Written by Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Week Four Preview: Connecticut Huskies
The Indiana Hoosiers welcome the Connecticut Huskies to Memorial Stadium in week four for their final non-conference tilt. IU and UConn have played twice before (2002&2006), with the Huskies taking both games. UConn is coming off a 1-11 season and has one of the worst defenses in college football history as they surrendered 50.4 points per game. The offense was better, but only scored 22 points a game while gaining 376 total yards. As poor teams do, UConn turned the ball over, finishing with a minus-17 turnover margin.
The Huskies have made headlines recently with their decision to leave the American Athletic Conference and rejoin the Big East, however the football program has been left homeless. This change will not take effect until 2020.
Week Four: Connecticut Huskies
Date & Time: Saturday, September 21, 2019, Time: TBA
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Indiana
Huskies at a Glance
Head Coach: Randy Edsall
Entering his 15th year as Connecticut’s Head Coach
Overall Record: 100-124 (19 seasons)
At Connecticut: 78-90
Last Season: 1-11
Huskies Returning Leaders
Passing: Marvin Washington (2018: 9-34, 37.5 Comp %, 147 Passing Yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs)
Rushing: Kevin Mensah (2018: 225 attempts, 1,042 yards, 4.6 avg, 6 TDs)
Receiving: Zavier Scott (2018: 33 receptions, 228 yards, 1 TDs)
Tackles: Tyler Coyle (2018: 107 TKLs, 1 TFL, 0 INT, 0 Passes Defensed)
Huskies Preseason Predictions
Athlon: 6th in the AAC East
Lindy’s: 6th in the AAC East
Phil Steele: 6th in the AAC East
Street & Smith’s: 6th in the AAC East
S&P+: 2.4 wins, Ranked 129th
Impact Newcomers for the Huskies
1. Mike Beaudry, QB- Beaudry is a 6’5”, 250-pound quarterback out of Orlando, Florida, who played sparingly during his first four season at West Florida (Note: he was the first signee in school history). Beaudry missed three whole seasons due to injuries. In his lone healthy season in 2017, as a redshirt freshman, he was a Division 2 All-American. He established school records for passing yards (3,215), passing TD (29) and wins as a starter (10). He gives the Huskies some help at quarterback, but will need to prove he can stay healthy and win the job.
2. Art Thompkins, RB- Thompkins is a graduate transfer from Toledo. During his first three years with the Rockets Thompkins gained 1,427 yards on the ground and scored 11 touchdowns. He should be able to help Mensah solidify the rushing attack.
3. D.J. Morgan, LB- Morgan is coming from Notre Dame where he redshirted the 2016 season and played in just two games in 2017. He sat out the 2018 season per NCAA rules. He is a 6’2” 224-pound linebacker who had a ton of potential coming out of California powerhouse Saint John Bosco. If he lives up to his billing, Morgan will be a shot in the arm for a defense that was historically awful in 2018.
4. Ardell Brown, WR- Brown could be another impact transfer for the Huskies. Brown played at Seton Hall University in Pennsylvania before heading to Connecticut. For his career there, he amassed 2,425 yards and 20 touchdowns on 159 catches. He stands at 5’10” and weighs 180 pounds.
UConn’s offense was head and shoulders above the defense, however it was a historically bad defense. The Huskie offense finished 12th in the AAC in 2018 in scoring averaging just 22.8 points per game. The Husky offense leaned on a rushing attack that averaged 199.5 yards per game.
The good news for UConn is that returning leading rusher Kevin Mensah, who ran for 1,045 yards and six touchdowns is back. He is an Athlon Sports pre-season third-team all-AAC selection. Mensah is a workhorse as he carried the ball 225 times last season. This season he could have some help lightening his load. The Huskies bring in Toledo transfer Art Thompkins who ran for over 500 yards and six scores for the Rockets last season.
Who hands the ball off to Mensah or Tompkins is a big question mark. UConn’s bright spot last year was the play of quarterback David Pindell who threw for 1,962 yards and 19 touchdowns. Oh by the way, Pindell was also UConn’s leading rusher accounting for 1,139 yards and 10 more scores. That’s a ton of production to replace.
The top candidates are Marvin Washington, a sophomore who has thrown three interceptions and just one touchdown in 24 pass attempts, and a former Division II All-American in Mike Beaudry who has battled injuries his entire career. Beaudry probably has more talent, but Washington was taking first team reps during spring practice.
Finding capable receivers to catch passes will be something UConn focuses on this fall as well as the Huskies lose five of their top seven receivers from a season ago. Zavier Scott is the returning leader, he had just 33 catches last season. Ardell Brown could start in the slot after a nice career at Seton Hall while redshirt freshman Heron Maurisseau will get the other starting spot. Maurisseau played in three games last year catching four passes for 88 yard and a score. The Huskies hope he can continue his 22-yard per catch average. Junior Jay Rose will play tight end after making one catch last season.
The offensive line is anchored by right tackle Matt Peart, who was another Athlon Sports pre-season third-team All-AAC selection. Fellow returning starters include Nino Leone at center, Cam DeGeorge at left guard and Ryan Van Denmark at left tackle. Freshman Christian Haynes will man the left guard position. The UConn line is strong and a strong run game proves that. If the line gets in a rhythm, this offense may be able to create problems for opponents.
The UConn defense may have been the worst defense in the history of the FBS. They allowed 50.4 points per game and well, that says it all, when you’re giving up half a c-note every game you’re not doing much right. The good news for UConn is that it cannot get much worse.
The Huskies return nine of their top 10 tackles from a year ago, so a young defense should be able to mature and improve. UConn, like IU runs a 4-2-5 defense.
Success on defense starts in the trenches and the Huskies have a quartet of sophomore starters lead by tackle Travis Jones who played in all 12 games last season and put up solid numbers (46 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, 0.5 sacks). The other tackle spot will be manned by Caleb Thomas (20 Tkls, 4 TFLs, 1 Sack). On the outside Lwal Uguak (16 Tkls, 1.5 TFLs) and Jonathan Pace (20 Tkls, 1 TFL). There is not a lot of depth and there is not a lot of havoc numbers, but those were as freshman. The Husky line is a year older and strong so they should be improved.
Behind the line, the Huskies bring back junior Eddie Hahn at outside linebacker. Hahn made 58 stops as a sophomore in 2018. His backup is listed as Omar Fortt, a junior who started in 2018 and was third on the team in tackles with 76. Depth could be an issue here as there are no seniors in the projected two-deep. Sophomores Kevon Jones and Ian Swenson should start at the other two linebacker spots.
The secondary brings back three starters from 2018 and is led by Tyler Coyle. Coyle led UConn in tackles with 109 and was also used on kick return, however he did not record a pass defensed all season. The secondary as a whole was not great at getting their hands on passes. UConn defensive backs accounted for just two of the Huskies’ five interceptions. Oneil Robinson led the group with two interceptions from his safety position while making 64 tackles. Robinson and Coyle could make for an impact duo in the secondary.
Corner Tahj Herring-Wilson lead the group with five pass break ups and sophomore Ryan Carrol returns to start opposite Herring-Wilson. Carrol broke up three passes and made 25 tackles.
Special Teams Preview
The Huskies lost place kicker Michael Tarbutt to Minnesota via transfer. He was five-of-eight on field goals and 27-of-28 on extra points. He will be missed. However, the Huskies recently pulled a kicker of their own from the transfer portal as former Florida International kicker Sean Young will move to the Northeast. Young was a kickoff specialist at FIU. He finished eighth nationally in touchback percentage (81.4).
Kicking the field goals will be Clayton Harris, a redshirt freshman, who hit his only field goal last season.
Keyion Dixon and Tyler Coyle both are back to return kickoffs. Dixon averaged 19.7 yards on 23 returns, while Coyle provided a little more explosiveness as he averaged 22.1 yards on his 13 returns. Dixon will also replace Kyle Buss as the primary punt returner.
Past 2019 First Glance Previews
Week One: Ball State
Week Two: Eastern Illinois
Week Three: Ohio State