Here is the second part of my conversation with UConn offensive coordinator George DeLeone. You can read Part I here.
You're obviously thin at tailback this spring. What do you see from that position right now?
George DeLeone: Obviously, the position has changed even from the day we walked in the door. It's going to be a position we're going to have to keep a close eye on during spring ball. We don't have the depth there that we would like. We're going to have to rely on some freshmen coming in to provide some depth, and maybe do more than that. The kids who are there, D.J. Shoemate and Martin Hyppolite, they've worked hard and done a good job. But between the pro draft and injuries and transfers and suspensions, we've got our hands full there. That's going to be a big concern, coming out of spring ball, to see how we end up there.
Other than Shoemate and Hyppolite, who else is working there?
GD: That's really it. We have Jonathan Jean-Louis, but he's injured and out for the spring. Then we have a walk-on, but that's it. That's where we're at. Those guys aren't going to ever complain about the number of reps they get, that's for sure.
Can D.J. Shoemate be an every-down tailback?
GD: That's why we're going to practice. We're going to find out what these guys can do, and I think the jury is out. It's going to be an opportunity for him to show what he can do, and Hyppolite to show what he can do. Because there's not going to be anybody else. They say when the phone is ringing, you've got to answer it. Well, the phone is ringing off the hook right now for those two guys, I promise you.
The Huskies went to the BCS last year, but the passing game was one of the worst in the country. What can you do to improve that?
GD: Well, it's a goal of ours to get better there. I'm not into the numbers as much as I am the wins and losses. I hope that we have that balance and we're going to strike that balance. I see in the NFL, the teams that can make explosive plays, the teams that can make the 16-yard completion down the field in the course of a drive have a tremendous opportunity to score. It's the teams that have to go eight, 10, 12, 14 plays to score, that becomes so much more difficult than when you have an explosive play here or there.
We want to have balance, we want to upgrade our pass game, and that's another issue that's got to be dealt with here. But it's not as important as the selection of the personnel, not as important as the selection of the quarterback. I'm confident enough in our system that we will have the ability to throw the ball. Now, how well? That's going to be up to our players. We're going to try and really examine it this spring and see what we can do.
What about the receivers, where you have a lot of guys returning?
GD: We have some young guys. We have Kashif Moore and Mike Smith at split end. Tebucky Jones Jr. looks like an up-and-comer, and there are some other guys there who have a chance. So we're looking forward to working with this group. It's going to be a position by committee. That's the reality of it. It's going to have to be a team game. It's going to have to be individuals taking their ego and putting it off to the side for the benefit of the team, because there are a lot of guys who can do some things, but there may not be one dominant guy.
I think the position will be fine but will be handled by committee, rather than let's focus on this guys getting 80 or 90 catches. I don't see that happening. I see a group that can be productive, but it's going to have to be done unselfishly.
Offensive line has been a real strength under position coach Mike Foley. Do you see that continuing?
GD: I like their attitude. There are some guys who have played. Again, we're coming off a few injuries there, but I like the attitude and approach. Sometimes, when a change is made in the staff, it gives hope to some guys who were down the line on the depth chart. I think that's the case here. I also think we have some veterans who need to be leaders and lead by their play. Mike has done a good job, and there have been some good players come out of here. But we've got to replace some guys, no doubt about it. The interior guards have to be replaced. So we have some work to do.
This isn't a spring you can just put on cruise control and just fine tune a few things; I don't see that. This is a spring where guys have to step up, where guys have to come to the fore who haven't been starters before at a lot of positions: quarterback, tailback, offensive line.
Sounds like it will be a big learning experience for you and the players.
GD: Absolutely. That's why they call us coaches.