Entering his 3rd season at the helm of the UConn Huskies football program, Bob Diaco has a lot to prove this season. He has attempted to add some energy and excitement around the team and the overall program, and the results have been improving, but just ok. In his first season, the team went 2-10 thanks in large part to his predecessor and a team lacking veteran talent, but last season he began to put his stamp on the program going 6-7 and making his first bowl appearance as a head coach. Below .500 isn’t anything to write home about, but +4 wins in a year is an accomplishment. Now that he has won 6 games and made a bowl, the pressure is on to at least maintain that level of success and take the next step forward.
Year 3 is when a new coach’s recruits start to take roles on the team and the needle moves (or doesn’t). With 10 of the 11 starting offensive players returning, Diaco will show the college football world the impact he can have as a player development coach. The skill players on offense are poised for better seasons, led by redshirt Junior QB Bryant Shirreffs. The team is his for this and next season, he just needs to control the tempo and not make make bad decisions. He has returning weapons around him, RB Arkeel Newsome, WR Noel Thomas, and 2 strong TEs Alec Bloom and Tommy Myers. If he can play smart and get the ball in his playmakers’ hands, then this offense could dominate time of possession and, gasp, put up some points (key word is some).
The UConn defense continues to be the staple of the program. They were one of the best defenses in the AAC conference last season and continue to breed playmakers at all levels of the defense. For fans of the team, there are many familiar names returning, including Foley Fatukasi and Mikal Myers up front, Junior Joseph and Jamar Summers at linebacker, and Obi Melifonwu and Jhavon Williams in the secondary. The heart of the defense is very strong and will have a serious impact on both the run and pass game. With a strong, but not high-powered offense, the defense needs to be stingy in order for this team to win 6 games and be playing in bowl season once again.
Overall, the UConn Huskies appear to be in a good place ready to make a bigger name for themselves on a national stage. They are a long way from being ranked, but could turn some heads in 2016 as the program continues to rise.