Former UConn defensive tackle and SNY studio analyst Sean Mulcahy previews UConn vs. South Florida.
In the Spotlight: USF’s B.J. Daniels
The skinny: South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels is one of the most productive players in Big East history. The senior dual threat quarterback has thrown for 1,876 yards and rushed for 411 yards this season.
Mulcahy’s take: BJ Daniels is one of the best athletes Big East football has ever seen. He can run just as fast as anyone on the field at any given moment and needless to say has tremendous game speed. His arm strength is undeniable. He can make all the required throws and hit any receiver on any route, especially the difficult 20 yard 7-step comeback route. He is the only player in USF and Big East history to rush for 100 yards and pass for 300 yards in a single game, which he accomplished against Louisville. He has great poise and that’s what makes him so effective. You can tell he doesn’t get rattled too often and knows how to keep his emotions in check. The toughest challenge for a defense is going up against a quarterback who is a dual threat, very athletic, confident and a great play-maker. You never know what to expect with Daniels: Will he run? Pass? The defense is constantly on its toes and cannot commit due to second guessing of what the quarterback will do. There is a flip side to Daniels however. That great athleticism can also get him in a lot of trouble taking sacks, intentional groundings and other negative yards and penalties. Will we see an overconfident BJ Daniels try to force throws into Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson? Or, will we see the senior throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards? Daniels is capable of doing both.
In Focus: UConn’s defensive line
The skinny: The once dominant UConn defensive line has been ravaged by injuries and has given up three straight 100 yard rushing games in three straight losses.
Mulcahy’s take: The loss of defensive ends Teddy Jennings and Jesse Joseph havs been very significant for the Huskies. Both of these players brought senior leadership, experience, toughness, and proven ability to stop the run, and rush the passer. They were both interchangeable as starters or rotational players and I cannot express how important it
is to have a rotation on the the defensive line with at least 4 starters and 4 rotational linemen. Half of those players are DE’s and UConn lost that advantage when they lost Jennings and Joseph for the year. The rotation is key at defensive end to keep linemen fresh against uptempo offenses. The Huskies have had a tendency to wear down in recent weeks. UConn is shuffling players around on the defensive line and are not getting the same results as earlier in the season. This will really hurt against an experienced and athletic B.J. Daniels of USF who will run the hurry up offense so the coaches can’t get the defensive play call and rotational players. That leaves the players on the field gassed, confused, and upset. Angelo Pruitt has plugged in OK as a run-stopper, but there is no pass rush coming from that side of the field. That hurts Trevardo Williams on the other side as his effectiveness has waned in recent weeks. Things aren’t helped by E.J. Norris’ season ending shoulder injury. The Huskies have lost three of their top four defensive linemen this year.
DE Trevardo Williams vs. QB B.J. Daniels
Mulcahy’s take: Trevardo Williams still leads the Big East in sacks at 7.5, but he was shut out last game and didn’t get close to Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. Williams needs to step up and pressure Daniels and force the mistake prone USF quarterback into a turnover.
Mulcahy’s take: UConn’s talented trio of Sio Moore, Yawin Smallwood and Jory Johnson need to get back to their
early season play and make some big plays on B.J. Daniels. The key will be identification of the defense and recognizing formations that give tendencies away like 12 ( 1 back, 2 TEs) heavy run play or 11(1 RB, 1 TE) that means 3 receivers are in the game – heavy pass. I would also like to see the linebackers stunt more, and fake the blitz and drop in coverage. This goes hand in hand with blitzing too and you have to make B.J. Daniels guess. When Daniels guesses, he makes mistakes.