Justin Bressette from Thirteenth Sports was gracious enough to collaborate with me on a set of 10 questions about the Aggies first opponent of the 2022 season the University of Connecticut Huskies. Big shout out to Justin for joining me this week!!
After a few years away from coaching Jim Mora Jr. is your new head coach. How has he been received by the players and the community so far?
I was very shocked that Jim Mora wanted the UConn job. Fans were very happy with this decision. Both community and players were excited about him and his coaching staff coming in for this year. The breath of fresh air as we all say felt good to fans, community, and players. Jim Mora the way he came to UConn and engaged himself right away made a lasting impression. Also, looking at the players in practice and the spring game you could tell they were all excited about this new era of UConn football.
What is the biggest change that Coach Mora has implemented since he took over the program?
The biggest change I have seen is definitely recruiting. As we all have been seeing the recruits that Coach Mora has been bringing in are physical players that have a great football IQ. The “Husky Revolution” term he brought with him is all about Brotherhood and the bonding between players. The “Husky Revolution” term also was almost like pressing the refresh button on a computer keyboard which would spark excitement in getting fans engaged and also have a lasting impression on recruits.
How would you describe his philosophy and approach toward rebuilding Connecticut football?
The philosophy and approach that he is bringing to Connecticut is creating a tough team that never quits almost like the term “Bend but will not break”. Having a team that will always play till the whistle blows and when they are down, they will not quit. Also, the main thing that he has been talking about is football is a game, but your life after football is also important. He talks to recruits and his players about that which is very important too. Coach Mora also is being aggressive in the transfer portal which is great to see as a fan. He wants to win now not later but now.
Defensive Coordinator Lou Spanos just stepped away taking a “leave of absence”. How does that impact the Husky defense and who do you think steps up in his place?
Having your defensive coordinator Lou Spanos take a leave of absence will be tough on players and the team as a whole. It’s unusual in college football that a coordinator takes a leave of absence being so close to the first game. Even fans are wondering if he is okay and we were all shocked by this. Lou Spanos has a lot of respect for the players and the staff. I was shocked when I heard this news on Twitter. I did hear that Coach Mora has been working with the defense this last practice. Coach Mora and Coach McClendon who is the defensive line coach will make sure this team is ready. It will have an impact on the defense, but they will keep working and making sure that they are ready for the first game versus Utah State.
There seems to be a four-way battle at quarterback between redshirt freshman Tyler Phommachanh, who started the first three games last season before he suffered a season-ending injury, redshirt sophomore Penn St transfer Ta’Quan Roberson, two-time Oregon and Northern Arizona sophomore transfer Cale Millen, and true freshman Zion Turner. Coach Mora has said that a starter will not be announced prior to kickoff Saturday. Who do you think wins the job and why?
The quarterback battle right now is between Ta’Quan Roberson and Zion Turner. It would have been a three-way battle, but with Tyler Phommachanh (TP) getting hurt last year with a season-ending injury coaches want to make sure he is fully healed before he returns to action. I think Cale Millen has been brought in for depth at QB. Ta’Quan Roberson looked like he had the QB1 spot locked up near the spring game, but Zion Turner has been showing that he could run this offense and has been doing great in practice. I believe that Zion Turner will be the starter. If things go well, he should be able to add the spark at the quarterback position that UConn fans have been longing for since Dan Orlovsky.
You lost redshirt sophomore wide receiver, Cam Ross, to a season-ending injury. How big of a loss is that for the Husky offense?
Losing Cam Ross to a season-ending injury is rough and I feel bad for him. I thought this could be a big year for him and I hope he gets well soon and comes back stronger than ever. It’s a loss for this program but UConn was able to add to the WR depth which is a strong point for UConn this year.
Who steps up and becomes that go-to wide receiver following the loss of Ross?
With the loss of Ross, the go-to wide receiver should be Keelan Marion who was a bright spot last year. UConn has many more WRs that could be in the mix too like Nigel Fitzgerald, Aaron Turner, Kevens Clercius, and Matt Drayton.
How important is the addition of redshirt junior Old Dominion transfer Sokoya McDuffie to the Husky defensive line?
The addition of Sokoya McDuffie was a great get for UConn after the departure of Travis Jones he should be able to fill the void. He is a big physical body that should be able to clog the hole and have success. Bringing him in also will improve the defensive line’s strength in that position.
Kentucky graduate transfer Marquez Bembry chose Connecticut to play his 6th and final season of collegiate football. How big is the addition of Bembry to the Husky defense?
When I heard Marquez Bembry chose to come to play at UConn, I was happy. The LB position was a weakness last year but Jackson Mitchell was one of the bright spots in that position. Marquez is an upperclassman that can come in and help the underclassman. He is a fast-hard-hitting linebacker that will help with stopping the ball. It was a great grab by Coach Mora and staff to help strengthen the linebacker position. He will be a force this year along with Jackson Mitchell.
All four of your starters in the secondary, either started last season or saw significant snaps. How important is it for the Huskies to have such an experienced group manning the defensive backfield?
It is very important for the Huskies to have an experienced group manning the defensive backfield. They are more experienced this year so there should be a difference compared to last year. I feel like last year the DBs gave up too much ground in the passing game and this year we should see a difference. One of the defensive backs that have been doing good in practice is Missouri transfer, Chris Shearin. Other bright spots are Myles Bell and Tre Wortham. Those are only a few names but this position as long as stay disciplined should do okay this year. Coach Hilliard has been working with this group and I have faith that he will have this group playing well.