UConn: Brighter days should be ahead for the Huskies sooner rather than later

STORRS – As soon as you walk in to The Burton Family Football Complex on the campus of the University of Connecticut, you’re immediately reminded of a time not so long ago when UConn football was relevant at the national level.

Big East title trophies and a case full of Tostitos Fiesta Bowl memorabilia is hard to miss. Old jerseys and helmets of a few players who helped put the program on the map are proudly displayed. When you look directly up, the giant “C” in the middle of a glowing outline of the state of Connecticut illuminates the entire lobby. The hallway to the left leads to pictures, NFL helmets and quotes, all revolving around alums that have made the leap to the NFL. The hall eventually leads to the indoor practice facility, which is as nice of an indoor facility as you’ll see anywhere in the country.

A quick walk outside and up a small hill leads to the practice fields that overlook all of the other athletic fields around campus right next to the Gampel Pavilion. For two and a half hours on Saturday, the Huskies practiced outside for the first time ahead of Thursday’s spring game. Energy was high, coaching was intense and perhaps most importantly, there were over 100 recruits surrounding both sides of the field, representing the potential new wave of players that will be charged with leading the Huskies back to prominence. These weren’t just recruits from Massachusetts or Connecticut either. Full teams were represented from New York and New Jersey school too.

For the full practice session, there was a certain level of “this is how it’s going to be from now on” in the air. Whether it was a few skirmishes between teammates – one ultimately leading to Coach Mora stopping practice and giving his team an earful – or the celebrations for teammates after a touchdown or an interception in the defense’s case, no matter where you looked, things just looked and sounded different. There was an NFL feel to the entire practice, which is fitting given the NFL-caliber facilities near by.

Offensive coordinator Nick Charlton and defensive coordinator Lou Spanos were very hands-on throughout the afternoon, providing the right amount of yelling or encouragement when the situation warranted during team periods. During 1-on-1 activities, the competition was off the charts with both units looking to completely shut down the other, celebrating a PBU or a receiver beating a DB on a route clean and making an easy catch because of it. Malik Dixon closed practice with an interception during two minute work and you would’ve thought he just secured a regular season victory based on other teammate’s and coach’s reactions.

Following practice, position coaches, coordinators and Mora spent about an hour shaking hands and taking photos with recruits, hoping to lure some of the next great New England, New York and New Jersey football players to Storrs.

It’s most likely going to take a little while for UConn to truly be “back” in terms of being competitive given just how bad it’s been indecent years, so don’t expect eight wins right out of the gate. Having said that, Mora and his staff aren’t looking at it that way (they shouldn’t be) and given the intensity of practice and the zero tolerance policy for any poor habits or stupid mistakes, they believe the winning is going to come much sooner rather than later.

With everything in place, it feels like brighter days are ahead for UConn sooner rather than later.