By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: The 2009 season was one the Connecticut football team
and its fans will never forget. On October 18th, starting cornerback Jasper
Howard was stabbed to death on the school's campus. Head coach Randy Edsall
and his players were distraught, but they played on in an effort to honor
their fallen teammate. What followed was three heart-breaking losses to West
Virginia, Rutgers and Cincinnati in succession by a grand total of 10 points.
At that point, the team was 4-5, including 1-4 in league play, and seemingly
had nothing to play for. However, Edsall found a way to rally the troops for
what can only be described as a spirited final four games.
The Huskies beat Notre Dame in double-overtime in South Bend to halt the
losing skid, and followed that contest with a thrashing of Syracuse. Then, in
the regular season finale against South Florida, UConn treated its loyal fans
to a 29-27 victory. Because of the strong finish, the Huskies earned an
invitation to the PapaJohns.com Bowl to square off with South Carolina of the
SEC. Thanks to a tremendous defensive effort, UConn beat the Gamecocks by a
20-7 final, setting the tone for the off season and the 2010 campaign.
"When you're a program starting the way that we had to start, you've got to
have some wins that really set you apart," says coach Edsall. The Notre Dame
win was one of those, and many anticipate more to follow.
OFFENSE: While many teams don't have one established quarterback in the fold
as this new season begins, the Huskies have two viable options in Zach Frazer
and Cody Endres. Frazer figures to begin the season as the starter and keep
the job as long as he plays to his potential. After suffering a knee injury
last season that caused him to miss action, Frazer returned for the impressive
stretch run and has the full support and confidence of both his teammates and
coaches. During the four-game win streak to close out the campaign, the
experienced signal-caller threw six touchdowns with only two interceptions.
Fortunately, he has three capable receivers back after each made significant
contributions last season. With two talented sophomores ready to step forward
and a newcomer with plenty of height and ability, six receivers in all could
make an impact.
UConn is known as a power running team, and while Jordan Todman and Andre
Dixon split the load last season, Todman will be the primary ball-carrier in
2010. He ran for 1,188 yards and 14 scores a year ago and is a legitimate
candidate for All-Big East honors. The offensive line is loaded with four
returning starters, and after averaging 31.2 ppg a year ago, UConn certainly
has the potential to at least maintain that level of production.
DEFENSE: Any discussion of the UConn defense must start with the linebackers,
who are among the best in the conference. The tandem of Scott Lutrus and
Lawrence Wilson makes the Huskies a contender for the Big East crown. Wilson
made 140 tackles last season and earned First Team All-Big East honors for his
efforts. Lutrus struggled with injuries, but he now appears to be healthy and
ready to play up to his vast potential.
Up front, Lindsey Witten and his 11.5 sacks will be missed, but there is a
wealth of athleticism in place. Jesse Joseph, a sophomore, is just one of many
defensive end candidates that have the physical skills to pressure the
quarterback consistently. The biggest concern involves the secondary, which is
youthful to say the least. Edsall has plenty of speed at both corner and
safety, but a "wait and see" approach should be taken with this group. UConn
ranked sixth in the Big East in both scoring defense and total defense a year
SPECIAL TEAMS: Dave Teggert was inconsistent as the placekicker for UConn in
2009 and must improve his field goal percentage to keep his job. Chad Christen
is the club's punter and will be under pressure to perform early.
OUTLOOK: The fact that UConn is considered by many analysts to be a Top-25
team entering this season is a credit to Edsall. This program has come a long
way, and there is no doubt that there are enough pieces in place to contend
for the Big East title. Frazer, Todman and a talented offensive line make
"We want to win a Big East championship and get to a BCS bowl game," says
Edsall. The bar has been set.