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March 17, 2009

New faces, new scheme for UConn offense

Connecticut running back Andre Dixon was an All-Big East selection in 2007.
Coach: Randy Edsall
Last season: 8-5, 3-4 Big East. Beat Buffalo in the International Bowl.
Spring dates: March 17-April 19
Offense (6): T Mike Hicks, G Zach Hurd, WR Brad Kanuch, WR Kashif Moore, G Moe Petrus, FB Anthony Sherman.
Defense (6): CB Jasper Howard, LB Greg Lloyd, LB Scott Lutrus, T Twyon Martin, S Robert Vaughn, LB Lawrence Wilson.
Special teams (2): P Desi Cullen, K Dave Teggart.
Positions of strength

Donald Brown is off the NFL a year early, but the Huskies still will have ample talent at running back, led by Andre Dixon, who was an all-league selection in 2007. Other viable options are Jordan Todman, Robbie Frey and Kelmetrus Wylie. The offensive line lost two starters, but staffers still feel it will be strong; Petrus was a freshman All-America. All three starting linebackers return. And as long as Edsall is calling the shots, this will be a good program. He's one of the nation's most underrated coaches.

Help is needed

Who is going to play quarterback with Tyler Lorenzen gone? The top candidates are Zach Frazer and Cody Endres, who each started twice in 2008 to mixed reviews when Lorenzen was out with injury. Frazer is the better passer, Endres niftier as a runner. UConn needs a few playmakers at receiver so foes can't continue to gang up to stop the run. The defensive line needs three new starters, including two ends.

Keep an eye on

QB Zach Frazer. He began his career at Notre Dame before transferring to UConn. Frazer, a junior with great size (6 feet 4/231 pounds), has shown glimpses of potential as a passer, which is a much-needed commodity in Storrs.

WR Brian Parker. He is a big (6-3/197), rangy target who redshirted as a freshman last season. If Parker proves adept at running routes, he could be a real weapon over the middle and in the red zone.

WR Gerrard Sheppard. Actually, you could pick almost any young wide receiver. UConn is desperate for a playmaker on the outside. Sheppard is a speedy redshirt freshman who had offers to play hoops at George Mason and Clemson.

His time is now

Now is the moment for senior defensive end Lindsay Witten to step up with starting ends Cody Brown and Julius Williams gone. Witten has played primarily in nickel packages, and he has the quickness, speed and explosiveness to be a star in an expanded role. The buzz

The defense has few questions, so most of the spring will be focused on getting the offensive personnel up to speed in new coordinator Joe Moorhead's offense. He arrives from Akron and is installing an up-tempo, no-huddle offense after former coordinator Rob Ambrose left to be coach at Towson. The learning curve could be steep in the new attack, which includes multiple formations. And the sooner a quarterback emerges, the better for an offense that typically is too ground-oriented.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.

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