By Phil Chardis
UConn Athletic Communications
There are less than five weeks to go until the UConn football team opens the 2017 season. Less than 30 practices to prepare for the Aug. 31 game against Holy Cross and the game weeks that quickly follow.
New coaching staff. New offense. New defense. New attitude.
Is there enough time to get the Huskies ready? Are there enough practices to make the team comfortable with all the changes? What about all the new players? How can they possibly learn everything necessary to have a successful year? How can it all come together so fast? Is it time to hit the panic button?
You know who is not in a frenzy? Who thinks there’s plenty of time to get ready for the season? Who has it all under control? UConn head coach Randy Edsall, that’s who.
And he should know.
“I think it’s plenty of time,” Edsall said. “The way the schedule is and how we have things set up, we have more than enough time to get ready. As long as we stay focused and stay true to what we want to accomplish, we have more than enough time to get ourselves ready – then try to improve each week.
“The biggest thing is the terminology. In football, there is no universal language. So, a lot of these things we’re going to be doing, these kids have done somewhere along the line, but now, it’s just another name. They have to be able to process that.”
That said, don’t get the idea that the coach isn’t anxious about the coming season. Of course there are plays to learn, defensive schemes to master, decisions to be made about who plays where, who starts, and how to attack and defend each opponent.
But to Edsall, it is more important to his team’s success that his players buy into an intangible during these five weeks.
“I’m not so much worried about the talent level, I’m more worried about them taking ownership,” he said. “I know we can be a good team, because I know as coaches, we’re going to hold you accountable. But if we’re going to be a great team, then they have to hold themselves accountable. What I’m worried about is getting guys to play as a team. Because if we can play as 11 every time that we’re out there and guys are going to hold each other accountable, all the other things will take care of themselves.”
According to Edsall, the Huskies learning to be unselfish will have just as much impact as learning the offense or the defense.
“There’s enough talent here to win, but are we going to do these other things --- where we’re not going to be individuals, we’re going to be unselfish, we’re going to hold each other accountable?” he explained. “If we do that, we’ll win. If we don’t do that, I don’t care how much talent we have on the team, we’re not going to win anything. There’s enough talent to win here, but are we going to do these other things to allow us to be the best we can be? Not just to be good, but to be the best we can be? That’s the challenge we have ahead of us as a group.”
“If we, as coaches, have to do it all, we’ll be OK to a certain point, but we’ll never get to the top of the mountain,” he added. “That’s what we have to instill in these young men – that that’s the role that they have to take on.”
Much of what the Huskies have to use on the field was put in during spring football. UConn will keep it simple on both sides of the ball.
“I firmly believe it’s not about how many plays you can run, it’s how many plays you can run well,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “If we go into the first game with 10 plays we can run well and that our quarterback feels comfortable about, you’d feel better doing that than have 40 plays that maybe you can line up and run, but maybe you’re not very good at them. It’s all about the little things that make the big things go.”
The same goes for defense.
“Not everything has to get in on day one or day two,” defensive coordinator Billy Crocker said. “We’re going to work our way up to a point where we feel comfortable with what we have in, then if we want to add some stuff, we will. I believe if you can tackle well and run to the ball, you have a shot to be pretty good defensively. Some guys try to make it more complicated. We try to keep it simple.”
And keep it unselfish.
“That’s more important than anything,” Edsall said. “We’re bringing in about 20 new people and we think some of those guys are going to be good enough to play. They have to be integrated and the upperclassmen have to accept them. If there are guys who can help us, they have to be accountable and demand from each other. You can’t be selfish -- it means that you might lose some reps, but if this guy is better in certain situations, then you need to help him get better, put pressure on the other guy to keep working. In football, it takes everybody.”