in Giants Stadium back in 1992.  Time flies as we’re still having fun with this college football obsession. With an 8-17 record in his first two years at the Storrs campus, Diaco improved his team with four more wins last season and went on to the St. Petersburg Bowl ( who doesn’t go to a bowl nowadays?) where the Huskies dropped a close one to Marshall, 16-10.

Looking forward to a Friday night game in November back at "The Rent" for one of our double-header weekends.

Looking forward to a Friday night game in November back at “The Rent” for one of our double-header weekends.

 

The Huskies saw some promise last season with a defense that yielded only 19.4 points per game and pulled off a 20-17 upset at home over eventual AAC champ and No. 8 Houston though the Cougars played without the services of QB Greg Ward. But Diaco has something to build on to try to achieve some more wins in 2016. Despite a low-scoring offense, averaging 17.1 points a season ago, ten starters return from a young offense. With a season played together under their belts and the return of starting QB Bryant Shirreffs who had transferred from NC State two years ago, the Huskies will focus on improving on that side of the ball as the former Fighting Irish DC and linebacker seems to be pulling things together on the defensive side of the ball.

In 2015, the Huskies hosted Navy. We'll see UConn visit the Midshipmen this season on September 10.

In 2015, the Huskies hosted Navy. We’ll see UConn visit the Midshipmen this season on September 10.

Shirreffs completed 168 passes for 2078 yards and nine TDs a year ago, but he’s going to have to work on his accuracy as he threw eight INTs to improve a poor TD/INT ratio. The QB was also the second leading rusher for the Huskies gaining 503 yards and scoring three TDS. Top WR Noel Thomas returns with 54 catches for 719 yards and three TDS. This combo will look to improve upon the passing game. RB Akeel Newsome averaged 4.3 yards per carry tallying 792 yards and six TDs while making 45 catches for 465 yards.   Ron Johnson took the ball into the end zones five times and ran for 224. Four of five interior starting linemen return to take control the line of scrimmage and two TEs, Alec Bloom and Tommy Myers, combined for 38 receptions for 546 yards. The game experience is prevalent on offense and there seems to be good development going on here, but now it’s time for UCONN to take it the offense to the next level. Offensive coordinator Frank Verducci, a Seton Hall grad (they have no football program) with 31 years of coaching experience in college and in the pros, will be the man responsible for pulling the strings to make this revved up offense into high gear.

HC Bob Diaco will most likely be putting some more emphasis on offense this spring to prepare for the 2016 season.

HC Bob Diaco will most likely be putting some more emphasis on offense this spring to prepare for the 2016 season.

Defensively, MLB Junior Joseph returns as the second leading tackler for a year ago with 93 tackles. Safety Obi Melifonwu was among the top defenders and Junior CB Jamar Summers (Orange, NJ) picked off eight INTs last season. PK Bobby Puyol converted 16 of 18 FG attempts last year including 52-yarder in the St. Petersburg Bowl. Justin Wain returns to take care of the punting duties for UCONN.

The Huskies will play their first of seven home games opening against FCS and former Yankee Conference foe Maine on Thursday, September 1. We will see the Huskies on the road and at home this season against two formidable foes in what should be some challenging games.

Bring on the 2016 season!

Bring on the 2016 season!

UCONN games we will see this season: Sept. 10 at Navy; Nov. 4, Friday night vs. Temple.

Spring game: April 16

Last up: Penn State

About Steveo

This website is dedicated to my unique and ongoing adventure to continue to see every major Division 1A (I despise the moniker “FBS”) football team play in person at least once. I’ve seen all 124 teams in existence as of 2013 play and plan to attend games with the five newest editions in the next few years. This also records my ongoing adventures attending as many college football games as possible every season. I “officially” started this crazy goal in 1979. The upcoming 2014 season will be the 35th straight year of sharing this fun endeavor with others in person and through weekly reviews about each game I attend. Entering 2014, I have attended 459 NCAA football games at all levels. My book, Tales from the Tailgate: From the Fan who’s seen ’em all! published in 2011, tells my story over 30 years of when I attended a game in person played by each D1A team for the first time. Now, I haven’t attended a game at every major stadium on each campus (yet) because I’d probably be unemployed and definitely divorced by now. However, I’m proud to report that I remain gainfully employed and have been married to the same woman (“Saint Laurie”) for almost 25 years. We have two kids that have recently ventured away from our home in Byram Township, NJ over the last few few years. Our daughter Alex is a junior at the University of South Carolina (Go Gamecocks!), and our son Eric is now enlisted in the United States Navy (Go Navy!). You will find that my site and my book focus on enjoying a passion for college football and great opportunities to have fun with friends and family around the country.

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