UConn Huskies: CFN College Football Preview 2021

·9 min read

College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the UConn season with what you need to know.

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– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
– Top Players | Keys To The Season
– What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
UConn Huskies Schedule Analysis
– UConn Huskies Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2020 Record: Didn’t play in 2020
Head Coach: Randy Edsall, 6th year, 6-30
2020 CFN Final Ranking: Not Ranked
2020 CFN Preview Ranking: 130
2019 CFN Final Ranking: 126

UConn Huskies College Football Preview 2021: Offense

Welcome to life as an independent, even if it’s a year late. The team that ended up doing next to nothing offensive in its last year in the American Athletic Conference still has a whole lot of question marks and work to do, and not being able to do much this spring didn’t help, either. So …

The Huskies have several options all in the mix for the quarterback gig. Anyone who can provide a spark – and not throw a bazillion interceptions – will likely get the call. Sophomore Jack Zergiotis was thrown to the wolves in 2019 and threw for 1,782 yards and nine scores with 11 picks, 6-4, 225-pound junior Micah Leon comes in from NC State to make a push, and 6-4, 216-pound sophomore Steven Krajewski are all in the mix.

Leading receiver Cameron Ross returns after making a team-high 60 catches two years ago. Second-leading receiver Ardell Brown is gone, but just about everyone else of note in the receiving corps who caught a pass returns, but …

Running back Art Thompkins is gone – he was the second-leading receiver with 39 catches – but leading rusher Kevin Mensah is back after running for over 1,000 yards and nine scores. The rest of the backfield is unproven, but Mensah will be the workhorse.

The offensive line didn’t do much for the ground game and was even worse in pass protection. On the plus side, it was a very young group in 2019 that had a full year in the weight room. However, the one good blocker from two years ago – Matt Peart – is off being a New York Giant, and there’s not a ton of size up front.

NEXT: UConn Huskies College Football Preview 2021: Defense

4. UConn Huskies College Football Preview 2021: Defense

The offense was bad two years ago, but the defense was even worse. If allowed 467 yards and 41 points per game, was a disaster against the run and did nothing to get behind the line. Like the offensive side, though, this was a young D that now had a year to hit the weights, workout, and get going for this year.

Omar Fortt is still around. The veteran linebacker is built like a defensive back, but he was able to bulk over over the last year and should be able to do even more after finishing second on the team with 70 stops.

Jackson Mitchell is also back after making 65 tackles, and the D gets back DJ Morgan for a super-super-senior season – he was a senior in 2019. The 6-2, 226-pound former transfer from Notre Dame was the team’s best player at getting behind the line.

Now there needs to be a pass rush from the defensive front. There’s not much, but the defensive interior at least has some bulk with 6-5, 333-pound junior Travis Jones to work around – he was second on the team in tackles for loss – and junior Kevon Jones is the best all-around prospect on the outside. There are options but the production has to come.

The UConn secondary only came up with six of the seven picks in 2019, but former JUCO transfer Diamond Harrell returns to one safety spot after making 38 tackles and coming up with 49 tackles. However, two key parts of the secondary – Robert King and Keyshawn Paul – are transferring out. The corners are young, but have a wee bit of experience.

NEXT: UConn Huskies College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

UConn Huskies College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Best UConn Huskies Offensive Player

RB Kevin Mensah, Sr.
He fought the good fight over his career. The 5-9, 202-pounder was strong as a freshman and kicked it all in as a sophomore with 1,045 yards and six scores. He kept it all going as a junior with 1,013 yards and nine touchdowns, and he’s used a bit as a receiver. He’ll be the workhorse for the O with at least 200 carries a lock.

2. WR Cameron Ross, Soph.
3. WR Matt Drayton, Soph.
4. TE Jay Rose, Sr.
5. C Sidney Walker, Jr.

Related

UConn Football Schedule 2021, Analysis

Best UConn Huskies Defensive Player

LB Omar Fortt, Sr.
There are a few good veterans to build around in big DT Travis Jones and defensive back-sized linebacker Omar Fortt. The year off helped Fortt to build up a bit to get to 212 pounds, but holding up was never a problem for the active hitter with 185 tackles in his three years. He’s not used much in the backfield, but he’ll get in on everything.

2. DT Travis Jones, Jr.
3. LB Jackson Mitchell, Soph.
4. LB DJ Morgan, Sr.
5. DE Kevon Jones, Jr.

Top Incoming UConn Huskies Transfer

CB Stan Cross, Fr.
The Huskies need as many playmakers as possible for the defense, and it’s getting a JUCO transfer who should be a good hitter for the secondary right out of the gate. The 5-11, 185-pounder from Iowa Central Community College made 45 stops in his one year, and now he should be an instant part of the rotation.

NEXT: UConn Huskies College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

UConn Huskies College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

UConn Huskies Biggest Key: Offense

Get the chains moving. The offense has the running game with RB Kevin Mensah to at least do something on first down, and the receivers are in place to come up with a decent downfield passing game.

Controlling the clock wasn’t a problem in 2019 – the Huskies owned the time of possession battle – but the offense has to do a better job of going on decent marches. The O converted just 29% of its third down tries, and that was after connecting on 42% of its chances in 2018.

Basically, the offense needs production to go along with all of the time spent controlling the clock. And on the flip side …

UConn Huskies Biggest Key: Defense

Get off the field. The run defense improved by leaps and bound from 2018 to 2019, but the third down D was still miserable. The 2018 defense allowed teams to convert 50% of their third down tries, and so did the 2019 D.

The Huskies control the clock, but they don’t do enough with the ball when they have it. The D isn’t coming up with stops, but it’s not on the field all that often. In other words …

UConn’s defense gives up a TON of big plays. In 2019, only Bowling Green and UMass allowed more yards per play. To be positive, UConn allowed seven yards per play in 2019 after giving up a whopping 8.8 per play in 2018. The bar isn’t set all that high.

Reduce the home runs and generate a few more big moments on third downs.

UConn Huskies Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Jack Zergiotis, Soph.
Or Steven Krajewski, or Micah Leon, or Tyler Phommachanh, or Miles Foerster, or someone who can be the leader for an offense that was way too inconsistent.

The rest of the skill parts aren’t bad, but the lines have to be stronger, the defense has to be better, and there needs to be a difference-maker to emerge from the pack to take over the attack.

That might take the entire season to do, but for a program rebuilding for life as an independent, its about the building things up for 2022 and beyond.

UConn Huskies Key Game To The 2021 Season

Middle Tennessee, Oct. 23
Just how much will UConn improve as the season rolls on? It’s going to be a rough run early and a brutal stretch late, but Middle Tennessee is one of the few 50/50 games that the Huskies have to win at home in late October. Lose, and that’s if for any fun this season with Clemson, UCF and Houston to close.

UConn Huskies Schedule Analysis

2019 UConn Huskies Fun Stats

– 3rd Down Conversions: Opponents 67-of-134 (50%) – UConn 48-of-163 (39%)
– Points Per Game: Opponents 40.5 – UConn 18.9
– 3rd Quarter Scoring: Opponents 136 – UConn 45

NEXT: UConn Huskies College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

UConn Huskies College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Houston was undefeated with a few massive wins on the schedule and at least a theoretical argument for being in the College Football Playoff hunt. It went on to finish 13-1 under Tom Herman highlighted with a Peach Bowl win over Florida State in the New Year’s Six.

That one loss? 20-17 to UConn.

Since then, UConn has 1) gone 9-41 with 2) only five of those nine wins coming against FBS teams. 3) The Huskies and the American Athletic Conference parted ways after 2019, but 4) it wasn’t able to get its independent life going because almost no college football program got hit harder by 5) the global pandemic, with led to the team cancelling its 2020 season and put a halt to the 2021 spring football session.

Set The UConn Huskies Regular Season Win Total At … 3.5

It’s a program that’s still playing college football, but it doesn’t have a conference title to play for and going to a bowl game is a massive reach this year considering the schedule.

It should be able to take care of Holy Cross and Yale from the FCS slate, and it has to beat UMass on the road or else this will be one ugly year.

Can there be an upset somewhere along the way like at home against Wyoming or Middle Tennessee? Or …

Maybe the program can put a period on this rough era and kick off a new one by closing out the 2021 season with a win over …

Houston.