DeLeone Promises Huskies’ O Will Improve

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NBC Connecticut

On Tuesday, head coach Paul Pasqualoni officially named Johnny McEntee the Huskies starting quarterback. It took about a month, but McEntee overcame a rough start to the season (performances against Vanderbilt and Iowa State come to mind) and appears to have settled into his role, which can best be defined as doing enough in the passing game to keep defenses honest when the Huskies run the ball.

But last week's loss to Western Michigan possibly exposed another issue: UConn's defense. Usually stout, Don Brown's unit couldn't stop Broncos quarterback Alex Carder from throwing for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns. And while history suggests this won't be a weekly occurrence, it would be foolish to think that the rest of the teams on UConn's schedule won't look at what Western Michigan did and try to copy it.

Which is why Huskies offensive coordinator George DeLeone has every intention of making sure the offense holds up its end of the bargain. Since the spring, conventional wisdom held that the defense and special teams would carry UConn while the offense found its footing. They may not be there yet but it's not from a lack of trying.

"My frustration," DeLeone tells the Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner, "is when I look in the mirror: What can I do from a preparation standpoint? What can I do from a practice standpoint? What can I do from my own research standpoint to help this team in every way possible to do the best they can every play? That's my charge. So I'm going to start there."

And that brings us back to the personnel, specifically McEntee and running back Lyle McCombs. The running game was sharp the first two weeks of the season, but once opponents keyed on stopping the run the entire offense shut down, until last week when McEntee played his best game of the season.

DeLeone recognizes that, as well as two other issues with his offense.

"The offensive line has to play better, the tight ends have to play better, the running backs have got to be better, the receivers have to block better on the perimeter. As a team, we have to execute better in the run game. … And as a staff, we have to continue to find creative ways to run the ball."

That could me finding ways to get McCombs in space, or utilizing freshman quarterback Scott McCummings more often.

"Scotty McCummings had a 17-yard run [against Western Michigan]," DeLeone said. "Four players earlier, same exact play, he drops the snap; same exact play, we're going to have the same result. Fourth play of the game we have the same play called, going to be the same result, we're offside. There are constantly too many bumps in the road."

DeLeone's right, of course. The season has been marred by miscues and missed opportunities. That won't fly against West Virginia, one of the best teams in the country.

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