As training camp and the season draw near, we look at a UConn football opponent through the eyes of a beat writer who covers that team. Today the team is Stony Brook and the writer is Greg Logan of Newsday. UConn plays Stony Brook Sept. 6 at Rentschler Field at noon.
What expectations does the coaching staff have for the team this year?
Stony Brook suffered from a tremendous number of injuries to key players last season, leading to a disappointing 3-5 record in its first CAA season and 5-6 overall. The coaching staff is hopeful of rebounding with a healthy team to compete for an FCS playoff bid in one of the strongest multi-bid leagues in the country. The Seawolves were a playoff team that reached the second round in both 2011 and 2012.
Who are the key players for this year's team?
RB Marcus Coker has to redshirt last season after playing the first two games with a torn abdominal muscle. If he has recovered from surgery to repair that injury and the effects of an April motorcycle accident, he should be one of the top backs in the country, and he's backed up by UMass transfer Stacey Bedell and last year's leading rusher James Kenner behind a veteran line led by center Mike Lisi and guard Cody Precht. Florida State transfer Will Tye is a key player at tight end, and senior defensive backs Christian Ricard and Davonte Anderson head a veteran secondary. Junior DE Victor Ochi is the top pass rusher.
What players are new to the team and expected to make an immediate impact?
As mentioned above, Bedell is a breakaway threat at RB, and the secondary adds Virginia sophomore transfer Kye Morgan at CB. But the most important addition is QB John Kinder, who transferred from Syracuse and has one season of eligibility remaining as a grad student. His play was very limited at Syracuse, but if he can learn the system and rid himself of the rust, he could make a valuable contribution should he beat out redshirt junior Conor Bednarski and sophomore Carlos Hernandez.
What are the team's strengths on offense?
Stony Brook long has been known for its powerful running game during the tenure of head coach Chuck Priore. With three top RBs (Coker, Bedell and Kenner) and a veteran OL that adds 340-pound Pittsburgh transfer Shane Johnson, the Seawolves once again should control the ball with their running game, and TE Tye is a playmaker in the passing game.
What are the team's strengths on defense?
The secondary was riddled with injuries a year ago, but that allowed multiple players to gain experience. So, depth and speed in the defensive backfield has improved significantly, which is a must in the CAA, which features some prolific passing games. Couple that with a pass rush that features Ochi and senior tackle Kevin Hauter and the addition of redshirt freshman Ousmane Camara, and the defense should be very solid once again.
What key concerns are there in 2014?
No. 1 is the health of Coker, who suffered a broken left fibula in his motorcycle. He expects to be full speed by the beginning of training camp in August, but his durability is critical to the offense. No. 2 is the competition at quarterback, where the coaching staff is looking for improved decision making and more accurate passing than a year ago. None of the three contenders, Kinder, Bednarski or Hernandez, took a snap from center last season.