Back in June, two seasons after earning Freshman All-American honors with the Huskies, running back Lyle McCombs left the team, leaving a gaping hole on the depth chart. Except that the reality is that McCombs struggled through his sophomore and junior seasons. And while some of the blame lay with the offense -- and the offensive line, in particular -- the good news is that if first-year coach Bob Diaco can get the o-line sorted out, the running game will benefit -- no matter who is in the backfield.
As it stands, redshirt junior Max DeLorenzo is the frontrunner. Not only did he rush for 367 yards and five touchdowns last season, he's the only back on the roster to have rushed for a touchdown for the Huskies. But at 5-11, 210 pounds, DeLorenzo arrived in Storrs as a freshman without a true position or much in the way of faith from the coaching staff about what he could bring to the team.
“I always getting passed over,” DeLorenzo said Monday, according to SNY.com's John Silver. “(The coaching staff) know what type of back I am. It’s funny, I came in and I was one of eight or nine tailbacks. Now look at us? It’s hard, but you have to keep grinding put your nose into it. Flashy, not flashy, big plays or no big plays. You just get the ball and move the chains. Points. That’s productive. These coaches know what a running back does. You are going to break them sooner or later.”
And the old adage about not judging a book by its cover certainly holds here. No, DeLorenzo will never be mistaken for Adrien Peterson in terms of his physical stature or breakaway speed, but that doesn't mean he can't be a starting running back for an FBS school.
“I can be the guy, be the productive back and produce,” he said. “What I did last year, I thought I moved the chains and put points on the board. That’s what’s being productive is. You can’t stop the run, you can’t win games.”
UConn will likely feature a running backs-by-committee approach which means that, along with DeLorenzo, Josh Marriner, Arkeel Newsome, Ron Johnson and even Jazmarr Claxx could see carries.
“I see them all participating, all have different things they can run,” Diaco said. “If I need to hammer a nail into a wall I get a hammer, I don’t use the back of a Phillips head screw driver….we have different jobs offense. We are going to dial up the appropriate tool to do the job.”