September 15, 2009

Five Questions about UConn got in touch with Connecticut football expert Zac Boyer from He was able to answer five questions about the Huskies as we continue our previews of the Bears' weekend opponent.

1) Everyone knows that Donald Brown was such a huge part of the UConn offense last year. How has the offense looked so far this season and do you expect the offense to change much now with Cody Endres at quarterback?

Brown wasn't just a huge part of the offense - he, essentially, was the offense. He touched the ball on nearly 60 percent of UConn's offensive plays, and he was a part of over 40 downs a game.

With Brown gone, the Huskies have tried to re-dedicate themselves to achieving more balance in the offense, which originally meant that the coaching staff would look for a 50-50 split between run and pass plays. Now, they've realized that it probably isn't likely to achieve that number, so any balance in overall yardage is expected.

They've got Jordan Todman, a sophomore, and Andre Dixon, a former all-Big East running back, leading the run game, and Cody Endres will step in for Zach Frazer for the foreseeable future as the quarterback after Frazer injured his right knee on Saturday in a loss to North Carolina. The goal is to try to awaken the passing game, and they'll certainly need to do so to have any chance of competing the rest of the season. Todman and Dixon just aren't the players that Brown was.

2) Lindsey Witten is having a great season so far (Five sacks through two games). Is this just a result of the two offenses he has faced, or is he a player that people have always expected these kinds of results from?

Witten has always been a strong defensive end, especially with regards to the pass rush. He's incredibly quick, incredibly sharp, incredibly hungry and incredibly bright. The problem for him is that he's been the victim of a numbers game since arriving at UConn: he started several games as a true freshman, but with Cody Brown and Julius Williams around, he was relegated to playing end only on the nickel package. With Brown and Williams now in the NFL, it's Witten's time to shine - and he's done so.

It will be a test for him this Saturday facing Robert Griffin, however. He had his first three sacks against Ohio, which, despite having a mobile quarterback, chose not to have him run. T.J. Yates at North Carolina isn't very fleet-footed, either. Witten's quick, but whether or not he can catch and contain Griffin remains to be seen. The Huskies have had a lot of trouble with mobile quarterbacks in the past.

3) Along with Brown, UCONN lost many very good players to the NFL this past offseason. How have the Huskies replaced those players?

Among the players lost to the NFL were Will Beatty, a left tackle drafted in the second round by the Giants; Darius Butler, a cornerback drafted in the second round by the Patriots; Cody Brown, a defensive end drafted in the second round by the Cardinals; Dahna Deleston, a free-agent signee at safety currently on injured reserve with the Chicago Bears, and Julius Williams, a free-agent signee at defensive end who made the cut for the Jaguars. It was an extraordinarily deep senior class, and the four picks in the first two rounds of the draft were second only to USC.

Needless to say, the Huskies haven't replaced those players. Dixon and Todman are not the same type of running backs as Brown was. Jasper Howard can do some strong things in the defensive backfield, but he's just a junior and has a lot to learn. Witten starts opposite true freshman Jesse Joseph at defensive end, and the offensive line has shuffled quite a bit to find the right fit during the offseason. It's truly been a work in progress, and it will probably continue to be into next season. While many of the players who are in the pro ranks right now could be easily identified as draft picks, except for Witten, it doesn't appear likely any of the current Huskies will make a mark.

4) Other than the obvious shutting down Robert Griffin, what does UCONN have to do to win the game saturday?

Establish a passing game. That's key. The Huskies will not be able to win the game if they keep throwing the ball 127 yards a game as they have in their first two outings. If Endres, who has played in three games, started two and never played on the road, can do a good job of managing the game and not over-thinking like Frazer did, he should be fine. They're the same type of player. But once Endres tries to force things, things will swing Baylor's way in a hurry. The Huskies won't be able to contain Griffin.

5) What is your prediction for the game saturday?

Baylor will win mostly behind Griffin's running game, and it will likely be a 10-point margin.

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