Edsall experimenting with new players, lineups late in season
Huskies have not started same 11 on ‘D’ in any 2 games
TULSA, OKLA. — As UConn barrels toward the end of an eighth straight losing season and coach Randy Edsall admits that wins and losses aren’t the program’s short-term priority, the Huskies’ depth chart is getting, well, deeper.
Over the last few weeks, Edsall and his staff have granted opportunities to a number of players who didn’t play early in the season, including safety Robert King and receivers Cameron Hairston and Garrison Burnett, among others.
Many reserves began seeing more snaps since Edsall announced that key members of the freshman class would be shut down as redshirts, but that’s not the only reason the Huskies are using more of their roster late in the season. Edsall has said in recent weeks that he’s interested in checking out more players to help him gauge who will be able to help the team in the future.
With UConn down more than 30 points late in Saturday’s loss to Tulsa, Edsall had an opportunity to give quarterback Steven Krajewski his first college snaps, but he left the freshman on the sidelines. Edsall did, however, turn to freshman running back Dante Black, who picked up 3 yards on his first career carry.
Thanks to a new NCAA rule, freshmen can play in up to four games without burning their redshirts, meaning UConn coaches can use Krajewski and Black as much as they want over the final stretch of the season without costing the rookies a year of eligibility.
From the start, UConn’s season has been one of steady lineup churn. The Huskies have not started the same 11 players on defense in any two games this season, a fact that owes in small part to injuries and in large part to the coaches’ continued desire to find the optimal group. In total, 22 different players have started for UConn on “D,” with not a single player starting every contest. (Safety Omar Fortt has started every game for which he has been healthy, but he missed a week with a concussion.)
Against Tulsa on Saturday, the Huskies started three safeties and only two linebackers, mirroring a personnel grouping they debuted (to some success) two weeks ago at South Florida.
Though the Huskies’ offensive lineup has been more steady than its defensive one, Edsall and offensive coordinator John Dunn have tinkered in recent weeks with different combinations of receivers and tight ends. Aaron McLean and Keyion Dixon have emerged as regular starters, displacing Tyler Davis and Tyraiq Beals.
Entering Saturday night’s game, 72 players had appeared in a game for UConn this season. And given how Edsall has managed the last few weeks, that number only figures to grow.
Saturday night lights
After Saturday’s 7 p.m. kickoff, UConn has now played at night in four of its five road games this season (with the lone exception being a 3:30 start at Syracuse). Edsall complained about the pattern this week, pointing out that when games start late, players don’t return home until early the following morning. … Tulsa hosted its homecoming this weekend, making Saturday the fourth straight game (three on the road, one at home) the Huskies have played during someone’s homecoming. … As expected, backup quarterback Marvin Washington did not travel with the Huskies to Tulsa. Edsall said Tuesday that Washington had to learn how to be accountable for his actions. … Once again, linebacker Santana Sterling wore No. 22 in honor of teammate Eli Thomas, who was hospitalized last month after suffering a stroke.
Tulsa’s Corey Taylor scores a touchdown in front of UConn’s Oneil Robinson on Saturday in Tulsa, Okla.