UConn football: Finding an offensive identity

Connecticut Huskies quarterback Chandler Whitmer (10) looks for an opening against the Stony Brook Seawolves in the first quarter at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Connecticut Huskies quarterback Chandler Whitmer (10) looks for an opening against the Stony Brook Seawolves in the first quarter at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

John F. Silver

STORRS, Conn. — Chandler Whitmer has spent a lot of his season on his back for the UConn football team.  

Playing on offense, with a pair of first year tackles in Andreas Knappe and Richard Levy, and breaking in freshman guard such as Ryan Crozier and Trey Rutherford has made things difficult for the Huskies offense.

Whitmer has had at times been flushed out of the pocket, or worse, sacked before the play gets started on too many occasions this year.

In that sense, watching UConn’s offense is a testament in frustration. Whitmer can throw the ball, that ability has never been in question. The Huskies have some excellent wide receivers led by senior Geremy Davis and Deshon Foxx, a big receiving threat for the former and a speedster for the latter. The huskies have a bunch of young wide receivers with big play ability in Dhameer Bradly, Noel Thomas, Thomas Lucas and Brian LeMelle. The Huskies have a matchup problem in tight end Sean McQuillan that if he can get out of his blocking responsibilities is a threat in the passing game.  Add to that explosive running backs in freshman Ron Johnson and Arkeel Newsome and the talent is there for something better than the Huskies are producing.

But, the line is young, the schemes too complicated, and for much of the year little cohesion on offense.

That ended against East Carolina 8 days ago. For the first time in years, Whitmer played an entire game without being sacked (the one sack given up was to Tim Boyle). Whitmer, promptly passed for 303 yards, two touchdowns and ran for another score.

The Huskies also switched up the offense to feature those wideout strengths. UConn went to the shotgun and spread the field getting the ball quickly out wide to receivers and throwing it down the field. Even with an injured Davis, the Huskies had an 88-yard, 32-yard, 40 yard plays in the game. Leeping two tight ends and/or a fullback in the I-Formation in to help with blocking wasn’t as necessary. The growth of the offensive line was a big part of the success.

Give Whitmer some time and the receivers will get open.

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Tuesday presser: Young corners on an island

Oct 23, 2014; Greenville, NC, USA; East Carolina Pirates wide receiver Justin Hardy (2) catches a 1st quarter touchdown pass against the Connecticut Huskies defensive back Jhavon Williams (6) at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 23, 2014; Greenville, NC, USA; East Carolina Pirates wide receiver Justin Hardy (2) catches a 1st quarter touchdown pass against the Connecticut Huskies defensive back Jhavon Williams (6) at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

John F. Silver

STORRS, Conn. — it wasn’t by design that players such as Jhavon Hadley, Brice McAllister, John Green and Jamar Summers were going to play key roles on the UConn defense.

Back in June, right after school got out, Hadley and Summers were on the fringe of the depth chart, Green was a wide receiver and McAllister was at Suffield Academy.

In a perfect world, none would play.

Things happen to a roster in college football and that makes your standing in the pecking order tenuous.

In the summer, the Huskies lost two corners in Tyree Clark and David Stevensen, who both left for undisclosed reasons in August. Who cares about your 4th and 5th corner? At the time, it went under reported and faded from memory.

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Silver’s Top 25 ballot

Oct 25, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Trey Quinn (8) crowd surfs after fans stormed the field following the Tigers 10-7 victory agains the Mississippi Rebels at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 25, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Trey Quinn (8) crowd surfs after fans stormed the field following the Tigers 10-7 victory agains the Mississippi Rebels at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

John F. Silver

It wasn’t a consequential week, but with the CFB playoff committee coming out with their initial projections it is going to be a historic week. As far as my ballot, I found the LSU-Ole Miss game on Saturday absolutely intoxicating. I loved that 10-7 game more than most games I’ve watched this year. Take TCU and their 82 points. What’s so impressive about that? Bad defense isn’t fun to watch, and it’s why I am down on Baylor. There is no drama, to me, when defenses can’t stop offenses. What’s the point? There’s no drama in those games, just who has the ball last. I thought LSU and Ole Miss played a terrific game. I didn’t drop Ole Miss much for the loss, and I brought LSU into the top 15.

As far as my ballot, it’s a snapshot. It’s still in flux because the SEC West is going to knock each other out as the season goes by. I predict at the end, only the SEC champ will be left standing. Right now, I would have 3 SEC teams in the playoff, they’ve been the most impressive, but they play each other so we’ll find out who the best team is. If I had to guess, the SEC survivor, Florida State, Michigan State and Oregon are the 4 with a strong push from Notre Dame if there is any slip up.

I also like to look at the Group of 5. East Carolina, Marshall and right Colorado State are the 3 vying. I don’t think a MAC or Sun Belt team is in the mix. East Carolina had the inside track, but barely beating UConn and showing a suspect defense is going to knock those guys down. Marshall may go undefeated, but schedule. Colorado State’s only loss right now is to Boise State. Boise, at 6-2, should get back in the discussion for that G5 access bowl bid. Right now, it’s East Carolina’s to lose. On strength of schedule, they get it over undefeated Marshall and Colorado State.

Silver’s Top 25 ballot

1. Miss State

2. Florida State

3. Alabama

4. Auburn

5. Ole Miss

6. Notre Dame

7. Michigan State

8. Oregon

9. Georgia

10. TCU

11. Kansas State

12. Ohio State

13. Nebraska

14. LSU

15. Baylor

16. Arizona State

17. Arizona

18. Utah

19. Oklahoma

2-. West Virginia

21. East Carolina

22. Marshall

23. Clemson

24. UCLA

25. Colorado St.

UConn football: Jones out for the year

John F. Silver

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Senior cornerback Byron Jones will miss the rest of the season as he undergoes surgery on his shoulder UConn coach Bob Diaco announced on his postgame conference call on Friday.
Tampa, FL, USA; Connecticut Huskies cornerback Byron Jones (16) during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. South Florida Bulls defeated the Connecticut Huskies 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa, FL, USA; Connecticut Huskies cornerback Byron Jones (16) during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. South Florida Bulls defeated the Connecticut Huskies 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jones has been dealing with shoulder problems and aggravated it during the first half of a 31-21 loss to East Carolina.

He will have surgery soon and is out for the final six games of his career.  Jones has UConn’s only two interceptions this year including one on Thursday in the end zone.

“Byron was playing through a small issue there,” Diaco said. “That, then exacerbated himself last night to the point that it needs to be addressed. If it doesn’t get addressed it will be something else.Right now, an isolated thing that needs to be fixed.”
Jones’ injury and rehab will be able to get him ready for the NFL Draft workout season. Jones, a terrific athlete and character player at 6-foot-1, has had a lot of interest of NFL scouts. Diaco said that Jones will be able to be 100 percent plus by the offseason.

“He’s very highly thought of,” Diaco said. “Executives that are in the building think highly of him. This will help him from a time frame standpoint. He will be full speed, not good as new, better than new when he has a time to show his wears.”

The Huskies’ thin corner depth takes a massive hit.

Right now, true freshman Jamar Summers is next man up with John Green, a converted wide receiver, another corner. It also looks like Diaco will take the redshirt off of freshman Brice McAllister and prepare him to play. McAllister is from Suffield Academy and was switched from running back to corner this summer.

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Postgame news and notes: Huskies put scare into ECU

Greenville, NC, USA; Connecticut Huskies running back Ron Johnson (3) runs with ball during the 3rd quarter against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The East Carolina Pirates defeated the Connecticut Huskies 31-21. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Greenville, NC, USA; Connecticut Huskies running back Ron Johnson (3) runs with ball during the 3rd quarter against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The East Carolina Pirates defeated the Connecticut Huskies 31-21. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

John F. Silver

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Seniors Byron Jones and Geremy Davis hobbled off at the half for the Huskies.

They never returned.

In place, UConn head coach Bob Diaco put in the young-ins. There was sophomore Noel Thomas at wide receiver, redshirt frosh Thomas Lucas at wideout. On the defensive side, true freshman Jamar Summers was in getting an education with sophomore and first-year defensive back John Green also getting time.  On defense, freshmen Forlunso Fatukasi and Cole Ormsby played big roles. True freshman linebacker Luke Carrezola had some major snaps.

UConn is young, that’s not news. UConn has been young since camp broke in August and the growing pains of youth is what the 2014 season is all about.

The beauty of youth though is that one day it suddenly clicks, that’s at least the hope.

UConn almost had it on Saturday at No. 18 East Carolina.

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Recap: East Carolina 31, UConn 21

Result:  No. 18 East Carolina had more than it bargained for in a 31-21 win over UConn on Thursday night in Greenville, N.C.

Need to know: UConn (1-6, 0-4)nearly pulled off a monumental upset, with the game tied in the third quarter after an 88-yard touchdown pass from Chandler Whitmer to Deshonn Foxx. The Huskies had several chances to take the lead, but ECU pulled away late. A 33-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter gave ECU a 24-21 lead, and then, the Huskies’ defense couldn’t get off the field as ECU clinched the game with a  Breon Allen 9-yard touchdown left with 1:38 left in the game. It was an eye-opening performance in the loss nonetheless as UConn was a 28 point underdog and nearly shocked the 18th ranked team in the nation.  The Pirates (6-1, 3-0) ran 100 plays in the game, amassed 580 yards of offense. Shane Carden had 39-for-64 for 445 yards and two touchdowns.  Justin Hardy had 14 catches for 186 yards while Cam Worthy had seven catches for 138 yards.

For the Huskies, Chandler Whitmer had his best game in two years passing 18-30 for 303 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for one himself.  The Huskies played a ton of young players with upperclassmen Byron Jones and Geremy Davis leaving at the half with injury. UConn lost for the fifth straight game, but likely had its best performance of the season considering the opponent.  The offensive line gave Whitmer time and the Huskies had some chances to steal the game.


Links: Box score | AP Recap

Next up: The Huskies head home to play Central Florida on Nov. 1 at Rentschler Field.