The guys over at The UCONN Blog breaks down the 2014 edition of the Huskies football team.
1) What was the morale like at this time last year for UCONN fans concerning football?
At this time last year, UConn fans were watching an interim coach take over for a winless team that was switching starting quarterbacks after the disaster that was the 0-4 start and the merciful end of the Paul Pasqualoni era... things were bad. We were concerned UConn might not be able to attract a quality head-coaching candidate and trying to figure out just how far back our program had been set back after making the Fiesta Bowl in 2010-'11. We wouldn't see our first win until November.
2) Explain what Bob Diaco brings to the table as head coach. I know it's early on in his tenure but what has he done differently from Coach P?
Bob Diaco brings the youthful energy of somebody looking to prove himself instead of the uninspiring Syracuse re-tread that Paqualoni was. Diaco has completely revamped the culture at UConn. The nutrition, strength and conditioning programs have been upgraded and it has shown in the build and fitness of the players. Diaco is also working a lot harder on the recruiting front than his predecessor, with better results.
Schematically, the offense isn't much different from years past, though that is likely due to the personnel at hand than any preferences the new coaching staff may have. Diaco is a former defensive coordinator, so he isn't really married to a scheme anyway. Offensive coordinator Mike Cummings, who came over from Western Michigan, has historically favored a run-heavy approach and that is what you will see from UConn this weekend. Diaco favors a 3-4 defensive style, but that hasn't fully manifested itself on the field in his first year.
3) Chandler Whitmer has shown some promise so far at QB. What the expectations for him the rest of the way in 2014?
We know Chandler Whitmer's ceiling, unfortunately he is at it and it isn't very good. Whitmer is turnover prone 'game-manager' who is not very mobile and at times unable to make even basic throws. Due to injury attrition, the only other quarterback on the roster is sophomore Tim Boyle, who was a 3-star recruit and should see more playing time across the season. I think the main reason we haven't seen more of him this season is that we don't want him running for his life behind our ragged offensive line.
4) What are some players to watch Saturday?
On offense the two that stand out are freshman RB Arkeel Newsome and senior WR Geremy Davis. Davis will be playing on Sundays next year with his prototypical size and incredible strength at the position. Newsome is an exciting, fast player who recently broke his first big play of the season with a 72-yard touchdown on a screen pass against Temple.
Defensively, there are a few. Linebacker Graham Stewart, a Florida transfer, has been flying around making plays and is a really strong tackler. The defensive line, led by Mikal Myers and Julian Campenni, is capable of creating a lot of chaos in the backfield. Freshman defensive end Cole Ormsby has proven to be a difference-maker as well.
5) Score prediction
It's hard to get a handle on this Tulane team, but I think this will actually be a good match-up for these two programs. It will be a close one, but I like UConn to win on the strength of their defense (and maybe special teams), 16-7.