UConn enters critical spring

When UConn opens spring practice today, the team will be staring down more questions than ever before under third-year coach Paul Pasqualoni.

Thanks to back-to-back 5-7 seasons and coordinator changes, the pressure is on to right the ship right away.

While there have been questions about the offense the past two seasons, there have not been nearly as many about the defense. That changes this spring as Hank Hughes takes over as coordinator once again, with a difficult task ahead of him -- finding replacements for four starters expected to be taken in the NFL draft. A solid defense has been unable to get this team bowl eligible. What happens now that there is uncertainty both on offense and defense?

Perhaps this is a cue for the offense to step up. Pasqualoni certainly realized a change was needed at offensive coordinator, as George DeLeone was stripped of his duties. T.J. Weist comes over from Cincinnati, a program that ran spread and no-huddle sets in addition to pounding the ball.

Weist has to find answers for the problems that have plagued this team over the past two seasons -- stability at quarterback; consistency along the offensive line; and finding players who can stretch the field at receiver. The once unthinkable happened to the Huskies last year -- they could not block up front and they could no longer run the ball. That led to its worst rushing output since joining the FBS level in 2003.

UConn does return Lyle McCombs at running back and the five starters along the line when the season ended. Having DeLeone working with the line exclusively can only help. And of course, cutting down on the mistakes at quarterback would be huge progress as well.

Chandler Whitmer was the only starting quarterback in the Big East last season -- and the only one among the Top 100 passers in the nation -- with more interceptions (16) than touchdown passes (nine).

There is no question UConn has work to do and progress to make this spring, as it prepares for a critical 2013.