With the UConn men's basketball team playing in the Big East Tournament semifinals tonight, the thoughts of the 2011 Huskies football team are on the back burner, even with spring starting next week.
Still, there are myriad questions surrounding the team that lost to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in January. Near the top of the list: How smoothly will new head coach Paul Pasqualoni replace Randy Edsall, who left for the Maryland job, and who will be the Huskies quarterback in the fall?
Pasqualoni, who coached Syracuse University from 1991-2004, returns to the college ranks after stints with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. And while words are just that, it's all we have until the Huskies actually begin preparing for the season in earnest. For now, Pasqualoni says all the right things.
"My goal is to try and make kids make the commitment to be the best they can be," Pasqualoni said earlier this week while speaking at the 15th annual Swim Across the Sound charity breakfast in Bridgeport. "That's what we have to do here, be the best we can be at the University of Connecticut. That means go to school and do the best you can do. Just work to the best of your ability every day. In practice, in the weight room, be the best you can be. If we can do that, we'll have a chance for some success.
"The next step is to continue to recruit the most talented players we can. It's players, not plays. If you want to be an exciting football team, you need to have exciting players. We've got to continue to develop that kind of atmosphere, which has been done here and done well and we have to build on that. We want these kids to feel special about the University of Connecticut. When you start attracting top level kids, they have a way of attracting more top level kids. Great players want other great players on their team."
Pasqualoni, speaking specifically about the most important position on the field, also addressed the quarterback situation.
"We're going to work as hard as we can through spring practice (which starts on March 15). You've got Mike Box there, Johnny McEntee there, you've got Scottie McCummings there, you've got Mike Nebrich. This (competition) is probably going to go right until the last minute in the fall."
Nebrich will be a freshman in the fall. The former all-state player from Burke, Virgina, will arrive in Storrs having accomplished a lot in high school. "He's breaking Aaron Brooks' records, he's breaking Michael Vick's records, running the ball and throwing the ball, so when you have that kind of production, I think you have to take a good look at that guy."
Yes, but can he do this? (You knew that was coming.)
As for the favorites? It sounds like we'll have to wait.
"At the end of the day, the selection of the quarterback is not just based on who's the most productive guy, it's based on when he goes into the huddle, who do the kids have the most confidence in?" Pasqualoni said. "Who can move the chains and who can get the ball in the end zone? That's the guy you're looking for."
To recap: UConn has a new coach and he will likely spend the next six months finding his starting quarterback. Nothing earth-shattering there, but this is a big-time college program. Any news -- whether it's actually new or now -- merits a mention if for no other reason that it gives fans something to talk about. And while UConn basketball is front and center, in a few weeks, football will be the only show in town. Might as well prepare for it now.