By Phil Chardis
UConn Athletic Communications
April 7, 2017
From now on, the only place to see the UConn football team in slow motion will be in the film room.
Once the Huskies hit the field, they are going to multiply the two-minute drill by 30. They are going to be waiting impatiently at the line of scrimmage for the refs to spot the ball. They are going to snap the ball while the defense is still catching its breath. Fans who complained in the past that they could take a nap during UConn’s offensive possessions, now may miss two plays if they even dare to blink – none of those pesky huddles to slow things down. The only time the UConn offense will stop moving is when the UConn defense is on the field
At least, that’s the plan of UConn head coach Randy Edsall and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
“They are eager, they are excited. I think they like learning to go fast,” Lashlee said about his offensive players. “They like the fact that we’re trying to spread the field, giving them opportunities to make plays.”
While it’s a somewhat drastic change from what’s been done in the recent past at UConn, it’s no secret that what was done in the recent past left the Huskies with a lack of offensive production. The fact that none of the Huskies have any experience with the offense is part of the equation.
“They are all a blank sheet, there’s no preconceived ideas,” Lashlee said. “In terms of what we’re doing, they’re all raw and they’re willing to learn from scratch. It’s exciting to them because it’s more fun to practice. I think they see the advantages already. They know it gives us a chance to be a more explosive offense.”
Lashlee, who came to UConn after four years as the offensive coordinator at Auburn, explained in basic terms that the idea of the offense is to put everything in high gear.
“A lot of stuff happens fast and before the snap, so our guys have to process information quickly,” he said. “Once the play is snapped, the communication is not a lot different from any other system you may have – people have to react and play. But we do more from the time the ball is blown dead, until the next play is snapped … in between that amount of time. Hopefully, it’s a short amount of time.
“But it’s not like we’re asking them to get the play, then break the huddle, then walk up to the line, then process what they are supposed to do … it’s all happening quickly. So, sometimes that takes longer to have it all come together, but once it does and it clicks, now you can play fast and you have an advantage.”
If it sounds complicated, it really isn’t, according to junior wide receiver Aaron McLean.
“The biggest thing is the tempo, that’s what’s going to give us our edge,” Mclean said. “Surprisingly, it’s a lot simpler. You just look at the signals real quick and you know what you’re doing. I was actually a little nervous about it because when Coach Lashlee got here, he said we were moving fast, and I was kind of nervous about all the signals – last year getting all the signals were tough for us – but he does a good job of simplifying it for us, so we know what we’re doing on every play. It would hard for us to go faster if we had to know a bunch of different signals. Making it simpler makes it easier to learn. The simpler the playbook, the faster you can play and the better you can play.”
Naturally, there will be more to learn as the season approaches, but for the spring, getting used to the tempo is a clear goal. There are ups and downs awaiting the Huskies, but nothing that Lashlee hasn’t been through before.
“When we came back to Auburn in 2013, they had run a pro-style offense the year before and had been ranked the 100-and-something offense in the country and been 3-9,” he said. “We were really bad through the spring and not very good our first four or five games, but we found a couple of ways to win some games ugly and guys gained a little confidence and next thing you know, it’s the biggest turnaround in college football.”
It is that kind of challenge that brought Lashlee to Storrs.
“The challenge of being able to come and build something and do something that maybe people don’t think can be done, that’s what excited me,” he said. “You can go somewhere where something’s already done and you just did what is expected. People aren’t expecting a lot out of us and that’s OK. We expect a lot out of us.”
And they expect it to happen quickly … in more ways than one.