Stop us if you've heard this before: the UConn football team -- particularly the offense -- will have to play near-flawless football next season if it's going to have any chance of competing in the Big East. That task just got much harder because Huskies receiver Mike Smith has been declared academically ineligible for the 2011 season.
Smith led the team in receptions (46) and yards (615) last season, and that's when UConn had a veteran (if sometimes inconsistent) quarterback in Zach Fraser. Now an offense already chocked full of questions heading into the fall can add wideout depth to the list just below running back depth, and most important, a starting QB.
Kashif Moore (36 catches, 452 yards, 4 TDs in '10) and Ryan Griffin (31, 245, 1) are the Huskies' other top receiving threats but the race is wide open for new No. 3 candidates now that Smith is ineligible. Dwayne Difton is probably regrets his decision to transfer, although it means more opportunities for young players like Tebucky Jones Jr. and Geremy Davis
"Michael will be, obviously in the program," head coach Paul Pasqualoni told the Hartford Courant. "He will be in practice each day. He just will not participate in games."
It's great that Smith is still a part of the team but that will do little for the Huskies on Saturdays this fall. "I do think this is a year that he can use to improve himself all the way around and then still have a final year of eligibility," Pasqualoni added.
Yesterday, before the Smith news broke, we wrote this: "Optimism is nice, but from the vantage point of late May, 2011 could be a rebuilding year for the Huskies."
Now, in light of the latest development, that's an understatement along the lines of "Kemba Walker had a little something to do with UConn's successful national title run." Put differently: the Huskies, already short on offensive weapons, just lost one of their best players. It means more chances for unproven players, but that would have been easier to pull off on the defensive side of the ball where there are fewer questions heading into 2011.