I figured we're finally close enough to the start of the season where this sort of thing is acceptable, so this post marks the first installment of a seven-part series where I'll briefly preview each member of the Big East through the eyes of a Louisville fan.
We'll begin with the team I believe will finish the season battered and tied-up in the conference's cellar (the Big East rooms with Roman Polanski apparently): Connecticut.
The Cards and Huskies playing on the first weekend of December had become sort of a mini-tradition in Louisville's first two seasons in the Big East, but alas, the two are scheduled to meet this season in Storrs on Friday, Oct. 19 in a game that will be televised by ESPN.
Brian Brohm and Harry Douglas put on a show as the Cards rolled to a 48-17 win, clinching at least a share of the Big East championship (WVU beat Rutgers later that day to give them the title outright). Brohm threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns, two of which found the arms of Douglas who hauled in five catches for 149 yards.
Returning Offensive Starters
Returning Defensive Starters
Name You Should Know
A freshman in '07, running back Donald Brown didn't carry the ball more than nine times until the eighth game, but rushed for an impressive 673 in the final five. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry when he rushed for 122 against our beloved Cards. He also torched Pitt for 205 yards, and Rutgers for 199, all this despite absolutely no passing game for opposing defenses to honor. Kid's the real deal.
In what would have been a bizarre move if the Huskies hadn't finished a distant last in passing offense in the conference a year ago, returning co-starting quarterback D.J. Hernandez told head coach Randy Edsall early in the offseason that he wanted to swtich positions to wide receiver. That move, along with the graduation of the other starting QB Matt Bonislawski, means that the battle for the position is a two-horse race between sophomore Dennis Brown and JuCo transfer Tyler Lorenzen.
Brown will enter summer ball with the slight edge since Lorenzen, a junior college All-American at Palomar JC (Calif.), is still recovering from a sprianed knee injury he suffered this spring that kept him out of the Blue-White spring game.
Whoever ends the season as the starter will have a healthy case of deja vu to look forward to in the offseason, as Notre Dame transfer and former high school All-American Zach Frazer will be eligible for action in 2008.
Before the last couple of seasons, a hard-nosed stingy defense was the staple of Edsall's first several D-1 Husky teams. With the team's top two tacklers and top cornerback returning, the unit should take a large step towards a return to that circa 2003 status in 2007.
Middle linebacker Danny Lansanah has led Uconn in tackles the past two seasons, and joining him to his immediate left or right is the team's number two tackler from a year ago, Ryan Henegan. The third linebacking spot is still up in the air, but the leader at the moment is redshirt freshman Scott Lutrus who intercepted three passes in the spring game.
I'd just as soon not see Danny Lansanah with the ball this season
Cornerback Darius Butler is the leader of a secondary that is otherwise extremely green. Butler, who has intercepted four passes in each of his first two seasons, is joined at the CB position by fellow returning starter Tyvon Branch. The two safety positions, however, are up for grabs with a pair of freshmen (Aaron Bagsby, Corey Stringer) doing battle with an inexperienced sophomore (Robert Vaughn) and senior (Donnell Ford).
Senior Dan Davis, who has moved from end to tackle, is the lone returning starter on the defensive line. Junior Cody Brown and converted linebacker Julius Williams must use their speed to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks from their end positions if the defense doesn't want to see its secondary get lit up week after week.
Another huge reason why I have the Huskies dead last is an offensive line that returns just one starter and ranked 98th in sacks allowed a year ago. Sophomore right tackle Mike Hicks is the most/only experienced member of a unit saddled with the task of protecting a quarterback who will be Rob Ambrose's primary signal caller for the first time.
Reason Not To Feel Bad About Cheering Against Them
Besides ruining my flawless Big East predictions mark last season, Edsall's decision to dismiss four players for buying beer the night before a game was a bit Bush League, especially considering he knew of the transgression the night it happened and still played two of the players in the game the next day.
'07 Outlook and Predictions
Connecticut will be better than they were a year ago, the unfortunate thing for them is that so will just about everybody in the conference. The good news is they do have a non-conference schedule so soft that starting 4-1 or 5-0 and winning six games isn't out of the realm of possibility. But even if '07 is another rough one for Connecticut, with so many underclassmen pegged to start, Donald Brown being just a sophomore and Zach Fraser coming to Storrs, 2008 and 2009 should be years to look forward to for Husky fans.
Schedule and Predictions:
9/1 at Duke (W)
9/8 Maine (W)
9/15 Temple (W)
9/22 at Pittsburgh (L)
9/29 Akron (W)
10/13 at Virginia (L)
10/19 Louisville (L)
10/27 South Florida (L)
11/3 Rutgers (L)
11/10 at Cincinnati (L)
11/17 Syracuse (L)
11/24 at West Virginia (L)