Editor’s note: I am pleased to welcome former UConn defensive tackle Sean Mulcahy onto the SNYUConn blog. Sean’s going to do some preview material and postgame recaps and anything else he wants to do. Of course, Sean can also be seen on SNY in the pregame and postgame shows. Welcome aboard Sean! — John Silver
Former UConn defensive tackle and SNY studio analyst Sean Mulcahy previews UConn vs. Western Michigan.
In the Spotlight: WMU’s Alex Carder
The skinny: WMU QB Alex Carder threw for 479 yards and five touchdowns against the Huskies in a 38-31 win last season.
Mulcahy’s take: Alex Carder did a great job of exploiting the defense that was given to him last year. UConn loves playing multiple fronts and coverages to hide blitzes (3-4 front, 4-3 front, with 2 deep safeties or 1 deep safety). In the 2-deep, Carder looked for the under route, which had a lot of his wide receivers come across the middle underneath the safeties and linebackers. UConn also only put 7 in the box, which gave Carder more time to throw the ball. WMU did not run the ball effectively, so the Broncos kept throwing. In the one safety coverage, he was able to throw the long ball. People love the long ball. That defense, Cover 1 or 3, leaves the safety vulnerable — he has too much ground to cover and Carder has a very quick release. There was no time for the safety to get over the top and make a play. Lack of pass rush did not help either.
In Focus: UConn’s passing game
The skinny: UConn’s passing game managed only 68 yards in a win against Maryland and is ranked 105 in the nation in passing.
Mulcahy’s take: It is not all on the O-line. Chandler Whitmer has gotten plenty of time in many passing scenarios. He has been rushed more than one would like, but that is also on the ability of the wide receivers to get open. They need to use their hands more with the technique that is given them to get off the line of scrimmage and not get jammed. There have been a few drops as well. Overall, the backs have done a nice job blocking in the passing game, but there have been a few instances where they gave up a sack or a hit on Whitmer. Offense takes time to gel, I know patience is a virtue, so give it time with this group to solidify a more potent passing game.
CB Dwayne Gratz vs. WR Jamie Wilson
Mulcahy’s take: With #5 Blidi Wreh Wilson as questionable, UConn needs #29 Taylor Mack to step up
again and make big plays like he did last week against Maryland if they in fact stay away from #7 Dwayne Gratz. If Gratz is challenged, he needs to use his size here against #4 Jamie Wilson, WMU’s leading receiver with 29 receptions for 330 yards and 4 TD’s, Gratz is bigger and more experienced than the 5’11’’ 196-pound freshman and with proper technique, Gratz can almost box any receiver out on a long ball against the sideline like a basketball player would go for a rebound. In the crossing routes, he’ll need some help from other defenders and good communication so he doesn’t get picked off from other crossing wide receivers. Those wide receivers set picks or screens for other players, just like in basketball. It can be very difficult to defend going from sideline-to-sideline. Finally, any good corner loves a good pass rush. Trevardo Williams, Sio Moore, and Yawin Smallwood need to maintain their ability to get to the QB.
Chandler Whitmer (40-68-5, 491 yards, 0 TDs)
Mulcahy’s take: If Chandler Whitmer can throw the ball effectively and not turn it over, that will open the flood gates for RB Lyle McCombs. Once you have a 1-2 offensive attack in passing and running the ball, the opposing defense is on its heels. That also in turn gives the UConn D more breathing time on the sideline.