STORRS — They're everywhere.
Upon entering any meeting room or coach's office at the Burton Family Football Complex at UConn, you can't miss the "All In" signs that have a picture of Rentschler Field.
After an 0-4 start and a coaching change, the Huskies are hunkering down together for the final eight games. They've got a solidarity thing going on, and on Tuesday, it was most noticeable because of the signs.
The real test is if it transfers onto the field this week. It's homecoming, and South Florida (1-4, 1-0 AAC) comes to town Saturday for a noon game in the Huskies' conference opener.
"You get up in front of the media, you get in front of the team and you say things from the heart and pretty soon as a coach you start to say the same things over and over again," said interim coach T.J. Weist. "I hadn't had a lot of time to think about everything I'm going to say, so when I start repeating myself some things start to make sense. That's probably how [the "All In" signs] came about. We all need to be together. There are some other things I could have said that would probably mean just as much. It could be easy for players in adversity to go other ways, be selfish and not focus on your team, so I thought they needed to be refocused and everybody needs to be on the same page, to play for each other, to work for each other, to make decisions for the team and not for themselves."
Redshirt freshman cornerback Jhavon Williams said [the unity has] been going extremely well.
"Everybody is buying into everything for the team," Williams said. "No energy leaks, everybody is together, game by game, step by step, every day to get better and win games. There's been a lot of positive energy."
Offensive Line Surge
Speaking of positive energy, freshman quarterback Tim Boyle is getting his first start Saturday, and that's only part of the deal.
The offensive line is rejuvenated.
"I really think now things are little more simplified," said Steve Greene, a senior guard and captain. "We don't have to think about things as much, just come out and play football. I think that the biggest thing for us right now is [offensive line coach Mike] Foley came in and simplified things a little bit, just come off the ball and play football."
Translation? The Huskies had difficulty transitioning to the zone schemes under former coach Paul Pasqualoni and offensive line coach George DeLeone, who were both fired on Sept. 30. The Huskies are at their lowest point rushing (45.8 yards a game) in the Division I-A era. Chandler Whitmer, the former starter at quarterback, had been sacked 20 times on the season after going down 33 times last year.
"It's back to being a physical line," Greene said. "Enough of this, that and the other — line up and play football and beat the guy across from you. Be physical, open holes. It's not a math equation. If you're physical, regardless of whether you're doing the right thing or not, something good will happen, and I think that's the biggest thing we're trying to get back to, come off the ball and play football."
Williams Case Continued
Sophomore tailback Joe Williams had his court case continued to Nov. 5. He was arrested Aug. 9 on charges of theft of a credit card, illegal use of a credit card and sixth-degree larceny.
Weist didn't have any comment on the matter other than to say that the school and program would let the legal process play out.
Weist said last week that redshirt freshman Jazzmar Clax (5 feet 11, 239 pounds) was ready to play and is listed on the depth chart at fullback behind Matt Walsh. He hasn't had a carry in practice at fullback. Clax had a torn meniscus in his left knee and had surgery on his birthday, Aug. 23. He was injured in the scrimmage the week before. He was cleared to practice again during the week of the Michigan game.
He wears a brace but said he's ready.
Jhavon Williams knows what that means.
"Oh, man, that's one of the running backs I hate to see one-on-one in the open field," Williams said. "I wouldn't be scared, but I'm just saying. On my best day I wouldn't want to see him. He's a nice back, man, shifty, too, between the tackles. He's got some nice moves. You ought to see him live and in color. He's a nice back."
Abrams Replacing Phillips
Junior Kamal Abrams, who sustained a torn meniscus in his left knee (his second since high school), will start at receiver in place of Shakim Phillips (hamstring), who has been listed as questionable for the South Florida game.
Abrams injured the knee during warmup drills against Towson.
"It was one of those weird, freak accidents where we were going through our routine," said Abrams. "The drill we were doing, they like us to get on the field, get on the ground, so we can get a feel for it and the way I tried to get up I guess I put too much pressure on my leg and it just popped on me."
Make The Call
Weist said he will continue calling plays. Quarterbacks coach Shane Day and running backs coach Kermit Buggs will be in the booth communicating what they see from a bird's-eye view in the coaching box. ... In addition to Phillips, Weist said that right tackle Kevin Friend (ankle) is questionable, as is safety Andrew Adams (shoulder) and linebacker Graham Stewart (ankle). Boyle said that his family took him to Fiore II in Middletown for his birthday dinner last Thursday, a couple days after he learned that he would be the starting quarterback against South Florida.