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Randy Edsall 2.0 Gets Going As UConn Opens Spring Practice On Tuesday

Randy Edsall returned as UConn football coach in late December and the program, with past success and optimism for the future in mind, coined the phrase "REStorred." Edsall has hired a staff, put together a recruiting class and begun the process of matching new philosophies with inherited personnel.

In short, Edsall has had to spend a lot of time getting to know his team. With the start of spring practice next week, that effort will no longer be limited to weight rooms and classrooms. The first official practice is Tuesday in the Shenkman Training Center.

"I want to see who the football players are," said Edsall, who spent last week on vacation in Jacksonville, Fla., while players were on spring break. "Guys can look good in shorts. But we don't play the game in shorts. You play with pads on. You want to see how guys react when they get beat. You want to see if a guy can run to the ball defensively, consistently, throughout a practice.

"On offense, who are the guys who finish? Who are the guys who can take what they learned in the classroom and bring it to the field? I'm looking for all those things, seeing who the guys are who can do the things that make a good football player and make us a better team."

UConn will practice Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in the weeks leading up to the Blue/White Game on April 21 at Rentschler Field. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will be dedicated to strength and conditioning, which has been the focus for much of February and March. Per NCAA offseason rules, coaches had been allowed eight hours a week with players. UConn didn't dedicate all eight hours to conditioning until incorporating some video the week before spring break.

Edsall, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and defensive coordinator Billy Crocker have put together general philosophies and playbooks that the Huskies will try to get a handle on in spring practice.

"I put the schedule together and laid it all out for them," Edsall said of his staff. "It's up to them to go fill it in. With the experience I've had being a head coach, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to get accomplished. That part was pretty easy, and they did a good job putting together what we want to get installed this spring — base offense, base defense, some other things. There could be some things we don't get to, because we don't need to right now. But we've got to get the foundation laid in terms of what our bread and butter is going to be."

Edsall won't bother with a depth chart this spring — players will simply be listed alphabetically in anything made public — as his exploration and analysis remain very much in the beginning stages. Players will learn systems dramatically different than those employed by Bob Diaco.

One of Edsall's jobs is to decide how many players are needed (and how many are capable) at certain positions. In Crocker's 3-3-5 defensive system, for instance, it is important for UConn to identify numerous defensive backs (an area where they need, but lack, depth). Linebackers and defensive ends might be interchangeable.

The only major change thus far is Edsall's decision to move Chris Lee, who will be a junior, from tight end to offensive tackle. UConn was particularly weak on the offensive line last season.

"I told him he's going in there to be the starter, going in there to compete," Edsall said. "He's a big athlete (6 feet 7, 280 pounds), moves real well, has to put a little more weight on, but he's got the lower body strength to be able to do that. I'm just trying to find a way to get the best guys on the field. For me, it all starts up front and I want to make sure that we're solid up front, offensively as well as defensively."

Edsall has watched film from UConn's 3-9 season in 2016.

"I wanted to get a feel for the personnel and what we needed [in recruiting]," he said. "As far as studying everything they did — I didn't do that because we're not going to be doing anything they did schematically on either side of the ball or special teams. I did it more from a personnel standpoint, to see if we could get guys into positions best suited for what we'll do schematically."

On Wednesday, UConn will hold its annual pro day, with graduating seniors working out before scouts from NFL teams. Several former UConn players are expected to attend the event.

The Huskies will have 14 practices on campus, with the 15th being the Blue/White game. Practices will focus on implementing new systems and will also touch on styles Edsall expects his team to face in opponents.

"There are some concerns that I have going in, and we'll see how that plays out in terms of where I think we might need some help," Edsall said. "And there will be some pleasant surprises where maybe I wasn't expecting as much from one group or position. This is just another phase of the evaluation process. We have one phase down with the offseason program. Until we actually get out on the field and see them produce in stressful practice situations it's hard to give a football evaluation on any of them."

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