Susquehannock High School graduate Randy Edsall bemoaned the state of UConn’s football program during a gloomy 20-minute news conference in Storrs this week.
Despite praising his players’ effort and attitudes, Edsall made plain what was obvious over the Huskies’ first two games: that the team simply didn’t have the talent to keep up with ranked teams such as UCF and Boise State — and wouldn’t anytime soon.
“This is a massive rebuild,” he said.
The coach said the current rebuilding project is even more difficult than the one he embarked on during the late 1990s and early 2000s, when he helped transition the program to college football’s highest level. Then, he said, the Huskies could schedule carefully as they built up the program. Now, they have no such option.
Edsall suggested that UConn’s current struggles have less to do with who’s currently in the program and more to do with who was there between his two stints as Huskies coach. At one point, the coach put his hand above his head, then lowered it to his waist, saying, “We went from here to here.”
“It’s just a shame what has happened from 2011 to 2017,” he said. “You can’t get it back.”
Squandering momentum: Edsall famously built UConn from a Division 1-AA program to a Big East champion before departing for Maryland after the 2010 season. Under subsequent coaches Paul Pasqualoni and Bob Diaco, the Huskies endured a string of losing seasons, while failing to secure membership in a Power-Five conference.
Edsall implied that the UConn athletic department had squandered the momentum he built up during his initial run as coach.
“Take a look at Boise State,” Edsall said. “They lost coaches, and what did they do? They promoted coaches from within. They kept the same system all the way through. … Because those [coaches] knew what it took to be successful there, and they kept it going. That didn’t happen here, so that’s what we’re working through right now.”
Committed to rebuilding: The result is a team, overloaded with freshmen, that has been outscored 118-24 over its first two games and is no lock to beat FCS Rhode Island on Saturday.
Edsall said some days he struggles to be patient but that he remains committed to rebuilding the program “the right way,” without shortcuts.
“I see that we’re on the right track and we’re doing the right thing,” he said. “And I know it’s not going to be as quick as maybe some people like.”
A very young team: Edsall pointed out that UConn has only two players who have been with the program for five seasons that have significant roles with the current squad. As a point of reference, UCF and Boise combined to start eight fifth-year seniors on offense or defense and played 11 others who had been with their programs for five years.
"We’re doing everything we can but if somebody thinks we’re going to take some fairy dust, just sprinkle it and all of a sudden it’s going to change, you might as well go and keep drinking alcohol or something because this isn’t easy, but it’s fun,” Edsall said. “It’s fun because these kids want it, they want to do it and they’re out there trying. Most of them shouldn’t even be playing (as freshmen)."
The Hartford Courant and New Haven Register contributed to this story through the Tribune News Service.