STORRS, Conn. (AP) - Randy Edsall is not expecting his UConn football program will pick up right where he left it in January 2011 after leading the Huskies to the Fiesta Bowl to end his first 11-year stint as head coach.
The program has changed. The game has changed. Edsall has changed.
The 58-year-old takes back a team that went 24-49 after he left, including 3-9 a year ago, ending the three-year Bob Diaco era at 11-26.
Edsall, who had some less-than successful years himself at Maryland, sees a lot of similarities between the current state of the football program at UConn and the condition of the school’s practice complex.
The facilities were state of the art when Edsall was last here and are still very good. But, he said, they need some freshening up.
“It’s like anything else, if you don’t pay attention to it and you don’t take care of it, you’re never going to accomplish the things you want to accomplish,” he said.
Edsall is updating the practice facility with new turf and some new displays to honor Husky greats.
He’s updating the program by bringing in a more wide-open offense that better matches the other teams in the American Athletic conference.
He hired offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, away from Auburn to help him do that.
“It will be different from a schematic standpoint in terms of what we did before,” Edsall said. “But in terms of what it takes to win and the things you have to do to win and the things that you have to do to mold and build young men to be successful, that’s not going to change.”
The defense, under coordinator Billy Crocker, is expected to do more attacking than the one Diaco ran, which was based on the idea of making sure the other team didn’t get a big play.
The change in style has players, including defensive end Luke Carrezola, excited.
“We love getting in the backfield,” the senior said. “These coaches didn’t recruit us for this scheme, but we fit it really well. There’s nothing better than making a play and this gives us the ability to do this.”
The biggest battle in camp promises to be at quarterback, where senior Bryant Shirreffs is looking for another shot after being benched by Diaco in favor of Donovan Williams, whose redshirt was burned for the final three games of the 2016 season.
Williams has moved to wide receiver during camp. But Shirreffs faces another challenge from junior college transfer David Pindell, who was brought in by Edsall.
“I knew that my college career wasn’t over,” said Shirreffs. “Those couple months were the toughest couple months of my life. It was like a roller coaster. But it’s great to be here right now.”
The Huskies were picked in the annual media poll to finish at the bottom of the conference’s Eastern division. But, the Huskies have 12 players returning who started at least one game a year ago.
“There is enough talent to win here,” Edsall said. “But are we going to do these other things to allow us to put ourselves to be the best that we can be not just be good but to be the best we can be, to be great? That is the challenge that we have ahead of us as a group. If we as coaches have to do it all, we will be OK at a certain point, but we will never get to the top of the mountain.”
UConn opens the season by hosting Holy Cross on Aug. 31.
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