An early look at the 2017 UConn football team. Up-tempo and aggressive.
STORRS: It’s only early August and so much can and needs to happen with the University of Connecticut football program before their pessimistic fan base starts to believe again, but their head coach is hoping to give them something to get stoked about when the season gets underway on August 31 when they host Holy Cross.
On Monday, I got my first look at the team that is coming off a forgettable 3-9 campaign and returns head coach Randy Edsall for the second time and from the early returns, there is a marked difference in everything around the program.
The head coach himself has noticed the positive and upbeat surroundings and hopes it continues.
“I think it’s good (the enthusiasm),” Edsall said. “I know that when I’m out and about, it seems like it. We still need more people to buy tickets. Not to wait and see what we do but to get out there and support us now. I know that there are people who are excited, the players are excited and everything else, but I hear a lot of different things from a lot of different people and it’s been good. Now what we need to do is to continue to work hard and do what we have to do to maybe get some of those people who are on the fence off the fence and get them to Rentschler Field again and enjoy it.”
The Huskies plan on going with an up tempo, fast paced offense that was on display on Monday with multiple battles going on, especially at the quarterback position where red shirt senior Bryant Shirreffs and junior college transfer David Pindell seem to be locked in a battle for the starting nod.
On Monday, both had their moments. Pindell has a really fast release but Shirreffs may have been a little more consistent throughout the afternoon.
Both took part in the offense drills that gave folks a sneak peek at the pace the offense may utilize. A mix of no-huddle, quick snaps and a more deliberate set up, all designed to keep the opposing defense off guard.
Former Ansonia star, Arkeel Newsome, now a senior, is expected to be one of many threats at the Huskies disposal but he is by no means the only option in the Edsall playbook.
“I think Arkeel is a shifty back and a great competitor,” Edsall said. “So, I think there can be some really good opportunities in terms of what we do but again, it’s a team game and he’s just one of eleven there on offense so he also needs to do his job to help other people be better and they have to do their job to help him be better. He has the ability to make plays in this offense.”
Offense was not the only area the returning head coach saw needed work, the defense had to be re-tooled and it appears to be making progress, especially when it comes to the coaching staff’s approach, according to one of their linebackers.
“I like everything about this defense,” red shirt junior Chris Britton said. “Previously with coach Diaco, we sat back and where conservative. Now we are attacking, getting after guys and making plays.”
Part of what needed to happen this year was to re-boot the program as a whole and it appears it has been working.
“Coach Edsall changed the culture,” Britton said. “A lot more guys are buying into the program. Each and every day, guys are working hard because we know it’s right there. If we continue to work hard, we will win. Coach Edsall has been here, he has done it so we just need to follow his footsteps.”
Sure, it’s August and practice and it means not a whole lot but winning is created in practice, winning mindsets are also created in the pre-season and while the proof is in the results come August 31, it kind of feels different in Storrs right now.
That can’t be a bad thing.
NOTES: Donavan Williams, who started three games last year for the Huskies after Shirreffs was hurt, is no longer listed as a quarterback but will look to make the move to wide receiver.
As the practice sessions had worn on this summer, Williams was not in the higher rotations when the coach approached him about the situation.
“I said something to Donavan about a week ago,” Edsall said. “I just told him that I didn’t know how the quarterback thing was going to play out or anything along those lines but depending upon where you might be on the depth chart, if you had any objections that if you were not where you wanted to be would you have an issue with playing on special teams. Today he came in and asked about being involved at wide receiver and special teams and I said certainly.”
A gifted athlete, Williams gives himself a better chance to be an impact player with this move.