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Connecticut looking for leaders

Connecticut coach Randy Edsall has been waking up at 4:15 a.m. and getting to the football complex by 6 like he used to do in the early days of building the program.

Edsall knows his team needs to work harder and pay more attention to details, so he's starting with the man on top of the organizational flow chart.

"As a leader, you look internally first to see what you can do to help yourself," he said Tuesday.

The Huskies need some help. A season that held so much promise has turned into a nightmarish 3-4 campaign capped by last week's embarrassing 26-0 loss at Louisville. Old nemesis West Virginia comes to East Hartford on Friday night, looking to add to UConn's suffering.

What has gone wrong? Edsall has talked a lot in recent weeks about how his players had a sense of entitlement and read their own glowing preseason press clippings instead of grinding it out on the practice field. On Tuesday, Edsall bemoaned a lack of leadership in the program. Last year's team had Andre Dixon, a senior running back who wasn't afraid to get in teammates' facemasks. Before that, it was offensive lineman Will Beatty, who didn't need to say much because the way he smashed people downfield said it all.

Edsall talked to a few players this week -- he wouldn't name who -- and asked them to step up and take that role. He said the guys he's singled out are underclassmen. He told them he needed them to be a ... well, Edsall declined to share the specific word he used with the players. But if you remember the inscription on Jules' wallet in "Pulp Fiction," you have a pretty good idea.

"We don't have one guy who is going to go up and grab a guy by the tail and is the enforcer," Edsall said. "I do see some guys who have that ability. They've got to want to step out of their comfort zone and not worry about what other people think.

"We've got to get somebody. It only takes one."

Edsall said a couple of players came forward in the locker room at halftime of the Louisville game and tried to take charge, and those players weren't his captains. Though he said the team didn't quit in that game, he was disappointed that the players didn't fight through adversity better.

As far as the leader of the offense goes, redshirt freshman Mike Box will get that job again Friday. Box made his first career start against Louisville and went 4-for-12 for 35 yards with one interception. He left in the fourth quarter after getting hit in the head, but he has practiced this week and is expected to be ready to go. Former starter Zach Frazer completed 6-of-8 passes for 52 yards in garbage time, but Edsall still likes what Box brings.

"I liked his demeanor," he said. "He didn't have any penalties, any delay-of-games. He didn't have any situations where he wasn't managing the game. He made the one bad throw on the interception where he didn't set his feet. But he moved around in the pocket and ran the ball. He added a dimension to our offense that we really didn't have before.

"He's just got to continue to get better with more game time and more experience."

The Louisville loss represented a low point in a season full of them for the Huskies. It came just a few days after starting quarterback Cody Endres earned a season-long suspension and dismissal from the program. Even coming off a bye week, UConn looked lethargic and disinterested, not to mention completely outplayed.

"Mentally, you've just got to put it behind you," Edsall said. "The team is upset and knows they can play better than how we're playing. It's not a group that's pouting."

Edsall hopes it's a group that's ready to come together and rally behind some newfound leaders. Until then, he'll keep setting his alarm clock for startlingly early in the morning.