Ride continues for Huskies as Spanos takes the wheel

Published on Saturday, 11 September 2021 10:40

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - If nothing else, things are not dull around the UConn football these days.

“It’s definitely been a little bit of a roller coaster,” cornerback Jeremy Lucien said Tuesday as the Huskies prepared for Saturday’s game against Purdue.

There have been plenty of twists and turns on UConn's ride to meet its Big Ten foe from West Lafayette, Indiana.

The Huskies suffered an emotionally crushing defeat to Holy Cross Saturday, learned Sunday their head coach was retiring, and discovered Monday that the coach in question, Randy Edsall, was actually departing immediately.

“It’s a little crazy how fast everything is going but we’re on Purdue,” offensive tackle Ryan Van Demark said. “That’s the main goal.”

UConn (0-2) has fallen short of a lot of their goals already this season, but hope is apparently not lost. The players say they have faith that interim head coach Lou Spanos, the team’s erstwhile defensive coordinator, can get the job done.

“Change doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing,” Lucien said. “We’re all open to it. We all trust coach Spanos a lot.”

Spanos, who has spent the majority of his career in the NFL but has been at UConn since 2019, did not want to talk about Edsall much when asked Tuesday.

“He addressed the team. We were ready to move on. We wish him nothing but the best,” Spanos said.

One of the first moves Spanos made as head coach was to switch the team’s starting quarterback. Sophomore Steven Krajewski will start Saturday against the Boilermakers, while Jack Zergiotis will now be the back-up.

It’s a move Edsall might have made anyway if he remained on the job, and Spanos said he consulted the entire coaching staff about the switch.

“We talked about it as a staff, for this game who gives us the best opportunity to be successful this week? We talked collectively and we felt Steven would give us the best chance,” Spanos said.

Though his often boisterous demeanor might confuse some, Spanos initially appears to be something of a proverbial players’ coach. He certainly doesn’t mind admitting he wants to hear their opinions.

“I value the players’ input. I want the input,” Spanos said. “They’re smarter and lot more mature than me.”

As for his coaching style and sideline antics?

“You’ll shake your head sometimes,” Spanos said. “But we’re going to have fun.”

Spanos has worked with numerous successful coaches through his tenure in the NFL and college ranks: the likes of Nick Saban, Mike Shanahan, and, most memorably he says, Dick LeBeau, have given him plenty of models to base his coaching style on.

“I’ve been very fortunate. All the coaches said ‘be yourself,’ ” Spanos said. “So I’m going to try not to emulate anyone. I’ve been lucky to learn a lot from all the coaches but I’m going to be myself.”

Said Van Demark: “Everybody on the team loves coach Spanos. He’s a great guy. He motivates everybody.”

There was a video of Spanos instructing his players during Saturday’s loss to Holy Cross that was circulated wildly on social media that appeared to show some of the defenders unwilling to put their hands in after Spanos encouraged them to do so and “break it down.”

Spanos said there was no mistrust or controversy in the video, explaining that during such sideline interactions the players often make a wider circle to make things slightly more COVID-19 safe.

“My wife kids and sent it to me. They laughed and I laughed too,” Spanos said.

His first full practice as the team’s head coach took place Tuesday morning. By his account, things went very well.

“The players were very spirited in the meeting this morning. And also out at practice,” Spanos said.

NOTES: With Spanos’ elevation to head coach, Jarren Horton was promoted to defensive coordinator to replace Spanos. Also, Jake Bahr was promoted to linebackers coach after serving in a defensive quality control position to start the season. … A pair of 2022 recruits from Foundation Academy in Orlando, Florida, that have given UConn verbal commitments may be re-thinking their plans now that Edsall has moved on. Reggie Jean, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle told the Orlando Sentinel that he is “looking at other options.” Jean’s teammate, 6-foot-2, 235-pound defensive end Donovan Branch, told the paper that he is “I’m gonna stay committed for now.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Saturday, 11 September 2021 10:40. Updated: Saturday, 11 September 2021 10:43.