What to watch on offense
Paul Pasqualoni previously served as the head coach at Syracuse, compiling a 107-59 record along the way. Pasqualoni has led previous teams into the Big House before, including 1998 squad that upset the Wolverines led by Donovan McNabb. A defensive coordinator by trade, Pasqualoni has handed the reins of the offense over to TJ Weist who previously served as the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky. Weist employs a traditional pro-style offense that currently ranks 104th in the country.
The good news for the Huskies is that they return a veteran QB with 12 starters under his belt. The bad news is that QB threw more interceptions than TDs during his 12 starters. Junior College transfer Chandler Whitmer threw for over 3,000yds at the JUCO level before arriving at UConn. Whitmer threw for 2,600yds a year ago but posted a 9-16 TD-INT ratio. The Huskies get the benefit of returning their top receiver from a year ago in Germy Davis and pair him with Boston College transfer Shakim Phillips.
A season ago the Huskies were led in rushing by the diminutive Lyle McCombs who ran for over 900yds. McCombs returns and has been the primary ball carrier for UConn this season.
UConn returns 4 of 5 starters on an offensive line that struggle to both protect the QB and generate running lanes. The good news for UConn fans is that there is no where to go but up and the Huskies do benefit from the return of the Penn State transfer Alex Mateas who missed 7 games a year ago thanks to injury
Best Offensive Player
RB Lyle McCoombs- At 5’8 170lbs, McCoombs scares no one climbing off the bus but he is an electric player in the open field. Despite weaknesses and injuries plaguing the o-line, McCoombs still managed to make 2nd team All-Big East.
Head Coach: Paul Pasqualoni-3rd Year
Off Coor: TJ Weist-1st Year
Def Coor: Hank Hughes-1st Year
TE Ryan Griffin
LG Ben Masters
LB Jory Johnson
LB Sio Moore
DE Trevardo Williams
DT Ryan Wirth
CB Dwayne Gratz
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson
QB Chandler Whitmer
RB Lyle McCoombs
WR Geremy Davis
OC Alex Mateas
DE Jesse Joseph
LB Yawin Smallwood
CB Byron Jones
What to watch on defense
Hank Hughes served as the defensive coordinator for 13 seasons before being demoted to simply coaching the defensive line. Don Brown left his DC post in the off season for Boston College and Hughes was promoted back to the coordinator position. The Huskies has struggled mightily so far this season, yielding an average of 32ppg and gaining zero sacks on the year.
The Huskies lost a dynamic pass rusher in Trevardo Williams who earned 11.5 sacks last season.. The leader of the defensive line this season is NT Shamar Stephen. At 6’5 323 Stephens is a mountain of a man who is extremely difficult to move. Senior Jesse Joseph returns at DE after starting all 13 games a season ago.
UConn lost two experienced LBers, including 3rd round pick Sio Moore. The good news is that leading tackler Yawin Smallwood returns after posting a 120 tackle season last year. The Huskies also get the benefit of adding Florida transfer Graham Stewart who played reserve duty in 12 games for the Gators 2 years ago.
The Huskies return a lot of experience at the safety position but are breaking in two new CBs after losing two great players to graduation. Byron Moore returns to man one of the new CB spots. Moore finished 3rd on the team in tackles a year ago and at 6’1 190lbs has the kind of size and speed to match up with most D1 WRs. Safeties Andrew Adams and Ty-Meer Brown both have significant starting experience those Adams is coming off of a significant knee injury.
Best Defensive Player
Yawin Smallwood – Smallwood is an animal at LBer who makes a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Smallwood racked up 11TFL a year ago and added 4 sacks in addition to his team leading 120 tackles. Yawin was a freshman All-American in 2011 and has only gotten better since then.
Michigan Rush Def vs. Akron Off
UConn ranks 124th our 125 D1 teams in rushing, averaging 57 yds per game. Despite having a talented RB the Huskies have struggled to open holes and create running lanes.
The Wolverines gave up their highest rushing total of the season last week against Akron but are tied for 11th in rush defense in the country.
Michigan Pass Def vs. Akron Off
After playing reasonably well against Notre Dame the secondary took a step back against the Zips. Blake Countess continues to make plays at CB. Shoring up the rest of the secondary finding ways to generate a pass rush remains the primary concern.
The Huskies threw for over 300yds against Maryland last week in a 32-21 loss. Chandler Whitmer is currently completing 60% of his passes.
Michigan Rush Off vs. Akron Def
The Michigan offensive line is currently having major issues in the run game. The interior of the line in particular has struggled in targeting and maintaining blocks. In addition, the play of the RBs has been less than stellar.
While the Huskies have the size and athleticism to make plays in the run game they have failed to do so this season, ranking 104th in the country in rush defense.
Michigan Pass Off vs. Akron Def
When he doesn’t force the ball Devin Gardner is a lethal playmaker that can give opposing coordinators nightmares. The passing game has suffered from a significantly high number of turnovers but the pieces are in place to produce a dynamic passing attack as the Wolverines showed against Notre Dame.
UConn is dead last in the NCAA in sacks and pressuring the QB. There is size and talent in the secondary but they often get exposed because of the lack of pressure.