Michigan Wolverine Football: 10 Things You Need to Know About UConn
We are just a few days away from the beginning of the 2010 Michigan football season and that means it's time to begin focusing intently on Michigan's first opponent, The University of Connecticut.
And following Sun Tzu's advice from the Art of War, where he states that, "If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril", the next 10 slides will help you get to know this week's opponent in detail.
Avoid peril. Don't be ignorant.
The UCONN Mascot's name is Jonathan, named after the first Governor of Connecticut Jonathan Trumbull.
On the surface, this seems inconsequential. But sometimes, the smallest details can provide the most interesting facts. Remember, know thy opponent. Especially what drives them emotionally.
There are actually two Jonathans, a real version (currently Jonathan XII), and a substantially more creepy mascot version of a husky; also named Jonathan.
The mascot in this picture looks like something out of the movie The Shining. For those of you who know what I'm referring to, I'll leave that one alone. For those of you who do not, watch The Shining (It's worth it either way).
Both can often be found perusing a sideline during football games. If either were to be "accidentally" hit while performing their mascot responsibilities it would surely be a back breaker for the Huskies as a team.
The Coach...Randy Edsall
While not quite as cute and lovable as Jonathan the Husky, Randy Edsall does represent what UCONN football is all about today.
In his 12th season as the head coach of the Huskies, following coaching stops in both the NFL (Jacksonville Jaguars), and college (Syracuse, Boston College, Georgia Tech) as an assistant, Edsall seems to have finally brought UCONN to the forefront in the Big East.
Although Edsall barely has a winning record over his career at UCONN with a 66-65 record. Over the past three years he has gone 25-14 tieing for first place in the Big East in 2007.
He is loved at UCONN as the Connecticut faithful credit him with pulling the team out of Division I-AA in 1998 and winning their first bowl game in 2004.
His teams have gotten progressively better over time and there are now high expectations for football in Storrs. There is talk that if UCONN has another successful season, that this may very well be Edsall's last season with the Huskies as he could possibly move on to bigger and better things.
The Quarterback...Zach Frazer
A 4-star recruit from Mechanicsburg, PA, Frazer transfered from Notre Dame after getting beat out by then freshman Jimmy Clausen for the starting QB job.
Since securing the starting job with UCONN, Frazer has had a tendency to get injured. Sustaining a head injury in 2008 and knee injury in 2009.
This could be a major issue for the Huskies this year as they are extremely thin at the backup QB position following the indefinite suspension of Cody Endres.
In 8 games last year, Frazer threw for 1461 yards with a 54% pass efficiency, 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. So his stats were less than spectacular. But this year he does have an upperclassmen group of receivers to throw to (2 RS juniors and 1 Junior), and his experienced offensive line should provide him with ample time to throw.
Look for UCONN to rely on Frazer to play safe and consistent football, but will most likely not put the game on his shoulders, unless forced to do so.
Where They Rank...
Connecticut is on the bubble of this year's preseason polls ranking 31st in the AP poll and 33rd in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Many believe that UCONN could be a dark horse to win the BIg East. While beating Michigan isn't a must to do so, they will certainly want to get off to a good start, raising expectations, before trying to prove themselves in Big East Conference play.
Their schedule couldn't get more favorable for them to accomplish that goal as they play Pitt, West Virginia, and Cinncinnati all at home this year.
A win on the road against Michigan could set the tone for the entire season and possibly propel them into the top 25 in the polls right off the bat.
Preseason All Americans...
The Huskies have two Pre-Season All Americans on their team. One on Offense and one on Defense.
5th year Senior Linebacker Lawrence Wilson anchors a talented Linebacker core, and 5th year Senior Offensive Lineman Zach Hurd are both listed on The Sporting News 3rd Team Preseason All American team.
No Michigan players are on the Pre-Season All American list.
Over the past month, UCONN has had to deal with the loss of several players on both offense and defense.
Backup QB Cody Endres and offfensive guard Erik Kuraczea have been suspended indefinitely for undisclosed reasons, the Kuraczea suspension having less of an effect upon the 2 deep of the team.
But last year, when Zach Frazer went down, it was Endres that had to step in and step up. He performed well and even kept the starting position after Frazer was cleared to come back.
If Frazer goes down during the Michigan game (he has had a tendency to get injured), the UCONN offense is almost sure to stall as they are digging deep to see who will be able to step up to the backup QB position. Currently, 2-star recruit and RS Freshman Michael Box is the front runner for that job.
While they only have 11 Seniors on the team this year, they do have 8 offensive starters returning, and 8 defensive starters returning. Outside of the starting lineup, the Husky two deep is filled with mostly RS Freshmen and Sophomores.
Connecticut boasts a line that has 4 returning starters from 2009 and is certainly the strength of their offensive unit.
That line should be able to provide Senior QB Zach Frazer time to throw and give Junior RB Jordan Todman some nice holes to run through.
In 2009, Todman had 1188 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns (splitting carries). This year, he could be looking at potential all Big East honors, and may very well be the best running back in the Big East.
Look for UCONN to come out running the ball early and often. They'll try to test the Michigan defensive front forcing them to load the box in order to eventually exploit Michigan's primarily untested secondary.
If Michigan can stop the run consistently, and avoid giving up any big running gains, they could be in for a nice day as the Huskies are a run first pass second offense.
The Defensive Backs...
In 2009, the UCONN Huskies lost an emerging star at CB in Jasper Howard after he was stabbed to death following their Homecoming win against Louisville.
The loss of Howard became a rallying cry for the team during the remainder of the 2009 season. But in 2010, his absence has created a large hole in the Husky defense that opponents are almost sure to try and exploit. Connecticut ranked 88th in the country against the pass last year, and this year may actually be worse for them.
Much like Michigan's Cornerbacks, UCONN's corners are young and untested with two RS Sophomores, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz.
Whoever Michigan starts at QB, they'll need to go after these two corners right off the bat as the faster UofM recievers Roundtree, Odoms, and Hemingway should be able to have their way with them.
Beating UCONN deep early should also help open up the run game and throw the Huskies off balance.
Absolutely the strength of the Connecticut defense, the UCONN Linebacker core boast three very talented young men.
Anchored by 3rd Team Pre-Season All American Lawrence Wilson, one of the leading tacklers in the country during 2009, the group of linebackers is rounded out with 5th year Senior Scott Lutrus and Senior Greg Lloyd Jr.(Son of Pittsburgh Steelers All Pro Linebacker Greg Lloyd Sr.).
Last year, Lawrence Wilson was ranked 10th in the country in total tackles with close to 11 per game, and Greg Lloyd ranked 61st averaging just over 8 per game.
Lloyd is the surprise of the group. Up until August 30th, it was widely speculated that he would miss the entire season due to a knee injury that he has been rehabing. But Randy Edsall surprised everyone by listing him as the starting MLB on the depth chart for the Michigan game. It will be interesting to see how well Lloyd can rebound.
Battle of the Red Zone Defenses...
This may very well be the deciding factor of the game on Saturday.
In 2009, Michigan and Connecticut were tied, ranked 98th out of 120 teams, for Red Zone Defense. Both teams allowed 24 touchdowns out of the 41/UCONN & 43/UofM times their opponent found the Red Zone.
The team that has successfully solved this problem in their defense, will most likely be the team that comes out on top Saturday.