Thursday, August 29, 2013

Revamped UConn defense has potential

Hank Hughes knows it will be no easy task replacing six defensive starters including four expected to make NFL rosters but the UConn defensive coordinator is encouraged by the amount of talent he has to build his defense around.

It starts with a pair of physical senior defensive ends in Jesse Joseph and Tim Willman who combine with tackles Shamar Stephen and Julian Campenni to give the Huskies a physical front four. Add in leading tackler Yawin Smallwood to go with Ryan Donohue and Graham Stewart and the Huskies' front seven could be even more physically imposing this season.

"I think we have a good group of guys," Hughes said. "Certainly with (the departure of ) Sio and Trevardo  has tremendous speed and we lost a good player, he didn’t play much for us last year, in Teddy Jennings, Ryan Wirth was a dominant player. He was a guy who didn’t get the credit he deserved because he is a one-year starter behind Reyes but that guy was a great player and when you lose good players you don’t replace them overnight but I feel like we have quality depth and we have a solid group of guys. I feel like we can put out there a good front seven."

The Huskies also lost both starting corners as Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson are vying to become rookie starters with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans respectively. Even with converted safety Byron Jones and former nickel back Taylor Mack set to start, Hughes believes the Huskies can be as aggressive as they were in the past.

"I think we can do a lot of the similar kind of things," Hughes said. "You don’t replace players overnight at any position and those guys played a lot. When Dwayne Gratz is playing now it isn’t the same Dwayne Gratz that was playing against Notre Dame when he was a young player and he was a role player. I think these guys can fill in and do a solid job. I don’t feel like we can’t call something and have any questions about these guys having the ability to do it."



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