Huskies familiar with foe
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.