Here is the first installment of a series that will focus on the opponents that will play BYU in 2014. In the first installment we will look at the University of Connecticut Huskies:
2013 Record: 3-9 (3-5 AAC)
2014 game: August 29th 6 PM MDT, TV: ESPN Radio: KSL
BYU opens the season up on Friday August 29th in East Hartford, Connecticut against the University of Connecticut Huskies. I contacted Aman Kidwai of SB Nation's The UConn Blog to get an idea of what to expect from the Huskies in August.
GREENHALGH: How did UConn do last year and what are expectations for the team this year?
KIDWAI: To put it bluntly, UConn did not do well last year. At all. To use the phrase dumpster fire would be unfair to dumpster fires. We started the season by losing to FCS 'powerhouse' Towson and then rattled off three more losses before canning Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni, who never really had the backing of Husky Nation anyway. By my estimation the best game of the year was a close loss to Michigan at home on prime time. We didn't get our first win of the season until November 23rd.
We finished 3-9 thanks to a stretch where we got to play Temple, Rutgers and Memphis and interim HC TJ Weist made a few changes including at QB.
Expectations are to finish at or above .500 this year for a couple of reasons. I believe we have a favorable schedule and the new head coach should be able to pull us up to at least the middle of the American Conference.
GREENHALGH: Have there been any recent coaching changes? If so, how will the changes impact the team?
KIDWAI: Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco was hired as the new head coach and has pretty much completely overhauled the entire coaching staff. The defense will change from a more classic 4-3 style to more of a 3-4ish gap management scheme which Diaco favored while at ND. New offensive coordinator Mike Cummings, from Central Michigan, will try to coach up the o-line and put a pretty traditional balanced offense onto the field.
GREENHALGH: Who are the key players for this year's team?
KIDWAI: Whoever ends up starting at QB. Right now Redshirt Sophomore Casey Cochran is listed as the starter. He started the spring game under center and played decently enough to at least hold onto the top spot on the depth chart. Sophomore QB Tim Boyle, a BC de-commit whose redshirt was questionably burned by last year's interim HC, is a contender for the job as is "incumbent" Senior Chandler Whitmer, who started the first 4 games for UConn last year (all losses).
GREENHALGH: What players are new to the team and expected to make an immediate impact?
KIDWAI: Our recruiting class was not great, even by UConn standards, but there is one incoming recruit who is drawing a lot of excitement. Arkeel Newsome, a running back who broke all sorts of records while playing his high school ball in Connecticut, is a Parade All-American who has a chance to be a standout play maker for the Huskies.
GREENHALGH: What are UConn's strengths on offense? Defense?
KIDWAI: Offensively we are strong at the skill positions. We are returning most of the productive running backs and wide receivers except for WR Shakim Phillips, who was third on the team in receiving yards but is currently no longer with the team. Rumors are that he is graduating and will move on to a different program for his final year of eligibility.
Defense has historically been UConn's big strength. Our front seven should be stout against the run and has a nice blend of young and experienced talent. We lost two very key players in LB Yawin Smallwood and DT Shamar Stephen, with the former likely being a second day pick in this weeks NFL Draft, but I think we are well equipped to replace their production.
GREENHALGH: What is UConn's weakness on offense? Defense?
KIDWAI: The o-line is far and away the greatest weakness offensively. We are replacing four starters from last year but given their performance it is hard to tell if that is a good thing or a bad thing. If the youngsters can be coached up and a couple of veterans step up we have a chance to be decent, but I'm very concerned about our ability to open holes for the RB's and keep the QB clean in the pocket.
Defensively our pass rush and secondary are lacking. So yeah, we're pretty vulnerable against the pass.
GREENHALGH: Are there any unique traditions at UConn?
KIDWAI: Besides winning basketball championships at an alarming rate, there are no particularly unique game day traditions that come to mind. We only started playing FBS football about fifteen years ago so there hasn't been a lot of time to develop things like 'traditions'. We'll get there.
I will say tailgating at Rentschler Field is a blast should any of you choose to attend this year's season opener and our claim to fame is that RGIII called it the loudest place he played at in his collegiate career.
For more on the Huskies of UConn, visit The UConn Blog.