For those of you who followed the Huskies football goings-on throughout the offseason, this will sound familiar. For those of you who have lives outside of recruiting news and spring practices, consider this your primer for the 2011 season, Paul Pasqualoni's first as UConn's head coach.
Earlier in the week, the Huskies were picked to finish sixth in the media's preseason Big East poll, which isn't much different from the 2010 prediction. Of course, the Huskies ended up winning the conference last season and played in the Fiesta Bowl. But without a veteran quarterback, and a running back (Big East Offensive Player of the Year Jordan Todman is now in the NFL), there are virtually no expectations that UConn will defend its title.
The quarterback position is a huge question mark and Pasqualoni hasn't hidden the fact that he doesn't know who will win the job. “I’d like to make a decision [on the QB] as soon as I can, but I really don’t know how long it will take," he said during Big East Media Day, although it's a sentiment he's repeated often in recent months. "We’re prepared to go the distance because we want to get it right.”
While there is no resolution at quarterback -- and depth at running back is another potential concern -- the Huskies have one of the conference's best offensive lines. Ideally, the Huskies would have a game-changing QB under center, but that wasn't even the case when Zach Frazer had the job. He was steady but not spectacular.
And in that sense, a solid o-line will only benefit whichever QB lands the gig. It also means that UConn doesn't need Todman in the backfield; if the line can open holes for DJ Shoemate or Lyle McCombs or a yet-to-be-named emerging talent, it will take pressure off the passing game. Which, if we're being honest, will not only suffer from an inexperienced signal caller, but leaves much to be desired at wide receiver, too.
Part of that is because WR Michael Smith was declared academically ineligible for the 2011 season this summer, but also because the team is young at the position. Silver lining: Ryan Griffin is arguably the best tight end in the Big East.
So, yes, there is much to sort through on the offensive side of the ball. There is more certainty, however, on defense and special teams.
The defense returns many of the starters who helped lead the team to a BCS Bowl last season. And here's what we wrote about the special teams last month.
"[Given the offense's precarious situation, this] means that the burden of winning games next season will fall mostly to UConn's dominant defense. And chances are, they're up to the challenge. But the special teams unit, like the defense, is one of the best in the Big East, and for all the accolades that the defense has (rightfully) garnered, we can't tell you the times games have been won or lost because of a missed field goal or poor punt, or shoddy coverage teams, or losing the field-position battle."
Finally, the Huskies have a secret weapon, and he won't make one tackle this season: offensive coordinator George DeLeone, who has been with Pasqualoni dating back to their days at Syracuse in the late 1980s.