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UConn Looks to Rebuild Defense

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    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)

    Ultimately, the results were the same during Paul Pasqualoni's first two years as UConn's coach -- back-to-back 5-7 records -- but the defense was one of the best in the Big East. In fact, defensive lineman Kendall Reyes was as a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and linebacker Sio Moore, and cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson were third-rounders last spring.

    But last season in Storrs, the defense fell off a cliff, so much so that all-everything linebacker Yawin Smallwood has gone from can't-miss NFL prospect to likely late-round pick. But with Pasqualoni gone and former Notre Dame assistant Bob Diaco now running the show, the plan is to return the defense to its previous glory. And that task falls to new defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter.

    "I think it's the head coach's vision to be a top-notch defense, being a defensive coordinator for a long time, knowing his mentality to run the ball and play solid defense," Poindexter said, via the Hartford Courant. "It's our goal to play solid defense, keep the points down and let our offense have opportunities to possess the ball."

    The Huskies ranked 51st in total defense last year after allowing 385 points. Five defensive starters return from last year's 3-9 squad. Poindexter, meanwhile, knows something about defense. He was the ACC defensive player of the year in 1998 and was considered a hard-hitting safety during his four years at UVA. But he also knows the game has changed in recent years, but the bottom line remains: getting the most out of his players.

    "You know my style was totally different and it was a different day and age in football, too," he said. "We played the game different. Most of the kids I'm coaching now have a lot more athletic ability, a lot more speed. If you're talking about physical gifts, they have more physical gifts now, which allow us to do a lot of different things."