Training camp for the UConn football team begins in two and a half weeks, and plenty of decisions will have to be made regarding a team with a new coach, a new quarterback and a revamped backfield. One of the few areas that isn't a concern: the defense (you may have heard this before … a few dozen times).
We've made no secret of the fact that if the Huskies are going to survive the Big East, it will be largely because the defense keeps them in close games. So it shouldn't be much of a surprise that defensive tackle Kendall Reyes has been named to the preseason watch list for the Lombardi Award, which is annually given to the nation's best college lineman.
The Connecticut News' Neill Ostrout provides some background:
Reyes has played in 37 games over the past three seasons with 29 starts. He was a First Team All-Big East selection last season and a team captain who started all 13 games alternating between end and tackle and started final three games at tackle. He tied for third on the team with 10 tackles for a loss and also had 2.5 sacks.
Earlier this month, ESPN.com Big East blogger Andrea Adelson ranked the Huskies' d-line as the best in the conference, and had this to say about the unit.
"Reyes turned down a shot at the NFL for one more season, and is the only first-team Big East selection on the defensive line returning to his team. Both Reyes and [DE Jesse] Joseph are defensive player of the year candidates. Five players return who started seven or more games last season, giving the Huskies plenty of experience along the line."
More surprising, however, is that UConn center Moe Petrus and offensive tackle Mike Ryan were also named to the Lombardi watch list. When we think of the Huskies offense we immediately assume the worst because of the lack of depth and experience in the offensive backfield. But ESPN ranks UConn's offensive line as the third best in the Big East, and notes that Petrus and Ryan are a big part of that.
And we've mentioned in the past that a solid o-line makes life much easier for a quarterback and a running back, particularly when they're both new to the job. Whether it will be enough to keep the Huskies afloat in the Big East is another matter, but that's why they play the games.