As we head into a new season, the strength of the 2009 Connecticut Huskies is once again expected to be the defense. Despite losing five starters from opening day a year ago (DEs Cody Brown and Julius Williams, DT Rob Lunn, CB Darius Butler and S Dahna Deleston), the team has reloaded and is ready to introduce the future leaders of the defensive unit.
Lindsey Witten, Jesse Joseph, Twyon Martin, Robert McClain and Jerome Junior, the two JJs being the only freshmen of the group, are ready to step in and not miss a beat. The linebacking corps is still intact as Scott Lutrus, Lawrence Wilson and Greg Lloyd Jr. are ready to once again lead the squad.
Last year's unit was very opportunistic, intercepting 18 passes, good for 15th in the nation. With McClain and Jasper Howard at the corner positions, Connecticut should follow their '08 performance with another strong showing forcing turnovers.
The one area of concern, big concern at that, is at special teams. One only needs to look at the North Carolina game in Chapel Hill to see why. Bruce Carter blocked 3 Desi Cullen punts en route to the Tar Heels dismantling of the Huskies.
The following week in Rutgers, Robbie Frey had a gaffe in judgment on the opening kickoff of the second half that forced a game of field position until the Huskies were stopped for a safety, the deciding factor in the 12-10 loss.
Howard, who will once again be the punt returner, had some lack of judgment at times in '09, especially when deciding to field punts or let them bounce.
Head coach Randy Edsall has said they have fixed the problems with the blocking scheme on punts, although he hinted it was more execusion on the player's parts, than anything else. In addition, should one of the returners falter, there is a long list of young players waiting in the wings for their opportunity.
One thing is certain, consistency will be needed on special teams if this year's version of the Huskies will be successful.
College football is finally here. Enjoy the games tonight and I will be back with a season preview of the Huskies and the rest of the Big East tomorrow.