The Connecticut Huskies boasted the No. 1 defense in the Big East a season ago, yet still failed to become bowl eligible. Much of that fell to a hapless offensive attack which doesn’t appear to be on the way towards a magical renovation next fall. That means that Paul Pasqualoni will need his defense to be just as good again (if not better) in 2013, but he will have to reload without his best pass rusher, Trevardo Williams. Who will step up in his place next season?
Williams was a major force off the edge in 2012, leading the team with 11.5 sacks as part of a total 42 tackles, including 13.5 for loss. He was a major part of the No. 9 total defense in college football last year and is part of an exodus that saw four players drafted into the NFL in April. And Williams wasn’t the only pass rusher UConn lost. The top three sack-men from last year’s squad, including Williams, linebacker Sio Moore (7.5) and defensive lineman Ryan Wirth (3.5) are no longer on the roster.
So how will Pasqualoni cope? He will have to have several players step up their game next fall, particularly in the pass rush. Yawin Smallwood returns after leading the Huskies in tackles in 2012, but had just 3.5 sacks a year ago. Senior Tim Willman returns on the defensive line but will have to improve on his three-sack performance from 2012 to make an impact. If no single player can provide the necessary pressure next season, will the Huskies fall back on schemes and blitzes to get to the quarterback?
The defense will be immeasurably important for the Connecticut Huskies in 2013 as their offense continues to try and find its legs. Will they be able to replace the talent that they’ve lost or will the defense take a step back next fall and take the team’s chances of a bowl game with it?