ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 26: Yawin Smallwood #33 of the Connecticut Huskies watches the action during the game against the UCF Knights at Bright House Networks Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
A year ago, Yawin Smallwood was one of the best players on the Big East's best defense. Now, with Sio Moore, Dwayne Gratz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Trevardo Wilson in the NFL, Smallwood is one of the only playmakers on this unit and it shows. Unfortunately, he can't do it by himself, which has something to do with why the Huskies are 0-7.
The defense incapable of getting off the field, and that, in conjunction with an offense that can't score points makes it seem like things will get worse before they get better.
"It's definitely been a tough season," Smallwood said, via to the Hartford Courant. "It's easy to motivate guys when you're winning games and stuff like that but it's tough when you come away with losing each week. It's hard to motivate players but you've just got to try to keep guys as focused as you can. We've got five more games left this season. We definitely do not want to be a part of one of those UConn teams that had the worst record ever so I feel like it's just playing for pride now."
Smallwood takes little solace in the fact that he was named a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award last week.
"I've made a lot of tackles and I've made a lot of key plays but I feel like I need to make more plays, get more takeaways, when the team really needs to get off the field," he said. "I feel like I need to become a player who's able to get that stop on defense, get that interception, to seal the game, force that fumble. I feel like I need to work on that and hopefully it comes along."
Silver lining: Even though the 2013 season hasn't unfolded as Smallwood would've hoped, he'll be playing on Sunday's in the NFL next season.
"Obviously, that's something I want for him and it's something he wants for himself," linebackers coach Jon Wholley said. "At the end of the season that will be something to look at, to see pros and cons because the two things he'll want to make sure is he gets his education and helps us . ... He's unique ... in that he can take the good out of any situation and be able to focus on what's important and have faith in his preparation."