2010 was a really good year for the UConn Huskies football team. They finished in a tie for the Big East Championship and (due to beating co-leaders West Virginia and Pitt) went on to play in the first major bowl game for the Huskies program. After the season Head Coach Randy Edsall took the Maryland job, stud RB Jordan Todman went pro and QB Zach Fraser ran out of eligibility. Overall, the UConn Huskies had an uphill battle to face in the 2011 season with a new coach and with the second least experienced team returning in the Big East.
Phil Steele picked them to finish 5th in the Big East and we had them tabbed for a 6th place finish. When all was said and done they finished the season at 5-7 (3-4 in the Big East) on the outside of the bowls. When we talked to Ian of Sox & Dawgs in our UConn Pre-Season Preview he felt that a successful season would be making a bowl game. Now that the season is over and the team fell eight points short of making a bowl game (lost 35-27 against Cincy in the final game of the season) we asked Ian to answer some questions for us about the 2011 season and also took a brief glimpse forward….
CFBZ: Coming into the season UConn had the second least experienced team in the Big East behind Louisville. As the season progressed where did you see UConn make the most progress?
Sox & Dawgs: It’s tough to say where they made the most progress. If I had to choose, it would be on offense once they really got a hold of the system that Paul Pasqualoni had for them. During the early part of the season, you would see flashes of how good the system could be but they never really put together a complete game. As the season progressed, you could see the improvement on offense when they got rolling. Had it not been for two stupid mistakes by Johnny McEntee in the season finale that put them in a deep hole, I could see them possibly winning that game just by how good the offense was in the second half.
CFBZ: What kind of a job do you think Paul Pasqualoni did in his first year at UConn?
Sox & Dawgs: Given that none of these players were his “guys”, he did an okay job especially given those circumstances. He took over a team that had their coach abandon them for his “dream job” at Maryland. I think because most of the defense was back in 2011, we expected great things from this team given that the defense would carry them. But because that coach didn’t leave them anything on offense, Coach P had a tougher job than most of would have thought he had.
Sox & Dawgs: The lasting memory I have of this season is probably not a good one. When you look back at the losses to Vanderbilt, Western Michigan and Iowa State, those were all winnable games. If you think about it, had they been able to pull out one or two of those games, they would be practicing and getting ready for a bowl game. Instead, they are making preparations for spring practice in 2012.
Sox & Dawgs: Honestly, none of them. If I was forced to choose between the three, I would go with Scott McCummings. But that also hinges on if he can improve his passing accuracy during spring practice and before fall camp starts next year. My personal feeling is the best thing for this team at quarterback would be to try and get a JUCO quarterback who can run the passing part of the offense with McCummings coming in for wildcat situations. I think we all expect Casey Cochran to be the savior like Dan Orlovsky was when he was a freshman, but I say give him redshirt year to learn the system and go forward with the JUCO quarterback and McCummings.
CFBZ: What do you see as the biggest opportunities for UConn going into the off-season?
Sox & Dawgs: The recruiting class that Pasqualoni already has committed is a pretty good one. If he can use his connections along with the ones his staff has to get some even bigger profile players in, that would bode well for this program in the future. As I said in the last answer, he nabbed a high profile QB recruit in Cochran who stayed in state. That’s something we didn’t really see with that coach at Maryland. Essentially they need upgrades everywhere.