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October 12, 2013

Bulls enter game as underdogs - but not really

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CONNECTICUT HUSKIES

EDGE

SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS

SECONDARY

PASSING ATTACK

Loisng two corners to the NFL has taken its toll on the Huskies. The pass defense is giving up over 200 yards a game and has not been able to allow for blitzing. That being said, this is a new coach, a new scheme and with two weeks to prepare, corners Taylor Mack and Byron Jones struggling, the backups are true freshmen. If the USF offensive line gives Eveld time, this could get ugly for a pass defense that hasn't stopped anyone. If Eveld can get time and connect, it could be a long day for the Husky secondary, in more ways than one. While this isn't easy to say, USF has more experience under center with Bobby Eveld than UConn has with true freshman Tim Boyle. Add to that the emergence of what seemed to be a rhythm between Eveld and Andre Davis in the win over Cincinnati. The UConn secondary is very weak and the inability to blitz (only three sacks) is directly tied to the inexperience at corner for the Huskies. Look for Mike McFarland and Sean Price as well as Derrick Hopkins to have breakout games.
LINEBACKERS

RUNNING GAME

Yawin Smallwood is a whirling dervish who flies to the ball. He's the big run-stopper for the Huskies, from his LB position. The supporting cast of Ryan Donohue and Graham Stewart need to be wary of Pierre's ability to cut back. UConn hasn't been all that successful at stopping the run, but is ranked 50th in the country in total defense. If the linebackers can contain Pierre and company - the pressure builds on Eveld. UConn gives up right at 192 yards per game on the ground - which favors the Bulls The big unknown for USF - how will the running game establish without Marcus Shaw. Back up Michael Pierre filled in admirably against a Cincinnati defense ranked 11th in the nation - rushing for 61 yards on 15 carries. Look for Darius Tice to get some opportunities and keep your eye on FB Ryan Eppes - who could figure into this game. UConn hasn't played anyone with the level of speed that USF may have - so it will be important for the offensive front to establish the run to give Eveld a chance to work.
DEFENSIVE LINE

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Huuskies have struggled with the front four. Defensive end Jesse Joseph is the key on the weakside end. The interior of Julian Campenni and Shamar Stephen have to stay in the gaps and keep the Bulls from using Pierre and company to gash them. If the line can't get pressure on Eveld, he'll be able to pick apart a weak secondary. Experience is about even and there's not a real dominant name that jumps out. Opponents are averaging 192 yards rushing per game on the Huskies, so this may be a feast for an offense that needs to run the ball. Austin Reiter and the offensive line held their own Saturday against Cincinnati - and will need to do the same with a less mobile QB. Dominique Threatt has worked his way into the starting lineup and figures to be a prominent force. Establishing the run and not allowing a sack is important - against a defense that has registered only three sacks all season. The UConn front four are not as strong as Cincinnati - and the Bulls only yielded two sacks in that game. USF has got to protect Eveld and give Pierre running lanes. It all starts up front for the Bulls
PASSING ATTACK

SECONDARY

Throw the stats out the window. Tim Boyle gets the start - his first in college - after the Huskies offense (ranked 121st in the FBS) hit neutral. Yes, UConn has five touchdowns passing and seven interceptions - and yes, UConn is starting a true freshman. Yes, he's got tools, but the offensive line is the same and 19 sacks jumps out at you like a giant zit on nose of a prom queen. The secondary has got to keep an eye on Shakim Phillips and Geremy Davis and allow the front line to pressure Boyle. Mark Joyce is coming off a two-interception game and the Bulls should have had three. The bigger question is - how healthy the secondary will be. The younger players are making plays and will continue to do so, and facing an inexprieenced QB with an offensive line that hasn't been able to keep anyone upright will help the secondary. Look for Lamar Robbins, Nate Godwin and Johnny Ward to continue to progress and get more playing time. How healthy Jaquez Jenkins is may tip the scales.
GROUND ATTACK

LINEBACKERS

Not one time has UConn rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. And yes, we realize that sacks come off rushing yardage, but if you can't get protection for the QB - you can't run the ball.Lyle McCombs has 200 yards on the season and a high of 78 against Towson State. He had 800+ last year and is clearly frustrated. The Huskies ran the ball 39 times against Buffalo for 27 yards... that's less than a yard a carry. UConn is averaging an abysmal 45 yards rushing a game. De De Lattimore and company slammed the door shut on a Cincinnati offense that had three running backs that could pound away. UConn has one - and he's not been able to run for more than 87 yards in a game. Keeping the Huskies in the dog pen will be the key for this unit. The play of Nigel Harris and Reshard Cliett gives the clear advantage to the Bulls, who have run-stoppers that plug holes. The new defensive look seems to be working.
OFFENSIVE LINE

DEFENSIVE LINE

An offensive line that has not been able to establish the run, nor protect the passer is not a line you want going against a defense that seems to be finding itself more and more each and every week. With right tackle Kevin Friend nursing an injury that has kept him from completing a singe game yet, this one could get ugly early. There is no clear leader on the line - and Friend's back-up - Xavier Hemmingway has clearly struggled. Going up against Forte, Lynch and company will not be a good day for an injured right tackle, or his freshman back-up. Time to feed the beast.Julius Forte and company faces an offensive line that has little chance of protecting a QB (giving up 19 sacks in four games) and hasn't been able to establish any hint of a running game. That being said, the Bulls will have to bring pressure on the young freshman QB and shut down the run. Look for monster games from Aaron Lynch and Ryne Giddins - as the Huskies don't mask their desire to run north-south. The interior of the line, led by Luke Sager must put pressure on the young and inexperienced line for UConn
SPECIAL TEAMS

SPECIAL TEAMS

This is perhaps the most over-worked unit for the Huskies. Kicker Chad Christen had four field goals and has hit on five total with one block. Punter Cole Wagner has punted 27 times for an average of 38 yards a kick. The return team has struggled and this is hurting the field position for the Huskies. As overworked as they are - this is an area that the Huskies will need today to keep the game in check. Marvin Kloss kicked four field goals last week, including a 53-yarder and was named AAC special teams player of the week. Mattias Ciabatti flipped the field against the Bearcats and that helped tremendously as the Bulls played field position all night. A blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and the kick return unit that is progressing gives the Bulls the edge.
COACHING

COACHING

Interim Head Coach T.J. Weist takes over for the fired Paul Pasqualoni and looks to shake things up. He's the former offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, two areas the Huskies have struggled with. He has zero head coaching experience and has brought in a new offensive line coach as well. The fact that Weist has named true freshman Tim Boyle as the starter shows you he's focused on the future. Weist and Taggart coached together at WKU and the two are close friends - but not today/>Willie Taggart and his staff get the nod here based on experience and continuity. Taggart brought several assistants with him from Western Kentucky (where he and Weist coached together) and those assistants know what is expected and have started to help the players get it. The improved play each week of the defensive unit, led by NFL-caliber coaches like Chuck Bresnahan and Ron Cooper give the Bulls the edge. You will likely see a much looser coaching staff now that USF has that first victory.
     



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