TNIAAM: Nathan Carter has been over 100 yards rushing in both games this season. What’s made him so successful early in the season?
UB: He’s a strong, sturdy runner, with good vision and great ability to get extra yards by fighting through tackles or changing direction. The offense is also geared around Carter and the running game, it seems, and the offensive line, which has been a weakness for UConn, seems to be improved from previous years, particularly in run blocking.
TNIAAM: Zion Turner was thrust into the starting quarterback role as a freshman, Taking into account that it was Central Connecticut, what strides did he make from week one to week two?
UB: Turner seemed more comfortable and had a few more complex plays in his arsenal compared to the previous week when he had to step in quickly in the first quarter after an injury to the starter. He’s going to be prone to freshman errors, obviously, but also has a lot of confidence and overall doesn’t seem phased by the situation. He’s suffering from UConn’s top two wide receivers already being ruled out for most of the year if not the season, further limiting the Husky passing attack. I expect the Syracuse defense will dare Turner to beat them through the air and it’ll be a mixed bag of results for the Huskies.
TNIAAM: How has the departure of DC Lou Spanos impacted the defense the first two weeks? Should Mora just let former Orange legend Siriki Diabate take over the reins?
UB: With Spanos, Mora and the staff did a good job retaining talent on that side of the ball and adding some contributors through the transfer portal.
But I don’t think the defense is any better or worse off necessarily for the loss of Spanos for the season. This is both a cynical commentary on the talent level of UConn’s defense and Spanos’ ability as a coach. Of course, another set of hands can always be helpful but right now Mora seems to be handling the playcalling duties and he has a defensive background. They’re doing about as well as fans expected on that side of the ball, where expectations were not high. At this stage of UConn’s third attempt to rebuild in a decade, with a roster recovering from the Edsall 2.0 debacle, this defense was not going to be helped or hurt much by any sort of schematic wizardry.
Diabate is the defensive assistant with the most experience, so it’s definitely possible. I guess if we start to see situational gaffes it might be something for Mora to consider.
TNIAAM: Obviously every team is going to focus on shutting down Sean Tucker but UConn seems to have challenges defending the pass. Is this where Syracuse can find an advantage on offense?
UB: Yes. Part of what makes this matchup dangerous for UConn is that whatever defensive strengths the Huskies have are in the front seven, but they’re going up against a very strong rushing attack. I think Syracuse, and Tucker, will still get theirs and the Orange passing game has enough ability to do damage against a UConn secondary that is the glaring weakness of this team.
TNIAAM: How do you see this one playing out?
UB: I like UConn’s chances to keep things somewhat competitive for some time, but ultimately Syracuse will prevail. It probably won’t end with a very close score, but Husky fans are a bit more optimistic after playing Utah State down to the wire in Week 0 and taking care of business against an FCS opponent in Week 1. I’ll say Syracuse wins by 17.
Thanks to Aman from The UConn Blog for responding to our questions about the Huskies.