ANTHONY: As players flee, Susquehannock grad Randy Edsall needs to change tone at UConn
Nineteen players with eligibility remaining had announced their departure from the UConn football program prior to my typing this sentence. Who knows how many others will join by the time you read it?
The mass exodus continues. About 20 percent of the roster, most taking to Twitter for thanks-and-goodbye messages, is headed out the door early.
That’s absurd, even in today’s college football transfer portal reality. It’s a bad look for a program that has been nothing but a bad look on and off the field for several years now.
When, if ever, will something positive transpire for UConn football in result or image or reputation?
It’s on Randy Edsall not just to turn around a program that was losing big before his return and is losing bigger since. It is on the Susquehannock High School graduate to change the entire feel and tone of a production that has become so, so sour.
No more excuses: No one wants to hear excuses anymore. Enough blame has circulated. The complaints about kids are tired. We all know the obstacles Edsall has been presented with in a job that increasingly looks like one he didn’t sign up for, but it’s still a job he should embrace with the approach of someone who actually enjoys that job and enjoys people, period.
The loss of all these players might not be entirely detrimental to the actual football project. Let’s see where they land and how the rest of their careers actually play out. Many of them played sparingly at UConn and the argument could even be made that the sheer volume of this departure wave actually accelerates a process by opening scholarships and pushing Edsall recruits to the top of an always-undisclosed depth chart.
Edsall needed to turn the roster over and, now, consider it turned. If players he recruited — say, Travis Jones or Caleb Thomas — started leaving the program, that would signal a full-blown disaster. We’re not there.
But we might be headed toward another they’re-too-young season and, no matter, we need to see progress in 2020, in performance and in overall experience. Tuesday press conferences can’t be time spent bemoaning the current state of being. Saturdays can’t continue to be embarrassing. There are no more Bob Diaco holdovers to blame, tacitly or explicitly. There’s been way too much of that already.
Little positivity: Where is the positivity? UConn is headed toward FBS independence, which Edsall obviously wanted no part of. Still, he needs to sell the program to the public and to recruits and he sure needs to do a better job of getting across the fact that he’s confident in what that program offers and what the future holds.
Perception has never mattered more and building an image has to go with building a team, even for an old school football guy like Edsall. Can’t he combat all of the challenges with some kind of a we-got-this approach that might excite people? Damn the circumstances, he could say. I love these kids and we’re going to have fun and get this thing going.
When Edsall took over in 2017, he spoke of a UConn football future that would recapture UConn’s successful past. How were players recruited and coached by Diaco and Paul Pasqualoni supposed to feel? They were essentially an inconvenience, it seems, and several have publicly complained about their experience.
Even if those players were deemed awful — and there was not a lot of talent brought into the program between 2011 and 2016 — the new environment was probably unfair to them. When a coach takes over a program, he inherits players that are owed the best experience by the university. It is clear that Edsall and most Diaco recruits had little or no use for one another.
That’s unfortunate, perhaps irresponsible. Have you seen the way Dan Hurley interacts with and defends his players? I’m not sure he would even recruit Alterique Gilbert, but Gilbert is on his team and there’s a bond there that is unbreakable.
Disdain for players from Edsall: The way Edsall has, at times, talked about players borders on disdain. Kids these days aren’t as mentally tough and are harder to coach, he has said numerous times. They’re on their phones too often, playing video games, wearing headphones.
See the two problems with that?
If there is a generational issue, it is one that every single coach in America has to deal with, not just Edsall.
If it is an issue specific to UConn, well, the Edsall staff brought in many of those players and is charged with the development of each.
So let’s move on from that, please.
The Diaco recruits did move on.
UConn didn’t need many of those players. The Huskies could have used some of them, though.
Coyle's exit alarming: Tyler Coyle is among the players who have decided to leave early. That is a problem. He is a functional safety who led the Huskies in tackles two years in a row, a captain in 2019 and by all accounts a good, hard-working person. He’s also from Windsor and exactly the type of recruit UConn should want to land in the future.
Set aside the 6-30 record over the past three years and the messy seasons that even preceded Edsall’s return. What’s more disconcerting right now is the division, the sense of chaos. The quarterbacks are all Edsall recruits and the position is, at best, in a questionable state. How many offensive and defensive coordinators is the program going to go through?
I can’t remember the last time I received some news about UConn football and digested it with the feeling that the program is in a better place.
Edsall still deserves to return: Still, I support Edsall. He deserves to be back in 2020. An athletic director would be crazy to fall into the habit of firing someone every three years. The right thing is to let Edsall see this through, with the really long leash of patience afford to him by David Benedict.
But something has to change even before the results do. The tone has to change. UConn football has to feel good again — for those involved and those watching — before it can win again.