Mailbag March 14: Could Fixing Offense Be As Simple As Fixing Line?

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Q: Hey Dez! Hope all is well. Was watching some replays of games from last season and thought to myself “this team could have been pretty good offensively if the O-line just held their blocks.” Which got me to wondering, can fixing the offense be as easy as fixing the O-line this season? I understand the offense was a little bland and predictable of Deleone and certainly looks like it’ll be a little more exciting under Weist,but we had the playmakers last year at WR and RB just Whitmer had no time and McCombs had no holes. I know it’s not that easy of a task to improve the O-line, but if the Huskies do I can see them surprising a few teams this year – Jesse, Wolcott

A: Jesse, the offensive line certainly had its consistency issues but I think if you look a little closer at those replays you’ll see the skill positions weren’t as consistent as they could have been, either. They had opportunities to be productive and fell short as well. It hurts when you’re struggling and don’t make good on the cracks you get especially on deep balls. That being said, it all starts with the line. If the line is better – and with most of it returning it should be – then perhaps the entire unit could be better.

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26 thoughts on “Mailbag March 14: Could Fixing Offense Be As Simple As Fixing Line?

  1. White Dog 777

    Because we had such a good defense, we should have played less conservatively on Offense. I am a diehard Giant fan and have watch Tom Coughlin lossen the reigns and take more changes. UCONN should have gone for it more on 4th down. Perhaps gone for a touch down early in a game vs. going for the field too. Football is a game of momentum. I thought we were way too conservative, considering how good the defense was. Sometimes, you just have to role the dice. I see Boise state doing that alot early on in games. When you go against conventional wisdom and it works it demoralizes the other team. If you know what you are doing and the play doesn’t work, you know you tried and although it excites the other team, it does not hurt as much,knowing that you went for it.

    1. Artie A...

      White Dog 777…Plumber or fitter?
      I would not take you to task on this but Dez is down for a few and this is all us dogs have to chew on for now.
      What in the heck are you thinking??? An injury riddled D that spent too much time on the field as it was. You would put them in deeper holes? It is one thing to compare Tom to Paul but to compare our offense to that of the Giants is simply silly.
      Did you not notice Tom did not loosen the reigns until he had a line with a Manning under center? That and a powerful RB, just say’n ….

  2. JD

    I agree with Dez.
    The O-line was a major problem but certainly not the only problem we had on Offense last year. This offense was consistently bad in general. I didn’t see many bright spots other than the TE’s who played well last year(and they’re gone). The skill positions aren’t on the same level as other D-1 teams and that was clear. When you are less talented you need to make up ground by executing well, playing smart, and being physical. The offensive side of the ball just didn’t do those things and they were dreadful to watch.

  3. husky66

    You can get by and win fair number games w/ a good OL and avg talented QB, RBs and receivers. but no blocking, no winning. simple as that.

    And as OL coach that was on GDL. Why that coaching change was made is baffling given succuss of UConn running game in the preceeding years. Guess two 1K RBs in one yr wasn’t sufficient evidence of success?

    This year tells all.

    Prediction GDL get’s OL fixed and UConn wins 8 games, 9 maybe 10 if surprise some people.

    Lets go get ranked, fill the Rent, travel well.

    1. RST

      Let’s be fair to GDL. As OC he took over the OL because going into last year it was widely recognized that the OL was UConn’s greatest weakness. That is what a leader does. He puts the biggest problem on his own shoulders. I am not a particular fan of GDL, I’m just sayin’. To criticize him for doing that is a bit unfair in my view.

  4. Jesse

    Thanks for answering my question Dez! You make good points about plays not being made down field. I was probably so frustrated at the numerous times Whitmer had to run for his life. One drive sticks out in my head and it was against Syracuse. I remember Cuse blitzing and pretty much just walking through the O-line to sack Whitmer, but a penalty negated the sack. On the very next play, Syracuse ran the exact same blitz (even the announcers on TV noticed it was the same formation) and the O-line had no recognition and again they sacked Whitmer. That boggled my mind that I, who never even played a down of football, recognized that it was the same defensive formation and that the UConn O-line didn’t. But in all fairness, they did seem to get better at the end of the season which gives me hope that UConn can really turn some heads this coming season.

    1. dconner Post author

      @Jesse – you may have seen the same alignment and the blitzes may have come from the same place, they may have been disguised and come from someplace else, I can’t remember but it doesnt matter: for the oline it’s knowing where the blitz is coming from and picking it up not to mention how important it is for those guys up front to communicate all this stuff with each other. That game along with Western Michigan are wonderful examples of where that did not happen consistently enough to the point the line looked like it was just being overpowered – in a few cases they just were… I also think Mike Ryan, Zach Hurd, Moe Petrus, guys like that were a lot better than some of us really understood.

      1. RST

        One absolutely atrocious misread was the Desmond Bozeman sack and fumble recovery for TD. I realize the game looks different at ground level, but anyone could have noticed theat WMU had overloaded the UConn right side.

  5. Ryan D

    O-Line will be better and Whitmer should be better. Let’s hope a lot better. Even though there are some young talented QBs, we do not need another year of growing pains with a 1st year QB. Stick with Whitmer unless he hasn’t improved much. Defense won’t be as good as last year, but will have young talent and enough to win games. The offense has to pick up the Defense this year. I’m excited, just bought my season tickets for $175. That is a steal. MD, Michigan, USF, LVILLE, Rutgers, and Memphis. Time to take out all the conference alignment anger on our opponents! UCONN PRIDE!

  6. Artie A...

    Ryan, google up zone blocking and you will find the RB has to make the decision on which gap to take if there is one. This also depends on if you have a RB that can break the initial tackle.
    The switch was made the day coach PP and GDL came on board. This season will tell us a lot.

    1. TheJerk

      great techincal description of a “zone blocking scheme”. but just as big of a problem is having a RB that can break the initial tackle. I swear last year on one of the plays McCombs went down like he was bit in the face by a cobra, after a butterfly landed on his helmet

    2. Ryan

      Artie – I’m aware for the most part on the differences of Zone vs man blocking schemes. The first season PP was here Foley was still a OL coach and DeLeone was the TE coach and I know that season (2011) they were in old system still. Last season is when the switch was made maybe they began coaching up players for the change in advance or taught both schemes thats not info I have.

      My point was with the OL and inconsistencies and switching of schemes played a part as well – how often did McCombs get hit in the backfield last season as he received the ball? Can’t miss tackles when blocks are missed up front right off the snap. My understanding is the zone scheme can be more difficult to run both in passing/running game but full disclosure I am not a OL or football coach just a fan who has more access to practices than a normal fan (not UConn practices or Dez type access).

      Now there is no doubt we lost some talented and experienced OL guys so we were young last year but again my larger point was the system they performed under was different, plus the line was young so add tghose two together and think that explains a lot of the inconsistencies.

      I may tend to be a little harsh on DeLeone but when I see guys like Foley, Hughes, Richardson when he was around, and so on continually pump out quality guys at their position they coach and see DeLeone take over for OL and see a big drop (as soon as Foley moved over to TE coach Griffin had best year) that sticks out in my mind.

      1. dconner Post author

        @Ryan – both DeLeone and Foley coached the line Pasqualoni’s first season on board. A lot of changes were instituted then. The only real changes last year were in how they handled blitzes in the passing game. The principles in the running game really haven’t changed as much as some think. The players did though…right?

        1. Ryan

          which would be expected as DeLeone was OC and Foley OL Coach the first year. I just remember this past season a lot of talk was made about zone blocking in passing game and fairly certain you had some posts about it.

          I’d say the players changed a lot. DeLeone though still has lots to prove in my view. I was down on Coach PP as well (full disclosure not who I wanted to get job) and not sure things went well his first two years from top to bottom but in his second year (and first real full season to recruit) I think he did ok and really think he had a strong recruiting season this past year. I am hopeful though! Another bad season at the OL and I’ll be calling for DeLeone’s job and I’m sure there will be plenty of others!

  7. Ryan

    one thing I sort of put on the coaches is the switching last year to a zone style blocking scheme. Our OL has been very good in recent years now I’m not against the different scheme but they decided to change in a year when we had the least amount of experiance compared to past years and think it showed.

    Now I did not go back and examine line play and when they used specific schemes maybe Dez can add to that maybe during the season they switched back but that was my impression especially early on and what I saw.

    This year if they stick with zone block scheme (which I think DeLeone favors whereas under Foley it was man blocking) and have a full spring to work on thatshould help. Dez – do you remember last spring if they started to switch blocking schemes I seem to remember fall was first time it came up.

    1. dconner Post author

      @Ryan – I don’t recall a switch in scheme last spring. Technique, footwork, recognition of who they’re supposed to be picking up in certain situations I recall a lot of emphasis on those things…some of what they do is different but not a lot in the run game I don’t think…

      1. Navin R. Johnson

        Hey DC…how about you, me, TheJerk, Artie and Fake Coach P as the O line this year in spring? All I’m asking for is a tryout. You game?

        1. Artie A...

          @ Navin You may be on to something here!
          A UCONN fantasy camp..
          You think they would let me on the field with my walker?

          1. TheJerk

            The only person Navin can block is the person cutting infront of him at the chinese buffet

          2. TheJerk

            the only “push” Navin could get is “pushing” the old lady out of the way of the fresh pan of pork fried rice

          3. TheJerk

            the only “push” navin had in his life was when he pushed a girl down the stairs at a bar in Montreal when he was 19

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