Saturday, August 08, 2015

UConn OC Verducci eager to get offense rolling

During the week there was plenty of time to talk to the UConn football coaches. Certainly Bob Diaco's comments about going undefeated and winning the national championship drew much of the attention. However, I am more intrigued by what new offensive coordinator Frank Verducci had to say about adjusting his offensive schemes to take advantage of his players' strengths than any of the bizarre sound bites coming from Diaco.

Let's just get right to it and pass on Verducci's comments about what things could look like moving forward.

"Everything is possible," Verducci said. "We are always going to accentuate the skill set of the guys in the game, it may be multiple personnel groups, multiple formations, a guy may be listed as a running back and he may be lined up at receiver. A guy may be a tight end and he may be split out. We are going to try to stretch the defense. How do you defend this guy? Do you defend him as a running back? Do you defend him as a quarterback? For us it will be all hands on deck every Saturday and we will try to cobble together the best offense for that group of players who are available that week. We have to be flexible. This is not an offense where everybody has to be able to do the same thing. We are experienced enough and flexible enough as coaches that we are not going to ask Bryant Shirreffs to do the same things that Tim Boyle does. If Garrett Anderson or Tyler Davis are in the game, we will play to their strengths as well. It is no different than if it is Ron Johnson or Arkeel Newsome. The challenge  there is you can't be typecast, you can't have enough crossover that will keep you balanced offensively."

If Verducci walks the walk as well as he talks the talk, there could be a little more excitement than in past years when the UConn offense is on the field.

A year ago there was the mystifying move of taking star receiver Geremy Davis off the field on third down because you wouldn't want your more sure-handed receiver to be on the field in obvious passing situations while dynamic true freshmen Newsome and Alec Bloom were severely underutilized.

I'd love to see Newsome split out as a slot receiver or getting him lined up against a linebacker at times. He has a true threat to take it to the house every time he touched the ball.

It is not going to be a case of merely flipping a switch, however. Other than at offensive tackle, UConn is incredibly young on offense as the No. 1 quarterback is Shirreffs, a transfer from North Carolina State, three of the four tailbacks are sophomores, the receivers still have plenty of maturing to do, the top returning tight ends are both sophomores and there will be two first-time starters in the interior of the offensive line. There are plenty of young promising freshmen receivers and tight ends so it will be interesting to see how quickly they get acclimated to the speed and physicality of the college game.

I got to see one full practice during the spring and to be honest, what I saw from the offense wasn't overly impressive (and that is being kind). The spring game was more of the same  The quarterbacks were 33 of 62 and missed a lot of easy throws while the leading rusher was a walk-on (Jason Thompson). I'm looking forward to Wednesday when the media is allowed to view the entire practice to see what it all looks like. At that point there will be five practices under their belt so it should be a solid gauge of the pecking order in terms of who is making moves to be on the two-deep chart and depending on what drills are utilized, perhaps we will see some of these young playmakers putting on a show as well.


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