Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Business as usual for UConn despite coaching upheaval

With national signing day in the books, it's a pretty good time to look back on what could have been.

When you factor in the departure of one coordinator and readjustment of duties of another, the bitter taste of  a second straight 5-7 season and never-ending rumors regarding conference realignment, this could have been the most frustrating recruiting year in recent memory.

However, at first glance that simply doesn't seem to the case. UConn's recruiting class has drawn praise from those who devote their time to judging such things. I can't sit here and tell you that players A, B and C are going to become the next Trevardo Williams, Sio Moore and Ryan Griffin but what I can say is that the Huskies seemed to secure commitments from the players it pursued the hardest. Case in point is that 12 of the 24 players who committed to UConn attended camp with the Huskies.

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni was quick to credit the way new offensive coordinator T.J. Weist and running backs coach/special teams coordinator Kermit Buggs were able to get down to business shortly after being hired.

"When Kermit came in and got right out recruiting, T.J. got in and got us going, it kind of gave us a little energy coming down the stretch, coming down the final turn," Pasqualoni said. "I think it kind of helped us with the guys that they knew and fortunately Kermit Buggs knows the East coast. He was a high school coach in Virginia, he was at Penn State for eight years so this is not his first rodeo. He knows a lot of people up and down the coast."

Pasqualoni addressed the hiring of Weist as offensive coordinator and decision to promote Hank Hughes to defensive coordinator.

"He (Weist) is a tremendous human being, he is a high-energy guy and has an extensive background in football," Pasqualoni said, "I looked for somebody who had the responsibility of being a coordinator, how he put a package together and a guy who the kids would respond to on the field, in the meeting room and we like what we are doing offensively. We kind of like the marriage of what they are doing in Cincinnati (using) a lot of tight ends which is very important. You know how good that tight end they had so it made a lot of sense. We knew it would be a very good fit and give us a chance to get a guy in who can help us be productive and run the offense.

"The systems are similar. T.J. was very attractive to me because there is the blend, there is no ego there of ‘this is mine, that is yours.’ There is a marriage there of putting the thing together and that was pretty exciting and a guy that everyone on the staff can work with and feel great about. What we are trying to do is try to utilize the players that we’ve got and that is the key."

Pasqualoni said he "talked to a lot of people" for the defensive coordinator gig when Don Brown left to take the same job at Boston College.

"Hank has done this, he has an extensive background, knows the demands," Pasqualoni said. "I like to have coaches I can work with. Hank is a guy who since I have been here for two years is terrific. We can work together and develop what’s best. Don was that way and I wanted to make sure that we didn’t reinvent the wheel. If we bring somebody (new) in, we have to change everything. The kids are comfortable with we are doing, I wanted to be fair to the players on both sides of the ball, I wanted to be fair to the program so Hank was a natural candidate. Matt Cersosimo (who moved from receivers coach to working with the cornerbacks) was a natural, he played corner, he played defensive back, has an excellent background. He is a high-energy coach with a strong background and that made a lot of sense so it just kind of fit together."

One the subject turned to the new coaches on staff, I asked Pasqualoni if he felt a change at offensive coordinator was necessary considering the incredible struggles of the Huskies' offense in the last couple of seasons.

"One of the things that hurt us a year ago was the number of turnovers that we had," Pasqualoni said. "We were minus 12 and it is hard in close games to win some of those games and the reality of the deal was when we didn’t turn the ball over we did pretty good. Was it necessary? It gives us a chance to start again and have a fresh start, get moving and everybody understands what we are doing, everybody is on board and are working hard."

There is not a person in the coaching profession Pasqualoni has more respect and admiration for that his former offensive coordinator George DeLeone who is now working exclusively with the offensive line while Weist is now calling plays.

"The thing about George is there is no greater professional in this business," Pasqualoni said. "There is no one that works harder, has more knowledge or greater character than George so George is one tremendous human being, he really is."

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