Head Coach: Bob Diaco
2015 Record: 6-7
2015 Bowl: 16-10 Loss to Marshall at St. Petersburg Bowl
2016 Returning Starters: 7 Offense, 5 Defense
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +600000
Odds to win 2016 AAC Championship: +4400
Regular Season over/under: 5.5 wins
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The UConn Huskies have some issues to address when it comes to moving the football and scoring. Last season, the Huskies managed to make a Bowl appearance, but they fell to Marshall and the season’s theme of not being able to score reared its ugly head in the season’s final game. The Huskies scored less than 10 points four times last season, and two of its losses were by less than a TD.
Turning it around begins with QB Bryant Shirreffs. He completed 168 of 279 last year for 2,078 yards, but he had eight INTs with just nine TDs. Arkeel Newsmen and Ron Johnson were successful in the backfield and the duo combined for over 1,000 rushing yards.
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Even so, the Huskies just were not able to get in the end zone much, and a large portion of that blame goes to the WRs. Both Noel Thomas and Tyraiq Beals are capable of making plays, but the Huskies need a third WR and Hergy Mayala is one place they may look to add that.
The OL returns C Ryan Crozier, and the Huskies have to find a way to get the ball down the field. Scoring 17.2 points per game again will do little more than crank out another .500 season.
The LB group should be the biggest strength of the defensive unit. Junior Joseph and Florida State transfer E.J. Levenberry are both studs, and Levenberry had 39 tackles as a freshman in 2013 before his playing time declined and led to his transferring to UConn. Joseph was second on the team in tackles last year with 93, and Vontae Diggs is also a key cog. There is enough talent to make up for the loss of Graham Stewart.
The secondary is also strong with CB Jamar Summers (eight INTs last year) and S Obi Melifonwu (88 tackles). Both are strong run-stoppers and Summers’ pass coverage is among the best in the nation (he did tie for No. 2 in the country in INTs, after all). DEs Luke Carrezola and Mikal Myers both should be strong pass rushers. Foley Fatukasi is also a big run stopper. The Huskies defense can keep them in games, but the offense is going to have to put up some numbers, as already stated clearly enough.
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Placekicker Bobby Puyol hit 16 of 18 FGA last year and 12 of 13 from inside 40 yards. Michael Tarbutt will be the punter.
The Huskies open the season with a matchup against Maine and Week 2 will face a tough Navy team. Facing Cincinnati and South Florida in back-to-back weeks (Oct. 8 and 15) will define the season. If the Huskies could win at least one of those two it would be a big notch in the belt.
The Huskies did improve by four wins last year and made a Bowl game for the first time since 2010. Progress is always a good thing, but the offense has to make some pretty big strides to make this more than a middle of the pack AAC team. UConn is on the rise as a program, but it does have a fairly stiff schedule this year. If the Huskies can manage to score even 25 points per game, it will be a plus-.500 team, but that is asking a lot from a group that averaged just 17.2 per game a year ago.
Prediction: 6 wins
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