A look at the Tight End heavy UConn football offense in 2016.
TORRINGTON: As the University of Connecticut Huskies football team prepares to kick off their 2016 campaign, what can fans of the team that plays in East Hartford expect, especially on the offensive side of the ball?
We talked with second year offensive coordinator Frank Verducci about just that during the programs media day last week and he hopes a formula used by a nearby NFL team works for the Huskies.
“This is a tight end driven offense,” Verducci said. “I mean, if you look on the roster, there’s not a fullback and that’s by design. So, it’s multiple tight ends. Our players watch a lot of the Patriots and I was fortunate enough to work with Charlie Weis at Notre Dame and he’s really one of those guys who put that offense in New England. Its foundation is in that and they have always been multiple tight ends. You go Ben Coates, Marv Cook, Gronk (Rob Gronkowski), they have had all those tight ends and have used them in all different roles.”
Over time, Verducci and the Huskies have looked to shape their roster to better utilize this system of offense that already has two high quality tight ends in Alec Bloom and Tommy Myers, who saw considerable playing time a year ago.
“So as we have been able to recruit to that,” Verducci said. “Now that depth gets better, now you throw Tyler Davis in there, who’s extremely unique. Last year we had Garret Anderson in there, this is completely different than when Garrett came and played the position. Tyler Davis is going to be something special at this position.”
Having multiple option of both players and play calling is what made this system of tight end heavy offense so effective, not only in New England but wherever a team has had true skill players lining up at the end of the offensive line.
“So, you can put two tight ends on the field,” Verducci said. “But depending upon who the tight ends are, we want to make the defensive identify if they are two tackles, is one a tackle and one a receiver, are they two receivers. Ideally, you want to have strength in both areas but realistically, some guys do better jobs than others so it will not be unusual to see us play five different tight ends in a game. Bloom and Myers being the starters but there are jobs for all those other guys to play to their strengths as well.”
Bloom (22 catches, 314 yards, 1 TD) and Myers (16 catches, 232 yards, 2 TD’s) will no doubt be more frequent targets for quarterback Bryant Shirreffs who starts his second full season behind center and will be looking to cut down on how often he has to run by using his big tight ends more often.
Davis, a 6’4” 235 pound red shirt freshman from North Bellmore, New York, is listed in the F position, one that moves around and counts on a player being able to perform multiple tasks throughout the game.
Anderson filled that role admirably a year ago but is listed and the backup to Shirreffs on the depth chart as week one rolls around.
….The Huskies offensive features a red shirt freshman starting at left tackle. Matt Peart (6’7”, 304) has impressed enough in spring and fall practice to get the nod over junior Steve Hashemi Jr. and joins Andreas Knappe (6’8”, 325) at the tackle positions.
The remainder of the offensive line features Tommy Hopkins (6’6, 311) and Richard Levy (6’6”, 312) at guard with Ryan Crozier (6’4”, 300) returning at center after missing the 2015 season due to injury.
Brendan Vechery, who filled in for Crozier a year ago, will back up Levy at right guard.
Noel Thomas and Hergy Mayala are the team’s starting wide receivers with Brian Lemelle and Traiq Beals ( who impressed during camps) backing them up.
In the backfield, the two-headed team of Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson will get the bulk of the carries this season.
Newsome is coming off a special year and will also be the squads primary kick returner.
In the kicking game, the Huskies return a pair of consistent performers, in place kicker Bobby Puyol and punter Justin Wain.
They would like to see more of Puyol and less of Wain if they had their druthers.
A true freshman, Nick Zecchino will be handling the long snapping duties in 2016.