football Edit

Breakdown of UConn OL Performance in Opener

The Huskies entered the 2016 season with high expectations after finally returning to a bowl game in 2015.

UConn entered its first contest of the season, against FCS University of Maine, as 29-point favorites. While the expectations for the entire team were high coming into this season, Husky fans were hoping to see vast improvement in the O-Line this year, as they had become known as a bit of a weak point over the past five seasons.

While the game didn’t necessarily turn out to be the rough, down-hill run, punch-em-in-the-mouth beating we were all hoping for, it wasn’t all bad.

Let’s start with the negatives….

The offense got off to an incredibly slow start, mostly due to the fact that the running backs couldn’t find any room to run. There were a few solid 3-5 yard gains but could never string more than one together in a row, early on, which caused a few drives to stall out early.

The O-line struggled early to block the run against inside and outside pressure brought by the main defensive front. This is something that the Huskies will certainly see in the future and will need to be cleaned up in order to have success.

UConn did not dominate a much smaller defensive front like it should have. While the line has definitely put on some muscle in the off-season, there should have been a much more significant push up front.

The Huskies failed to convert a 3rd and 1 at around 4:40 left in the first quarter, and also failed a few other 3rd and short situations, which never looks good for the offensive line. 3rd and short should be the shining moment for the O-Line, this needs to improve in order to keep drives alive.

Bryant Shirreffs was flushed out of the pocket on nearly every drop back. While some of these were designed runs and others were his choice, there were still pass protection issues at the line, which had some serious troubles picking up stunts and pressure. While these are mostly schematic issues with twists, and stunts, the O-line will be dealing with these with all season.

Levy changing his position and Peart moving into the starting lineup both had a few issues and kinks that still need to be worked out. For Levy, with footwork and difference in play style between interior lineman and tackles.

Having a starter go down in week one is never something you want to happen. With Crozier returning and Peart earning a spot in the starting lineup, UConn gained some depth on the line, but having anyone go down week 1 hurts, as it appears Tommy Hopkins will be out for at least a few weeks, according to Bob Diaco.

Now to the positives…

When UConn did string together a solid 8+ minute drive at the end of the 1st and start of the 2nd, the line looked strong throughout and didn’t seem to run out of gas. The offseason strength and conditioning program seems to have gotten everyone into really good shape.

When the line did pick up pressure correctly, there were some gaping holes in the defense leading to our three rushing touchdowns, a good benchmark for a solid ground game performance. While there is significant clean up needed, we got a glimpse of what could be in the run game.

While Shireffs did choose to run on most passes, there were plenty of times that he had some excellent protection, even if it was mostly against base defense looks. Picking up base defense is always an important part of any core offense, the ability to pick up those defenses provides a solid base to pick up more complex looks.

There was still a noticeable surge up front on some of the run plays. Any time the O-line can effectively move the line of scrimmage it guarantees a solid gain for the running back.

There were very few plays where any lineman lost a 1-on-1 match up with a defender.

Peart and Levy showed some flashes of what could be great things to come in the future at their new roles Peart played well in his 1-on-1 pass blocking situations, and seeing a massive Levy pull on power can be a terrifying thing.

The 4th quarter seemed to really click for offense and line as a whole. They had a solid 6+ minute drive (that unfortunately ended with a sack-fumble-touchdown) were we were protecting and opening up running lanes.

Having the extra depth at O-line already showed its worth with Vechery stepping in for an injured Hopkins and playing well. Vechery came into the game and played well, just as he did last season stepping in at center.

A game-winning 2-minute drill in which the entire offense seemed to be operating on the same page with good protection and communication. The 2-minute situation is one of the most important in the game of football, seeing UConn have success with this situation is promising for the future.

Overall, this game was not as dominant a performance as it should have been and the O-line has a lot of work to do if they expect to perform against the upcoming opponents on the schedule. They need to improve as a unit and as individuals in each position. There were definitely bright spots which show what the line could be and if the consistency could improve across the board we will be a solid unit that can consistently control the tempo of the game and create big plays for the offense.