Throughout the season, I’ll be taking questions each Monday following a game week for a weekly mailbag. The 2019 season starts Thursday night for what should be an exciting season with marked improvement across the board, particularly defensively. Let’s get right to the questions:
First off, you do great work, thanks for everything you’ve been able to do so far. As far as Preseason MVP projections, let’s start with the offense. WR Ardell Brown is a player that came in and immediately assumed the number one receiver spot and for good reason. He’s the complete package and is also a true leader. On the field, he’s a guy that is special with the ball in his hands. He’s an electric player that will make guys miss and I expect him to be the Huskies leading receiver. He did miss the last open practice, but head coach Randy Edsall said it wasn’t a major issue. A strong 1A will be running back Art Thompkins, who I project to have the most touches out of the backfield this season (Kevin Mensah should have the most carries).
Defensively? There are a number of candidates. Defensive line you’re looking at Travis Jones. At linebacker, it’s Notre Dame transfer D.J. Morgan. In the secondary, Keyshawn Paul has taken some drastic steps forward. I’ll go with Jones, however, as he is a player that should draw double teams throughout the season, freeing up guys to bring pressure, get in running lanes and make plays in the backfield. The philosophy of this defense will be pressure, aggression and 11 players to the ball. Expect a drastic improvement in this year’s sack numbers, coming off a year where they registered just eleven (11) total.
There should be plenty of opportunities where UConn finds themselves in games this year. This is going to be a much improved team where past performance is not indicative of what this group is capable of. Let’s rank the games from most likely to least likely, based on my preseason evaluations.
- East Carolina
Looking at these teams prior to the start of the season, outside of Indiana, Cincinnati and UCF on the road and Houston at home, the rest of the games are match-ups that should at least be competitive. East Carolina and UMass boast new coaching staffs, Temple went through two head coaches in the offseason and a solid win over Wagner in the opener (I expect at least a three-score win), should set up an intriguing matchup in week-two against Illinois, at home. Listen to 97.9 ESPN Radio Saturday AM at 8:30 with Bob Joyce, for my projected win total.
Still waiting on the official number from UConn on both the season ticket count and the amount of tickets sold/distributed for Thursday’s season opener. Once that info is made available, will definitely report.
In terms of the breakout freshman, there are going to be a few. Offensively, Cam Ross is going to be a starter on opening night at receiver on the outside, opposite Ardell Brown. Ross is the 3rd Ross brother to player for Edsall (the older two both played at Maryland) and Edsall says Cam has the most potential. He’s fast, a great route runner and has very good hands.
Defensively, Eric Watts is likely going to start immediately for the Huskies at defensive end. Watts is a versatile player who you will see standing up at times and playing with his hand on the ground as well. He gained experience in the spring by enrolling early and is mature for his age, something that will help him see the field immediately.
This one has been a little difficult to judge as both Donovan Williams and Jay Rose were both banged up at different times and missed parts of Fall camp, so we haven’t really seen much of the rotation at tight end for an extended period. Talking with Williams this past weekend, the one thing that immediately stood out is his size. A senior captain, he’s bulked up to 240-lbs, something that will help him at the line of scrimmage. One thing that was seen often during camp is the offense going to 4 receiver sets at times, which allows them to get more speed on the field. However, that formation will only occur if the offense can rely on a back to stay in the backfield to help with pressure. Williams and Rose will both see the field this season.
Answered the first half of this one above. As for the second half, Krajewski will play if Mike Beaudry struggles or the Huskies are significantly ahead in the 2nd half, which I actually expect in the season opener. It wouldn’t hurt to be able to get him time and experience against Wagner.
The entire defensive unit is going to be vastly improved. New DC Lou Spanos has revamped this defense from a mentality and philosophical standpoint. The secondary helped themselves with the arrival of DB Coach Darrell Perkins and JUCO safety transfer Diamond Harrell. The linebacker corps, with D.J. Morgan’s arrival from Notre Dame and true freshman Jackson Mitchell, are going to be much improved. On the defensive line, they will play at least eight (8) players, with the edge guys bringing speed and athleticism (i.e. Watts, Kevon Jones and Dillon Harris). In terms of biggest improvement year-over-year, I’ll go with the second level. At linebacker, you’re starting unit will be D.J. Morgan in the middle, flanked by Ian Swenson and Omar Fortt on either side.
Small PSA as mentioned above, I’ll be on 97.9 ESPN Radio to help preview the upcoming season with Bob Joyce from 8:30-9AM on Saturday.