Here is the third installment in a series of seven previewing UConn's Big East Conference opponents this season.
Head Coach: Greg Robinson (first season) 2004 season: 6-6 overall, 4-2 Big East, Champs Sports Bowl (lost) Basic Offense: West Coast Basic Defense: 4-3 Starters Returning: 14 (5 offense, 9 defense) 2004 I-A offensive rankings: Rushing: 31st (178.8 ypg) Passing: 100th (170.3 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 86th (186.7 ypg) Passing: 90th (240.2 ypg) Players to Watch: DE James Wyche, FS Anthony Smith, RB Damien Rhodes
Outlook: Former University of Texas and Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Greg Robinson takes over for Paul Pasqualoni as head coach.
Offensively, Robinson will bring the West Coast offense to the Dome -- lots of short passes and outs, spread the field and run the ball. Robinson will serve as his own defensive coordinator and will benefit from a roster loaded with veterans.
Robinson is implementing a 4-3 NFL-like alignment and defensive ends James Wyche (5.5 sacks) and Ryan LaCasse (5) will be the cornerstones. Defensive tackle Tony Jenkins earned second-year All-American honors. Middle linebacker Jerry Mackey is 100 percent after missing the spring with a shoulder injury.
New offensive coordinator Brian Parieni takes over, having served coach Mike Shanahan for 10 years with the Denver Broncos. Junior quarterback Perry Patterson is a star in the making. The 6-foot-4, 242-pounder can run it, but continues to work on his passing. Speedy Damien Rhodes is the tailback, but Syracuse's receivers were unproductive in 2004. For the new offensive scheme to work, Parieni will need to find some talent in the receiving ranks.
UConn Scouting Report
Syracuse visits Rentschler Field in UConn's first Big East game of the season, and this one will be pretty big. It is not only a winnable game for the Huskies, but it can be used as a measuring stick to see how much UConn has improved in its four non-conference games.
Will the offensive line jell by the time Syracuse visits on October 7? Will quarterback Matt Bonislawski be in control of the offense? How will the secondary look? Syracuse will have a talented offense with Patterson under center. Rhodes is a Rivals.com second-team All-Big East selection and is expected to be one of the best backs in the conference.
Sophomore Rice Moss should be the main wide receiving target, but there are question marks about Syracuse's passing attack. First-year coach Robinson and offensive coordinator Parieni will have to shore up those problems in the first few weeks of the 2005 season.
UConn's veteran defensive line, led by co-captain Deon McPhee and ends Shawn Mayne and Dan Davis should be able to minimize Syracuse's running attack and force them into passing situations. Linebackers James Hargrave and Taurien Sowell should also be able to stuff the line and make Patterson throw more than he would like.
Patterson threw for 1,851 yards and seven touchdowns last season, but his favorite target, Jared Jones is no loner with the team.
James Wyche, a Rivals.com first team All-Big East selection, is arguably the most talented defensive end in the conference and senior Kellen Pruitt is tough at linebacker. Safety Anthony Smith, who had 85 tackles last season, is also a Rivals.com first team All-Conference pick.
Coming Thursday: A look at the 2005 West Virginia Mountaineers.
Note: The staff at Syracusefan.com helped with compiling this preview.
Adam Gorney covers UConn sports for Rivals.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.