New UConn OC Lashlee addresses his surprising move
Lashlee, the 33-year-old former offensive coordinator at Auburn, took a pay cut to lead the SEC and take over the offensive play calling duties for the teams which ranked last among 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring offense during the 2016 season and is the only FBS teams to rank 100th or lower in total offense in each of the last six seasons.
If Lashlee was looking for a challenge, he is certainly getting one. Here are some of UConn's offensive rankings a season ago when the Huskies returned 10 offensive players who had started at least seven games on a team that played in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Scoring offense: 128th (14.8 points per game)
Touchdowns scored: 128th (20)
Red-zone touchdown percentage: 127th (36.7)
Passing touchdowns: 127th (8)
Red-zone conversions: 124th (73.3 percent)
Total offense: 122nd (320.0 yards per game)
First downs: 122nd (17.1 per game)
Offensive plays: 119th (798)
Passing efficiency: 116th (110.97)
Third-down conversions: 113th (33.7)
Sacks allowed: 113th (37)
Tackles for loss allowed: 110th (94)
Yards per pass attempt: 104th (6.4)
Lashlee went on the air with Arkansas radio personality Bo Mattingly today to discuss his decision (thanks to James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser for posting the quotes from the show).
"We all have our career aspirations and goals and places we want to be," Lashlee said. "Sometimes you got to make tough decision to maybe put yourself in a position to take the next step. The opportunity coach (Randy) Edsall's given me, someone who's had a lot of success as a head coach, particularly at UConn, the opportunity he's going to give me to run the offense how I'd like to and kind of stretch myself and grow as a coach and kind of get out of my comfort zone a little bit. It's just a chance to maybe go up there and help him do something not a lot of people expect. Doesn't make sense to a lot of people but I don't worry about that.
"I think it'll be good for me to be exposed to a different place and have a chance to run the offense and do it for Coach Edsall. Just try to further my development and see where it takes me. It doesn't have to make sense for a lot of people if it makes sense for me."
Lashlee, while having the title of offensive coordinator at Auburn, worked for a coach in Gus Malzahn with a rather hands' on approach to the offense. Malzahn could be considered the offensive coordinator in the same way that former UConn coach Bob Diaco could have added the title of defensive coordinator considering how involved he was on that side of the ball.
Lashlee was handed the play-calling duties after Auburn got off to a 1-2 start and the Tigers promptly won six games in a row and in the month of October they ranked second nationally in total offense and rushing offense.
"Here's the thing, Coach Malzahn is one of the best offensive coaches over the last 10 years in college football," Lashlee said. "So he's always going to have heavy involvement in his offense and he should. That's his strength and that's what head coaches do. He's always been great to me. He and I have a great relationship.
"It was kind of one of those things that when he and I talked, some last year and even this year, just the opportunity for me to go and completely have a chance to learn and develop as a coach and run my own offense was something I wanted to do."
Obviously the fact that Lashlee is taking a $250,000 pay cut to move from Auburn to UConn opened a few eyes.
"(For) a lot of people money can be the end-all, be-all and if that's why you do anything, especially this business, you probably doing it for the wrong reasons," Lashlee said. "It's about impacting kids in the end. At the end of the day I don't make all my decision based on money and honestly I don't make all my decisions based on what most people think makes sense.
"You pray about and you talk about it with the people that matter in your family and you try to say 'does this move make the most sense for us long-term?' You can't just think about now. Hey, sometimes you sacrifice a little bit now for what could be more later, but it's just not about money."
Speaking of Diaco, I have seen reports that he is a candidate for the defensive coordinator spots at Arkansas and Nebraska.