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March 18, 2008
Connecticut nearly doubled its career Big East win total in one season. The Huskies were 6-14 in the league before winning five games and a share of the conference title in 2008. The Huskies return 16 starters. With co-champion West Virginia going through a coaching change, the Huskies will have their sights set on sole possession of the title and a BCS bowl. Here's a look at the Huskies are they prepare to open spring drills.
Randy Edsall has plenty of talent returning on both sides of the ball.
Offense—8: T Will Beatty, TE Steve Brouse, TB Andre Dixon, C Keith Gray, T Mike Hicks, WR Brad Kanuch, G Alex LaMagdelaine, QB Tyler Lorenzen.
Defense—8: E Cody Brown, CB Darius Butler, SS Dahna Deleston (moving to LB), T Rob Lunn, LB Scott Lutrus, FS Robert Vaughn, E Julius Williams, LB Lawrence Wilson.
Special teams—2: K Tony Ciaravino, P Desi Cullen.
TE John Delahunt (from high school).
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH
Connecticut opens spring practice with its most stable and experienced offensive backfield in four seasons. Lorenzen took over the quarterback position out of junior college and passed for 2,367 yards. Tailbacks Dixon and Donald Brown combined for 1,649 yards and 11 touchdowns. Middle man Danny Lansanah is gone, but the linebackers remain a strength. Lutrus was a Rivals.com Freshman All-American at outside linebacker but will move to his more natural position in the middle. Deleston, who started last year at strong safety, will take Lutrus' old spot.
HELP IS NEEDED
Connecticut hasn't had a 1,000-yard wide receiver since 1998, and that streak might not end in 2008. Leading receiver Terence Jeffers elected to transfer and Larry Taylor ran out of eligibility. Brad Kanuch and D.J. Hernandez return, but neither is a threat to stretch a defense. The Huskies need a new strong safety with Deleston moving to linebacker.
KEEP AN EYE ON
CB Jasper Howard: The sophomore impressed coaches last season as a punt returner and in limited duty in the secondary. He could earn a spot as the nickelback this season.
DT Jarrell Miller: Connecticut's most heralded recruit will be ready after redshirting last season. Miller, a former four-star prospect, moved from linebacker to defensive tackle while he was redshirting.
FB Anthony Sherman: Coach Randy Edsall has been without a true fullback for a couple of seasons. Sherman, a redshirt freshman, could give Edsall (and Dixon and Brown) the lead blocker the Huskies need.
HIS TIME IS NOW
Four-year starting cornerback Darius Butler will take ownership of a young secondary following the departure of Tyvon Branch and the move of Deleston to linebacker.
Which Connecticut team will show up for spring practice? The one that stunned the Big East with nine wins, or the one that fell flat in the final two games of the season against West Virginia (66-21) and Wake Forest (24-10) in the Meineke Car Care Bowl? The Huskies will try to avoid a bowl hangover during spring.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.