Will UConn make strides on offensive line?

UConn returns one of the most veteran offensive lines in the entire conference headed into the 2013 season.

But does that mean the Huskies will automatically be better? Something has to be said for experienced guys playing together. But many of these guys started and contributed to a pretty shaky performance throughout the course of last season, when the Huskies hit record lows for rushing offense.

New offensive coordinator T.J. Weist is encouraged with his starting five. "We have a talented group," he said in a recent phone interview. "We have a strong first line. The biggest thing is we've got to keep guys healthy. We've got to develop our depth, that second and third group."

Returning to the starting lineup for 2013 are tackles Jimmy Bennett and Kevin Friend, along with guard Steve Greene. Alex Mateas and Tyler Bullock are competing at center, and Gus Cruz and Tyler Samra are competing at the other guard spot to replace the departed Adam Masters. Both Bullock and Cruz started games last season.

It was tough to get a real gauge for how much better this group could be during the spring because injuries kept several guys sidelined. Bennett and Bullock missed the spring game because they were hurt, while Mateas sat out while serving a suspension. That gave other guys an opportunity to play, which should help when it comes to developing depth.

Everything works hand in hand. If depth is a problem, then that impacts practice, which in turn impacts the performance of the first line in games.

"The issue may not be them, it’s how many reps they’re getting in practice and keeping them healthy," Weist said. "If the second group doesn’t develop, or if we’ve got injuries, guys have to play more in practice, then you have to worry about getting the first guys hurt. That’s why I’m more concerned about our depth -- about keeping guys healthy so we can evaluate them better."