I feel like it is fair to the rest of the people at UConn's football press conference to let it be known that I am the one who asked - or started to ask - the question about mid-season coaching changes to Randy Edsall.
First, I think suggesting that Edsall cut short the press conference is not entirely accurate. I waited until I believed that my fellow reporters had asked what they needed to before springing that question on Edsall because I've been on the other side of needing to get a question or two asked only to have the media access abruptly ended. I would never want to ask a question that I knew might cause a reaction similar to what happened today until I believed my colleagues were able to get what they needed out of the media availability.
My intention was to follow up my initial question with an inquiry about whether he feels any changes needed to be made or at least considered. It is not me suggesting that defensive coordinator Bill Crocker be fired. I believe the opposite. With so many young players, UConn needs as many coaches as possible working with them. I've seen position coaches shuffled around at UConn in recent years and felt that it was a fair question to see whether there might be some juggling of responsibilities or whether Edsall would spend more time with a particular position group than he typically does. This is relevant because at the last couple of practices I have been at, I have seen him over with the defensive backs more than usual. I've also noticed that in recent weeks a graduate assistant has been working with the Husky backs (a safety/linebacker hybrid) allowing Crocker and defensive backs coach Curome Cox more time to work with a smaller group of DBs. I never got that far.
I have some concerns about how things have transpired on defense this season and asked questions (not ones that generated as much hoopla) about these issues. It's troubling to see Darrian Beavers go through all of spring and summer camp at linebacker before the coaches decide he should play defensive end. It's odd to me that Kevin Murphy, one of the few experienced players on defense and somebody who was pushing NFL rookie Foley Fatukasi for playing time last season, went from starting against URI to playing only the final three snaps against Syracuse a week later. Now he is not even a player Edsall mentions as being a part of the eight-man defensive line rotation. I believe decisions like these are contributing to some of the defensive struggles. It's hard to develop defensive continuity if you start 22 players in four games. I also feel like UConn should have done what it could to get Brice McAllister back for another season. I'm not suggesting that he would solve all the issues facing the secondary but he is an experienced defensive back with the athleticism to play a few different positions. Even if he wasn't playing a huge role, he seems more comfortable in a leadership role than sophomore Tahj Herring-Wilson, who is a great kid but a little on the quiet side.
You can look back at my work this season and nobody has addressed the number of untested players being thrown in there on defense. I've gone through every FBS set of game notes to document the number of freshman starters on more than one occasion. UConn opened the season with an almost impossible task of trying to slow down the experienced and dynamic UCF, Boise State and Syracuse offenses with a bunch of true freshmen, redshirt freshmen and true sophomores and I understand this better than most people.I dove a little deeper into how UConn got into this situation
in the story running in tomorrow's paper taking a look back at how much of an impact that the firing of Paul Pasqualoni had on recruiting. It just so happens that the fifth year anniversary of that firing is Sunday. It can be debated for years to come whether the firing of Pasqualoni during the season was the right move at the time but this much is certain, it wreaked havoc on recruiting. UConn's last commitment before Pasqualoni's firing came on Aug. 8. The next time a high school player committed to UConn was Jan. 20. During that same time span the eight American Athletic Conference teams on UConn's schedule this season received 59 commitments and many of them will play significant roles in games against the Huskies this season.
I'm not somebody who asks questions so the response can be plastered all over the internet or on social media but with the defense on pace to top the marks for most points and yards allowed (according to the 2018 FBS record book posted on the NCAA site) and the anniversary of UConn's last mid-season coaching change quickly approaching, I felt it was an appropriate time to ask the question. I would have preferred Edsall to allow me to complete my line of questioning which would have given him a chance to vouch for his defensive coaching staff who clearly have quite the task ahead of them. Unfortunately that did not happen. Rather than bothering the other UConn beat writers about the phrasing or fairness of the question I started to pose, it seemed like the right thing to do for me to write this blog so if you feel a need to vent on what has been referred to as a stupid question that it gets directed to the person responsible. I'm not looking for other media outlets to reach out to me because stirring the pot just for the sake of stirring the pot is not my style, never has been and never will be. I'm also not going to hold back when I feel like it is an appropriate time to push for answers on a subject.
I haven't posted on this blog for quite a while because quite simply, it wasn't generating enough interest to keep it going and doubt I will be posting on it in the future but I don't know of another way to get this message out there. If you have a need to respond to me, my email is James.Fuller@hearstmediact.com. I'd rather you not post comments to the blog because another person is responsible for approving them and he doesn't need to be thrown into this.