Every day, I get more and more goosebumps when I realize how few days are left before our beloved Wolverines kick of the 2010 season against the Huskies in the newly renovated Michigan Stadium. We’ve recently previewed the Maize and Blue offense and defense, and now it’s time to take a look at what the Huskies bring to the table.
Even more so than most schools, any conversation about the Huskies has to start with their head coach Randy Edsall (pictured above). Edsall is something of a folk hero up in Storrs, CT. He became the head coach in 1999 when they weren’t even a Division I team. Since then, despite not being able to attract much top-tier talent to their virtually unknown program, Edsall’s Huskies were able to join the Big East and even share the conference title in 2007.
Edsall is a major no-nonsense kind of guy. This year he is making a concession to the players that pretty much shocked the seniors. He’s letting them grow facial hair during the season. Whoa, there Randy, don’t be such a wild man!
Seriously though, this team takes on his personality. They are perpetual underdogs and they fight like crazy. Last year, after starting corner Jasper Howard was tragically murdered mid-season, the team then lost three straight heartbreakers by a total of ten points. Most teams would fall apart and shut it down. UConn went undefeated the remaining four games – including shellacking South Carolina 20-7 in the Papa Johns Bowl. This is a very mentally tough team.
The Huskies bring back many of the key pieces from an offense that averaged 37 points per game over the final 5 games of the season. The returning starter at QB is senior Zach Frazer. Frazer is a big, confident kid. He’s 6’4”, 231 lbs, and over the last five games, threw 7 TD’s and only 2 picks. Frazer is definitely a threat to any team he’s facing.
Although UConn doesn’t usually throw the ball all that much, it will be interesting to see if Edsall lets Frazer try to throw the ball more than usual due to Michigan’s well-documented inexperience in the secondary. Frazer’s backup, Cody Endres, who actually had a significantly higher QB rating than Frazer last year, was kicked off the team by Coach Edsall, leaving the Huskies totally inexperienced at QB if Frazer goes down.
Despite having a good senior QB, UConn is known as a running team. One huge key for them is that they return four out of five starters on the offensive line. Any time you have that kind of continuity on your O-Line, you can expect to continue to build on your prior success.
Also back is last year’s leading rusher Jordan Todman. Todman rushed for almost 1200 yards and 14 TD’s last year while splitting carries with Andre Dixon. Dixon is gone and Todman is a Doak Walker candidate this year (given to the best RB in the country).
Joining Todman in a talented backfield is USC transfer DJ Shoemate. Shoemate was a 5* recruit coming out of high school, but couldn’t make a dent in the USC depth chart at running back. None the less, he is a versatile guy who can catch the ball well out of the backfield.
Michigan was porous against the run last year, giving up nearly 175 yards per game. Although the UConn offense doesn’t boast the same caliber recruits as Michigan, this is a very experienced and confident group.
I look for Michigan to be much better against the run this year. The Wolverines D will get a stern test from the Huskies and the Wolverines better come ready to stuff the run or UConn could really control the clock and light up the scoreboard.
If Michigan can shut down, or at least keep the Huskies running game under control, I believe the secondary will be able to hold up. Although we have very little experience in the secondary, we have talented guys who are better athletes than the Huskies’ receivers. If we can handle their running game, then I believe we can hold them to around 20-24 points. If their running game is pumping, the Michigan D could be in for a long day and give up around 35 points.
My prediction: Our D-Line will be physical enough to limit their running game and they will only score around 24 points.
Next up, I’ll preview the Huskies’ defense.