If there was one bright spot during the 2013 season for UConn, it was definitely on the defensive side of the ball. The Huskies defense kept UConn competitive when their offense failed to pull away leads. After losing Shamar Stephen and Yawin Smallwood in the 7th round of the 2013 draft, the Huskies will look to their returning youth to take on veteran roles and step up in their place.
Majority of the Huskies’ key losses came to their front seven. Their front seven anchored a rush defense that was ranked 23rd in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (135). It was in their secondary where the Huskies were most vulnerable, allowing almost 250 yards per game through the air. The Huskies’ secondary struggles could be attributed to a few different things. As well as the front seven played for UConn last year, there were only three players who recorded more than two sacks. It’s hard to give your secondary an opportunity to make plays when you are giving the opposing quarterback all the time in the world to find the seam and hit it. None of those aforementioned three players will be with the program during the 2014 season. Another reason that is always worth looking into is the experience factor. The Huskies had nine defensive backs play over the course of the season. That’s a lot of young guys sharing not that many snaps, but it does mean a year under their belt for all, and a chance to grow and improve come August.
Out of the nine players that played last year for the huskies secondary, six were underclassmen (two freshman and four sophomores). Two players who stood out were senior cornerback Byron Jones and sophomore Obi Melifonwu. Jones, a converted safety. started all 12 games at corner back. Jones led the team in interceptions with three and was fourth on the team in tackles with 60. In Melifonwu’s freshman year at free safety, he was second on the team with 70 tackles, and two forced fumbles to go with two interceptions.
In 2014 the Huskies may have some big shoes to fill with many of their key contributors gone. Head coach Bob Diaco certainly has the track record to keep UConn competitive schematically. Before accepting the head coaching position for the Huskies Diaco was the defensive coordinator for Notre Dame as well as assistant head coach. While coaching the Irish, Diaco lead a top 10 nationally ranked defense in 2012. Uconn’s defense has a lot to look forward to in 2014 with the arrival of Diaco, and all of his vast defensive knowledge and experience coaching that side of the ball. The UConn faithful certainly expect an improvement as well.