Weist's energy, enthusiasm provides a jolt to UConn offense

Chandler Whitmer returns to lead the UConn offense, which has a new offensive coordinator in former Cincinnati receivers coach T.J. Weist.
Chandler Whitmer returns to lead the UConn offense, which has a new offensive coordinator in former Cincinnati receivers coach T.J. Weist. Jessica Hill/AP Photo

Storrs - UConn offensive coordinator T.J. Weist is as excited about his new job as a teenager with a new car.

Weist has been handed the keys to an offense that needs work after sputtering to the tune of just 17.8 points per game last season.

Nothing some tinkering can't fix, according to Weist, who studied last year's game film over the winter after being hired in January.

He pointed to a lack of execution, not lack of talent, as the reason behind the low output. Offensive struggles played a significant factor in UConn posting a disappointing 5-7 overall record.

"I thought they were physical," Weist said. "I thought we played well. Just like any football team, there were times we didn't execute at key times. That's what happens to an offense. A lot of people believe it's schemes, or this and that.

"When I watched film, I was impressed with the effort and the schemes. You could see plays in games that guys just didn't make. They never really got any momentum going. Offense, for us, is about execution."

It's a new season for UConn and Weist.

The Huskies held their first public football practice on Tuesday and worked out in full pads for the first time this preseason.

Weist, who's been in the college football coaching business for 25 years, has already had a positive impact on the program.

Head coach Paul Pasqualoni loves Weist's energy and enthusiasm.

"T.J. is terrific," Pasqualoni said. "He's a real high-energy guy. He knows what he's doing. He's motivated. He's after them to do it right. He's very, very diligent. He doesn't leave any stones unturned. He's very detailed. And he's just working just as hard as you can work at it.

"Those are the guys that you want to hire. He's not concerned how long it takes. He understands that sacrifices have to be made."

Weist made his first sacrifice when he moved here without his family. His wife, Karen, and 5-year-old son James finally arrived in May. They spent the summer "being New Englanders," visiting Boston, Mystic, Newport and New York.

It's been all football since practice began on Friday.

Prior to coming to UConn, he worked as wide receivers coach at Cincinnati. He served as offensive coordinator in the 2012 Belk Bowl, as the Bearcats beat Duke 48-34 and piled up 554 yards of total offense without committing a turnover.

In comparison, UConn scored more than 24 points just once last season, and that came in the season opener against UMass (37-0).

Weist is focusing on this season not last.

"It's a clean slate," Weist said. "It's somewhat of a different offense. I just added some stuff to it. Last year doesn't matter. You start over no matter what anyway. And we're going to start over and everything to us is what we do today to get better for the season."

Weist has a solid offensive foundation to work with, as seven starters return including quarterback Chandler Whitmer and leading rusher Lyle McCombs.

Whitmer believes that Weist can help UConn's offense.

"He's done a good job of working with the players and really getting to our level and helping us understand what he wants," Whitmer said. "It's been really good for us so far. I think it will help us be more dynamic and that's what we're looking to do."

Five practice days into preseason, the Huskies are still ironing out the wrinkles. During situational drills Tuesday, the offense committed too many mistakes in the red zone.

With the season opener stills weeks away - Aug. 29 against Towson University - the Huskies have plenty of time to pound out the rough edges.

Weist is excited about the team's potential.

"I know this has been a winning program and I know where we're at, so that excites me," Weist said. "And when I got here I was even more impressed with the players that we have."

g.keefe@theday.com

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