We've written before about the Huskies' struggles in the passing game last season. Part of that was due to inexperience at quarterback, part of it was a new scheme, and part of it was because UConn didn't have a player capable of consistently stretching the field and putting pressure on the defense.
This time around, there's a new QB (Chandler Whitmer), everyone has a year in offensive coordinator George DeLeone's system, and one of the team's best wideouts, Michael Smith, returns after missing 2011 for academic reasons. He'll be joined by Shakim Phillips, a Boston College transfer who was required to sit out last season.
"Me and Shak had a lot of fun on the scout team getting the defense in trouble with Coach (Don) Brown (UConn’s defensive coordinator) a lot," Smith said according to the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller. "We had a good time doing that but we also got better, we competed so I think that helped us a lot for the spring and then rolling it over into the fall camp.”
In April, Smith admitted that missing last season was tough.
"It was really frustrating because at times I felt I could do things to help the team win," he said at the time. "I know I did it to myself. I was really upset, but once we got into Big East play, I said to myself, ‘I have to move on to get ready for my chance to come back next year.'"
As we noted during spring practice, The Huskies lost Kashif Moore to the NFL, depleting an already thin wide receiver corps. "I can bring everything," Smith countered. "I'm not just one dimensional. I'm fast enough to go deep, and I play good in between the hashes. I can break tackles, get yards after catch. I’m very versatile. With the confidence I have right now, I think I have a chance to have a pretty good year this year."
Which is exactly what this Huskies offense needs. Running back Lyle McCombs is coming off a 1,000-yard season, one that landed him freshman All-American honors, and if UConn shores up the passing game this offense could look completely different in 2012. And Whitmer, who won the starting QB job, agrees.
“These receivers are pretty explosive and will do a lot with the ball in their hands,” Whitmer said via Fuller. “I think experience is a little overrated. They have been working hard. We are excited about that guys, we are two deep at that position. There isn’t much drop off from No. 1 to 2.”
And then there's tight end Ryan Griffin, considered to be one of the Huskies best NFL prospects. Whatever happens in 2012 this much is certain: UConn's passing game will be much improved. And that, coupled with the already-established running attack and a stout defense surely means an improvement on last year's 5-7 effort.