Posted by Chip Patterson
As the defending Big East champions, the Connecticut Huskies will expect everyone's best shot when they make their rounds back through conference play in 2011. Unfortunately, with a brand new coaching staff and lacking many of the key players from 2010's campaign - things could be a little more difficult. At the end of spring practice, head coach Paul Pasqualoni still had not decided on a starting quarterback, leading to some doubters in the Huskies ability to pass the ball next season. Things became even more difficult on Tuesday when Pasqualoni confirmed that leading receiver Mike Smith was academically ineligible to participate in the fall.
"Michael will be, obviously in the program," Pasqualoni told the Hartford Courant. "He will be in practice each day. He just will not participate in games."
Smith started in all 13 games last season, leading the team in catches (46) and yards (615). Right now the coaching staff is hoping that the senior will stick with the team, taking a redshirt year in 2011 and returning for his final year of eligibility in 2012.
"I do think this is a year that he can use to improve himself all the way around and then still have a final year of eligibility," Pasqualoni said.
Connecticut really doesn't have an adequate replacement for running back Jordan Todman - who in addition to anchoring the Huskies offense, ranked second nationally in rushing. With Smith's ineligibility, the Huskies enter camp looking for true leaders at the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver positions. The defensive line will be a strength, but they will need to be outstanding unless someone shows they can produce points in East Hartford.