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UConn depth chart clarifies the picture at WR, LB, DB (TE not so much)
New but experienced transfers are all over the two-deep as UConn readies for its season opener.
UConn’s depth chart for the NC State game came out on Sunday in advance of the Thursday night opener. While it did not contain any major surprises, we did learn a little bit more about the previously murky situation among the pass-catchers, linebackers, and defensive backs. Of course, a lot can change in a week or two.
The coaching staff made its decision at quarterback last week. Joe Fagnano, who played under Husky offensive coordinator Nick Charlton at Maine, brings familiarity with the scheme and extensive live-action experience to the starting role. Even though he was playing at the FCS level, Fagnano performed well against FBS opponents and did particularly well when Charlton was there.
At wide receiver, a slew of departures were followed by a slew of incoming experienced transfers. While the Huskies added multiple transfer receivers before 2022 as well, none of them made any significant impact. This year, all three of the new additions came in with a history of production and are on the two-deep.
Geordon Porter is the top outside receiver and Brett Buckman is the other, while James Burns is Cam Ross’ primary backup in the slot, followed by Jacob Flynn, a redshirt junior out of Southington (CT) High who caught five passes last year.
Mora acknowledged that they lost some quality players at the position with the departures of Keelan Marion and Aaron Turner. But he has high hopes for the new additions and returning players, including Ross, Kevens Clercius, listed as Buckman’s backup, and Kylish Hicks, a redshirt freshman who is Porter’s backup on the outside.
Wide receivers coach Kashif Moore had praise for Buckman and Hicks during the preseason. The former Husky captain turned coach also said he’s looking for Ross to be a leader as the elder statesman of the group, having been at UConn since 2019.
A remarkable seven tight ends are listed as “OR” starters at the position. This includes last year’s breakout star Justin Joly on top of the list, followed (in order) by TCU transfer Alex Honig, Nick Harris, a converted defensive end who played in seven games last year with no stats, Michigan transfer Louis Hansen, who Mora has previously said will play out of the backfield as well, returning players Brandon Niemenski and Rayonte Brown, and former junior college transfer Bo Estes.
Yakiri Walker is listed first on the depth chart at center, the one position on the offensive line that did not have a returning starter. He has an “OR” with Christopher Fortin, however, so perhaps the position battle is not fully decided.
Returning All-American guard Christian Haynes has expressed confidence in the group no matter who is manning the pivot.
Defensively, most starters and key rotation players are back, but UConn “lost some real experience in the linebacker room,” Mora admitted. “The depth is what’s a little bit unknown.”
He compared Delaware transfer Noah Plack to departed linebacker Ian Swenson athletically, adding that he’s comfortable with the grad transfer starting next to Jackson Mitchell. Junior Tui Brown is the other outside linebacker.
Kansas transfer Eriq Gilyard is Jackson’s backup in the middle, and four guys are listed as backup outside linebackers including Georgia Southern transfer Kevon Glenn and junior college transfer Amir Renwick.
“Hopefully we won’t have to get to that depth unless we choose to,” Mora said. “I’m comfortable with the starters and uncertain with the depth right now.”
No surprises on the defensive line. Illinois transfer Rashaan Wilkins Jr. is listed as a backup defensive tackle.
At defensive back, the competition for playing time appeared to be wide open, though Mora had previously expressed a lot of confidence in returning safeties Durante Jones and Malik Dixon-Williams. Malcolm Bell, a redshirt sophomore from Canada, and Armauni Archie, a grad transfer from Washington State, are the starting corners. Mumu Bin-Wahad, a grad transfer from West Virginia, is Archie’s backup and Sophomore D’mon Brinson is the other backup corner.
“I like the guys that we brought in…Armauni Archie’s done a nice job…You get Mumu [Bin-Wahad] in there, guys that played at the highest level, it’s going to help you,” Mora said, “and having two experienced safeties is helpful.”