Huskies fa­mil­iar with foe

Hartford Courant - - Uconn - By Alex Put­ter­man aput­ter­man@courant.com

If any­one knows how dif­fi­cult it is to de­fend Rhett Lash­lee’s of­fense, it’s UConn de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Billy Crocker.

Crocker spent last sea­son prac­tic­ing against Lash­lee, who was then the Huskies’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, wit­ness­ing the coach’s cre­ative and up­tempo of­fense. Now, Lash­lee is of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at SMU, and Crocker must plan to slow his at­tack when UConn faces the Mus­tangs on Satur­day at Rentschler Field.

“He’s in­cor­po­rated a lot of things that (SMU head coach Sonny) Dykes has done in his past, but there’s still ob­vi­ously some stuff there (that’s sim­i­lar),” said Crocker, who said he still talks fre­quently with Lash­lee. “He’s got some talent, he’s got some skill in the perime­ter, the run­ning back is very, very good. He’s got a lot of tools to work with there.”

Lash­lee’s most dan­ger­ous weapons might be his two top re­ceivers: ju­nior James Proche and sopho­more Reg­gie Rober­son Jr., who have com­bined for 101 catches, 1,378 yards and 14 touch­downs on the year, even as SMU has shuf­fled quar­ter­backs. Run­ning back Brae­den West is also dan­ger­ous, hav­ing rushed for 532 yards and five scores.

The Mus­tangs’ ex­plo­sive skill play­ers will present yet an­other chal­lenge for a Huskies D that has al­ready faced the na­tion’s lead­ing re­ceiver (Andy Is­abella of UMass), the na­tion’s sec­ond-lead­ing rusher (Dar­rell Hen­der­son of Mem­phis), the na­tion’s sixth­lead­ing passer (Brett Ryp­ien of Boise State), the na­tion’s 13th-lead­ing rusher (Jor­dan Cronkrite of South Florida), the na­tion’s 14th-lead­ing re­ceiver (Da­monte Coxie of Mem­phis) and the na­tion’s 15th-lead­ing rusher (Michael War­ren II of Cincin­nati).

Crocker spoke Wed­nes­day about the difficulty of guard­ing mul­ti­ple dan­ger­ous tar­gets at once, es­pe­cially with a young de­fense that lacks strength and ex­pe­ri­ence and will be play­ing with­out its third-lead­ing tack­ler (fresh­man line­backer Kevon Jones, who will sit out the fi­nal three games to fo­cus on aca­demics). Mak­ing mat­ters even more dif­fi­cult, Crocker said, will be Lash­lee’s fond­ness for de­cep­tion and trick­ery.

“The pic­ture changes quite a bit,” Crocker said. “There are some gim­micks. He’s prob­a­bly run three trick plays a game this sea­son, and I’m sure he’s got some­thing.”

Af­ter a slow start to the year year (55 to­tal points over the first three games), SMU’s of­fense has shown ex­plo­sive flashes. Most re­cently, the Mus­tangs put up 514 yards and 45 points in an up­set win over Hous­ton.

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