The Bulls have lost six straight games, but they'll have a chance to end that streak against the other winless team in Big East play, the Connecticut Huskies. With UConn 3-5, and 0-3 in Big East play, and about as sick of their coach as we are of ours, this looks like an epic showdown to be sure... so let's break down the UConn depth chart and see what the Huskies will bring to the table.
Redshirt junior Chad Christen (6'1" 202 lbs.) is the kicker. He has a long of 47 yards, but is only 8-for-15 this year, with four misses in one game against Temple. Christen also kicks off and averages 63.2 yards per kick, with 14 touchbacks.
At punter is redshirt junior Cole Wagner (6'2" 211 lbs.), who has punted the ball 51 times this season, averaging 39.9 yards per kick. Twenty of his punts have landed inside the 20-yard line, and five have gone 50 yards or more.
Senior Nick Williams (5'10", 184 lbs.) returns punts and is one of the best in the conference, averaging 11.6 yards per return with a touchdown. Williams is also the primary kickoff returner, with a 22.7 yard average. Junior Taylor Mack also handles returns -- one punt return for 21 yards, and five kick returns that have averaged 14.6.
Overall, the Huskies have a solid special teams unit, but nothing that stands out. Christen has struggled on field goals this season and Wagner is not booming kicks. Williams and Mack are pretty dangerous return men, putting the onus on Justin Brockhaus-Kann, Marvin Kloss, and the coverage units to not give away field position.
The Huskies defense is one of the best units in the Big East and ranked 10th in FBS. Led by linebacker Sio Moore, the Huskies are holding opponents to 19 points and only 290 yards per game (118 rushing, 172 passing). B.J. Daniels, his patchwork backs and receivers, and the transitioning offensive line will have their hands full trying to move the ball down the field and sustain drives.
Defensive Line: The standout at defensive end is senior Trevardo Williams (6'2", 233 lbs.) with 35 tackles, 9 TFLs, and 7.5 sacks. He is a major force off the edge and will be a problem for the USF tackles. His back-up is redshirt junior Tim Willman (6'4", 270 lbs.) who has seven tackles, three tackles for loss, and one sack. The other defensive end is sophomore Angelo Pruitt (6'3", 296 lbs.), who has 19 tackles, three tackles for loss, and one sack. Elijah Norris (6'4" 230 lbs.) sees limited action as Pruitt's backup, with just two tackles.
At defensive tackle is redshirt senior Ryan Wirth (6'3", 271 lbs.), undersized but effective with 34 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks. His backup is redshirt sophomore B.J. McBryde (6'5" 301 lbs.) plays sparingly and only has two tackles (one for a loss). The other defensive tackle is massive Shamar Stephen (6'5", 317 lbs.) who has 15 tackles. Behind him is redshirt freshman Julian Campenni (5'11", 281 lbs.) who has six tackles as a reserve.
Linebackers: The Huskies have arguably the best linebacking corps in the Big East, led by fifth-year senior outside linebacker Sio Moore (6'2" 229 lbs.). Moore has 53 tackles, nine TFLs, five sacks, and seven pass breakups, doing it all for the Huskies. At inside linebacker is redshirt sophomore Yawin Smallwood (6'3", 235 lbs.) who leads the team with 85 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and four sacks. Behind him is freshman Marquise Vann (6'0", 224 lbs.) who has just three tackles. The other outside linebacker is redshirt senior Jory Johnson (6'1" 227 lbs.) who has 64 tackles and four and a half tackles for loss. These three are the heart and soul of UConn's defense. The offensive line (plus Spencer Cavalieri and the tight ends who may have to fill in for Evan Landi) will have to take them on and win in the running game.
The backups don't get on the field that much. Redshirt freshman Jefferson Ashiru (6'1", 227 lbs.) backs up Moore, while freshman Marquise Vann is Smallwood's backup and has a single tackle.
Secondary: Starting at cornerback is redshirt senior Blidi Wreh-Wilson (6'2", 190 lbs.) who has 29 tackles and four PBU. Behind him is junior Taylor Mack (5'9", 170 lbs.) with 17 tackles, one tackle for loss, and two passes defended as a nickel back. The other corner position is redshirt senior Dwayne Gratz (6'0", 198 lbs.) with 26 tackles, one tackle for loss, and two interceptions. Redshirt freshman David Stevenson (5'8" 173 lbs.) backs up Gratz.
At safety is redshirt sophomore Byron Jones (6'1" 192 lbs.). Jones has 60 tackles, one tackle for loss, and one interception. Behind him is redshirt freshman Andrew Adams (6'0" 186 lbs.), a key reserve with 20 tackles and two TFLs. At the other safety position is redshirt sophomore Ty-Meer Brown (6' 193 lbs.) who has 38 tackles, one interception, and three passes defended. Brown is backed up by freshman Jordan Floyd (6'1" 205 lbs.). The safeties play the run well, and also help squeeze out passing lanes in the secondary. USF will have a lot of inexperience in the receiving corps, especially if Andre Davis can't play, the Huskies might be able to take advantage.
The UConn offense is averaging just 17 points per game and only averaging 86 yards rushing. They do average 229 yards passing per game, but play-calling and offensive strategy has been a big issue all year long in East Hartford. Knowing the Bulls are weak and banged up in the secondary, look for the Huskies to throw the ball more often than usual. Unless they insist on running it, which could happen.
Offensive Line: There is lots of experience up front for the Huskies. From left to right, the starters are senior Jimmy Bennett (6'9", 309 lbs.) at left tackle, junior Steve Greene (6'5", 309 lbs.) at guard, junior Tyler Bullock (6'4", 302 lbs.) at center, senior Adam Masters (6'4", 298 lbs.) playing right guard, and junior Kevin Friend (6'6", 295 lbs.) at right tackle. The backups are much less experienced, all underclassmen and three of them freshmen. Dalton Gifford (6'5", 297 lbs.) and Xavier Hemingway (6'4", 262 lbs.) are both freshman backup tackles. The other freshman is backup left guard Tyler Samra (6'3", 250 lbs.). Sophomore Gus Cruz (6'2", 302 lbs.) is the backup right guard, and Alex Mateas (6'3", 293 lbs.) is the second-team center.
Although USF is having a terrible year up front, they did put a lot of pressure on the Huskies last year. Ryne Giddins had a huge game, and he'll have a chance to duplicate it if he is able to go on Saturday.
Quarterback: Illinois transfer Chandler Whitmer (6'1" 191 lbs.) is the starter. Whitmer is 142-for-246 for 1831 yards, but only seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Last year's starter, Johnny McEntee (6'3", 208 lbs.) has only attempted two passes this season. Whitmer has been inaccurate and you have to think if USF is ever going to pick off a pass, this would be the game.
Running Back: Tiny sophomore Lyle McCombs (5'8", 166 lbs.) is back and ready for action, but has not been terribly effective. McCombs has run for 500 yards and four touchdowns, but needed 146 carries to get there -- a 3.3 yard average. McCombs also has 16 catches for 152 yards. Redshirt freshman Max DeLorenzo (5'11", 213 lbs.) and junior Martin Hyppolite (6'0", 214 lbs.) filled in for McCombs while he was out, but weren't much better, running for 191 yards on 48 carries and only catching two passes.
The fullback is sophomore Reuben Frank (6'3", 239 lbs.), and he's backed up by sophomore Michael Oslecki (6'2", 228 lbs.) Neither of them have a carry, but they have combined for six receptions.
Wide Receiver and Tight End: The starters are senior Michael Smith (6'0", 201 lbs.) with 23 catches for 280 yards and one score, and sophomore Geremy Davis (6'1", 214 lbs.) who leads the team with 29 catches and 449 yards. Senior Nick Williams (5'10", 184 lbs.) sees action in passing situation and has 19 grabs for 219 yards. A pair of seniors at tight end see a fair amount of action as pass receivers. John Delaunt (6'3", 243 lbs.) has 13 catches for 162 yards, while Ryan Griffin (6'6", 247 lbs.) actually leads the team with four touchdown catches among his 18 for 286 yards. UConn has struggled to throw the ball consistently, but USF's secondary could be the ultimate slump-busters.