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2017 Virginia Football Opponent Preview: Connecticut

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A familiar opponent comes to town with a familiar new head coach

NCAA Football: Maryland at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Randy Edsall is back in Storrs! After leaving UConn in 2011 to accomplish nothing at Maryland, Coach Edsall was mercifully booted from College Park in 2015. Now, after a brief stop at the pinnacle of football success: the Detroit Lions organization, he returns to coach the Huskies. Will Edsall get his former team back to the BCS heights of 2010? He’s the winningest coach in UConn history, but I wouldn’t expect such results this year.

2016 Record: 3-9 (1-7 in the AAC)

Turns out the 19 former UVa coaches on the 2016 UConn staff couldn’t produce a successful program there either. But they did beat a kicker-less UVa team, so, kudos.

Notable Departures:

S Obi Melifonwu (First Team All-AAC)

WR Noel Thomas, Jr. (Second Team All-AAC)

Notable Additions:

CB Ian Swenson (3* 247sports)

DT Caleb Thomas (3* 247sports)

QB Marvin Washington (3* 247sports)

Best Name on the Roster:

RS Sr. Folorunso Fatukasi

Better Know a Virginian:

RS Sr. LB EJ Levenberry

Virginia recruiting followers should remember Levenberry’s recruitment as part of the class of 2014. The four star Woodbridge product enrolled at FSU, where he won a National Championship as a true freshmen. His production and playing time didn’t pick up in his sophomore year however, so he transferred north to UConn. After sitting out a season, he led UConn in sacks last year and started 11 of their 12 games. Levenberry tore his ACL this spring so he won’t be on the field against the Hoos.

2017 Outlook:

The Huskies were particularly dreadful last year in offense, something that the new coaching staff will hope to immediately address via new OC Rhett Lashlee, who brings Gus Malzahn’s high tempo scheme to the program. The team will rely on Arkeel Newsome, the experienced senior runningback, to lead the transition. The biggest position battle is probably at quarterback and includes Sr. Bryant Shirreffs and incoming JUCO product David Pindell. Donovan Williams, another Virginian on the UConn roster, is also in the thick of the QB battle, but still recovering from an injury. Problems and depth on the offensive line will need to be addressed and the standard to-be-expected issues with a regime change will obviously impact the squad as well. If the offense scores a first quarter touchdown this season they will have already improved upon last year’s production.

The defense was a much stronger unit for the Huskies last year, but it will need to replace four of the top seven tacklers in 2017. LB Vontae Diggs returns, however, and should lead the unit in tackles. While a new coaching staff could certainly shake things up, UConn should continue to be strong against the run and in redzone defense. The biggest concern on this side of the ball for the Huskies will be generating turnovers, something they failed to do in six of their 2016 games.

Overall, this is clearly a team that under-preformed last year with an experienced (and somewhat successful) coaching staff taking the helm. However, the talent level isn’t high and a new staff’s first year can be a bumpy one in a rebuilding project (something UVa fans know all too well).

Prediction:

I expect this year’s UConn team to be marginally better than last year’s. I expect this year’s UVa team to be slightly-more-than-marginally better than last year’s. In East Hartford last season, UVa lost a game they should have won and probably would have with this year’s roster (which has a kicker!). This year’s matchup is a home game, under a coaching staff with a year of experience and training, against a transitioning first year staff on the other sideline. Assuming the UVa defense plays to their ability, I expect them to handle whatever quick-but-probably-still-bad offense UConn brings to town and score enough points to win comfortably.

Poll

Will UVa win against the visiting Huskies?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Yes
    (241 votes)
  • 38%
    No
    (150 votes)
391 votes total Vote Now