Sunday, August 09, 2015

UConn looking to play faster on defense in '15

Cole Ormsby, who led UConn with 3 1/2 sacks last season, is among the
returning players looking to add more bite to UConn's pass rush in '15
While I am sure there are painful memories for fans, players and coaches alike at the mere mention of UConn squandering a 20-6 halftime lead en route to a season-ending loss to a previously winless Southern Methodist team, there is actually a positive aspect to that game.

Ten of the 11 defensive starters and 19 of the 22 defensive players who got into the game are back for UConn this season. The top 12 tacklers in the SMU game will be suiting up and likely be playing key roles for the Huskies. It is that familiarity that could translate into a faster, stronger, more confident defensive unit.

"These guys have put in hard work, they are very excited to get going and it is time for us to take the next step," UConn defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter said.

So what is the most beneficial aspect of having nearly everybody back (and adding converted fullback Matt Walsh at linebacker and promising defensive end Luke Carrezola who missed the latter portion of the season due to injury).

"Knowing what buttons to push, what will make them tick and they know us and they know what we expect," Poindexter said. "The gray area of feeling everybody out is over with, we can get down to coaching them, taking them to the next level, adding more layers to our defense."

Although UConn finished 49th overall in total defense a season ago, there is not an area of the defense that can't improve beginning with the pass rush.

UConn was 117th out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in sacks per game a season ago. If there were a stat for most time the opposing quarterback had to throw the ball I would have to think the Huskies would have ranked dead last nationally.

The return of seniors Julian Campenni and Kenton Adeyemi, in the best shape of their lives, and talented sophomores Foley Fatukasi, Cole Ormsby, Carrezola and Cam Stapleton as well as junior Mikal Myers gives the defensive coaches some talent to work with up front.
"It is an exciting time," UConn defensive line coach Kevin Wolthausen said. "You are always looking to be better playing the run, we are looking to be better rushing the passer, all of those things."

Wolthausen is also excited about the potential of Sheriden Lawley and James Atkins who redshirted a season ago. While they were not playing in the games, they were doing the work in practice and in the weight room. Lawley was listed at 238 pounds and Atkins at 258 in the 2014 media guide but are now listed at 275 and 267 respectively.

"Lawley, Atkins, the young guys coming in this year (true freshmen Felton Blackwell, Kevin Murphy, Phillippe Okounam and David Ryslik who are all at least 285 pounds),  camp is that time to take a look at that guys  as you start preparing for the season," Wolthausen said.
Atkins left the spring game with an injury but Wolthausen said he is good to go for preseason camp which began on Friday. I'll get my first look at the team on Wednesday.


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