Ed­sall turns eyes to­ward next sea­son

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Front Page - JEFF JA­COBS

EAST HARTFORD — Against a blue- gray Novem­ber sky, the sor­ri­est UConn sea­son of the FBS era ended Satur­day.

It wob­bled out of the gate, was splat­tered by Cen­tral Florida and Boise State, re­bounded to eke out a win over an FCS op­po­nent and from there slowly, ag­o­niz­ingly bled out like a wounded Husky.

Good God, it was sad to watch.

The sad­dest part as late af­ter­noon gave way to chilly evening at Rentschler Field was that the Huskies could not em­ploy Con­necti­cut high school rules and use run­ning time to end this hor­ror sooner.

Alas, the NCAA is a stick­ler for rules, reg­u­la­tions and a work­ing score­board.

When the 57- 7 loss to Tem­ple was com­plete, when this 1- 11 sea­son was com­plete, the Huskies had se­cured their place as the worst de­fen­sive team in the his­tory of the col­lege game.

The 617.4 yards per game al­lowed smashed Kansas’ 2015 mark of 560.83 yards, ac­cord­ing to the NCAA record book. The 7,402 to­tal

yards al­lowed were the most any­body could find, more than the 7,120 Texas Tech al­lowed in 2015 over 13 games.

The 50.41 points al­lowed per game eclipsed Louisiana- Lafayette’s record of 50.27 from 1997. The records are iffy when you start go­ing back a cen­tury, but the best as folks can tell, it’s the high­est av­er­age since Stan­ford al­lowed 60 per game in 1918. The 605 to­tal points al­lowed is an NCAA record, eclips­ing East Carolina’s 572 in 13 games in 2010.

And yes, they pass the eye test as the worst de­fense ever.

Put it this way: If the Huskies had scored 50 points in ev­ery game they still would haven’t been bowl- el­i­gi­ble.

“We don’t have the per­son­nel right now to com­pete in this league,” coach Randy Ed­sall said. “Per­son­nel wins games. You try to bring in the ( Al­fred) Finch­ers and the ( Dan) Orlovskys, Desi ( Cullen), Danny ( Lansanah), Tyler ( Loren­zen), all those guys. These guys don’t have the pride in this pro­gram yet. They don’t. They don’t un­der­stand what it took to build this pro­gram. It’s go­ing to take us a while. Peo­ple may not like it, but I’m just telling the truth.

“We’ve got to find guys who love foot­ball and want to com­pete each and ev­ery day. That’s how that’s how they got great ( in his first ten­ure). It’s my pro­gram but it’s their team. If they don’t want to go out and give it ev­ery­thing they got and put in the time and ef­fort in the weight room, it doesn’t mat­ter what any coach says. You win with peo­ple. You have to have the right peo­ple. We don’t have all the right peo­ple yet.”

There is a web­site called coacheshot­seat. com and it has listed Ed­sall as sec­on­dor third- hottest dur­ing the past month. Ed­sall isn’t get­ting fired in the com­ing weeks. No way. No how. I asked any­way: Do you still have com­plete faith in your head coach?

“Of course,” ath­letic di­rec­tor David Bene­dict said. “To even be asked that ques­tion is some­what in­ap­pro­pri­ate. Randy isn’t the rea­son the pro­gram is at where it’s at. We’ve had a lot of change and lack of con­ti­nu­ity that cre­ates the sit­u­a­tion we’re in.

“I see the re­build­ing process as Randy stated. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Randy is a builder of pro­grams and he’s go­ing to build this pro­gram.”

When I asked in late Au­gust how he’d de­fine suc­cess this year, Ed­sall said, “I’ll tell you that at the end of the year.” It was the end, so the ques­tion was re­peated.

“There wasn’t much suc­cess, was there?” Ed­sall said. “I saw some guys get bet­ter. We laid ground­work. We’re not there yet. These fresh­men tried to com­pete. Phys­i­cally, they weren’t able to com­pete. That’s the cards we were dealt.

“We’ve got to go re­cruit above them and over them. We did it with the fresh­men we have and will con­tinue to it. It’s the only way we’re go­ing to get bet­ter. Pure and sim­ple.”

Will de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Billy Crocker be of­fered up as a sac­ri­fi­cial lamb? He was hired away from FCS power Vil­lanova in 2017 to run a 3- 3- 5 de­fense and Ed­sall did some se­ri­ous ex­plain­ing how dif­fi­cult it is to at­tract de­fen­sive ends and how this de­fense would al­low more ath­letes on the field to give dif­fer­ent looks. A vet­eran de­fense did not play well.

And when they all moved on, a de­fense full of fresh­men and red­shirt fresh­men was called on to play col­lege foot­ball when they weren’t pre­pared for it. Ed­sall also qui­etly went back to four down line­men for the start of the sea­son and promised re­cently to re­main with that alignment next sea­son.

The de­fen­sive line, with that 350- pound bear Travis Jones, will ma­ture. There are build­ing blocks in the de­fen­sive back­field with Tyler Coyle, Omar Fortt and Oneil Robin­son. But there es­pe­cially needs to be a se­ri­ous in­fu­sion at line­backer.

Asked if he still be­lieved in his de­fen­sive coaches, Ed­sall said: “Yes, yes; the prob­lem is we’re play­ing with lineback­ers who never played line­backer. We tried to makeshift guys. Go back through the re­cruit­ing process ( with Bob Di­aco), see how many lineback­ers are here that aren’t lineback­ers.

“When we can get some guys who have been high school lineback­ers and you can work with them and get them sea­soned, it’s go­ing to help you.”

Ed­sall pointed to Kevon Jones as one that can hit you and knock your “butt” back.

“Other than that, we don’t have one,” Ed­sall said.

Ed­sall said yes, he is look­ing hard at grad­u­ate trans­fers and ju­nior col­lege play­ers.

“But un­der­stand this,” he said. “We can’t get the same kids in here as other peo­ple we com­pete against. We’re not on level ground there when it comes to re­cruit­ing ju­nior col­lege guys and grad­u­ate trans­fers. We have aca­demic re­stric­tions that don’t al­low us to get some guys in.”

He pointed to one re­cruit who needs six more hours to be a mid- year en­rollee and other schools he doesn’t need to do it.

“Right now, through no fault of the young guys, we don’t have lead­er­ship on de­fense,” Ed­sall said. “We lost the best leader we had in Eli Thomas ( with a stroke), and that hurt us.”

Week af­ter week, op­po­nents glided by, rub­ber­neck­ing at the wreck of UConn foot­ball. In the end, they saw a UConn team left with 16 suc­ces­sive losses to FBS teams.

“I’m not dis­cour­aged,” Ed­sall said. “I’m just go­ing to go keep work­ing. That’s all I know how to do. All I know how to do is go find guys who want to be here and give it ev­ery­thing they got, be­cause I’m not putting up with that …”

He caught him­self be­fore he cursed in front of the tele­vi­sion cam­eras.

“There is too much pride in this pro­gram. Those guys who have been here be­fore are go­ing to be men­tors to some of these guys and un­der­stand what the pride was here, be­cause that’s been lost.”

With that, Randy Ed­sall de­clared 2018 over.

“And 2019 starts to­mor­row,” he said. “I’m on the road at 6 o’clock re­cruit­ing.”


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