The Vanderbilt Commodores host the UConn Huskies on Saturday night in a game that Shutdown Fullcast is interested in for entirely unsavory reasons. For those interested in this game for savory reasons (i.e. you are actually emotionally invested in Vanderbilt and/or UConn), we asked Aman Kidwai of The UConn Blog (which, you might have guessed, is SB Nation’s blog covering UConn sports) some questions about the Huskies.
1. UConn showed signs of life in a 24-22 loss to Wyoming last week, after looking terrible through the first four games. What was different, and is it something the Huskies can build upon going forward?
Allegedly a new offensive analyst who may have assumed offensive coordinator duties, Noel Mazzone, is part of the reason the UConn offense looks different. The other is the change made at QB, where Tyler Phommachanh has shown a decent command of the RPO game and brings a multifaceted skillset and playmaking ability to the position. The offensive line and the run game are still struggling, but yes there is hope the Huskies can build on this.
2. As we all know, head coach Randy Edsall announced his retirement two games into the season, and then got told he wouldn’t be allowed to finish out the season. (a) WTF? but also (b) Has this had any effect on the team?
a) Same, totally
b) I don’t want to play to hard into narratives here, but Randy Edsall rubbed a lot of people, including 18-22-year-old football players, the wrong way, often. He ran out two innovative, good offensive coordinators in three years. Around 20 players transferred out after the 2019 season, a handful went on to key roles at low-mid tier FBS programs, some were starters. Others starred at the FCS level, including Tim Boyle, who went on to make the Green Bay Packers roster for a few years.
So, I think the effect has been positive on the mood of a lot of players. I’m sure they’re affected by the general negative mood around this program, but that was there with or without the awkward second departure of Randy Edsall.
3. UConn seems to have settled on Tyler Phommachanh as its quarterback. What does he bring to the table for the offense?
UConn tried two other quarterbacks already in this young season. The first guy, Jack Zergiotis, was way too mistake-prone. The second guy, Steven Krajewski, showed some signs of competence. I thought he played well enough against a decent Purdue team to earn the right to keep playing, but the coaches thought otherwise.
Phommachanh, whose older brother Taisun is the backup QB at Clemson, was the starter for the Army game and through two games he’s looked like the most solid option of the three and also has the most upside as a freshman. He seems most familiar with modern offensive concepts and has really good size and arm strength in addition to scrambling ability. He’s still prone to freshman mistakes, but the offense was a lot less effective under the other two guys.
4. Who are some defensive players that Vanderbilt fans should know about? What will the Huskies try to do defensively?
Travis Jones and Omar Fortt are two of the first names that come to mind, but both are “day-to-day” on the injury report. Another top defensive back Myles Bell also had a serious injury in the last game, so this unit is depleted.
Of the guys who are slated to play, Lwal Uguak is a defensive lineman who has been disruptive and Jeremy Lucien has 2 interceptions on the season.
5. Finally, make a prediction for the final score.
55-51 or 15-11, I’m not sure but I think Vanderbilt wins.