Attack mode: UConn's Giufre adjusts to role as offensive coordinator

Frank Giufre was recently asked if he's enjoying his first job as an offensive coordinator.

"How much gray hair do I have now?" Giufre responded.

A productive offensive start to the UConn football season would certainly help slow any aging process brought on by job-related stress.

It's way too early for Giufre to start turning gray.

Armed with youthful enthusiasm and a wealth of football experience, Giufre, promoted from offensive line coach to coordinator in February, is embracing his new assignment.

"It's been good," Giufre said earlier this week. "I've enjoyed it. For me, it's just trying to get these players and trying to help these guys get to a place that they can't get to on their own. To me that's what coaching is and that's why you get up in the morning and that's why you come to work and that's why we do what we do.

"I've enjoyed it. Really good guys in that offensive room. Really, really good coaches, better men. They're fired up. I wouldn't be able to do this job without them."

Giufre has just under a week to finish preparing the offensive unit for the season opener next Thursday against Wagner at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

The Huskies will be operating an attack that features a new quarterback in transfer Mike Beaudry and a rebuilt receiving corps along with a veteran offensive line and a solid stable of running backs that includes junior Kevin Mensah who rushed for 1,045 yards and six touchdowns last season.

Mensah worked hard in the offseason, adding strength, speed and muscle.

"I like the guys in that room," Giufre said of the running backs. "We've got guys who we can rotate in to try to keep certain guys healthy. We have to be able to run the football. We're not going to line up and run the wing-T. But we've got to run the ball."

The offense isn't the only thing in a state of transition.

Giufre is still adjusting to his new coaching position. His previous experience — 11 seasons in college, six in the professional ranks — is primarily working with the offensive line.

He spent six seasons as offensive quality control coach for the Indianapolis Colts before joining Randy Edsall's staff as offensive line coach in 2018. He is the Huskies' third offensive coordinator in three seasons.

He's kept his sense of humor, joking that one of the most challenging aspects of his job is learning the receivers' names. He can't just call them out by number or "bust their chops anymore."

Giufre says he's learning to focus on the entire offense instead of just the offensive line play.

"For me it's been 19 years of at the snap of the ball your eyes go right to the offensive line and run game. And when you're throwing the ball, your eyes go right to where the protection has got to go.

"Now it's expand your vision. It's something for me that I have to work on on a daily basis where I'm putting my eyes because I'm so keen on right to the offensive line, right to the offensive line, right to the offensive line. It's a hard habit to break.

"It's like brushing your teeth with your right hand and then something happens and you've got to do everything left-handed. So we're getting better."

While the defense is expected to be improved from last season's failures, the pressure will remain on offense to generate enough points to keep the Huskies competitive. Last year, they averaged 22.2 points per game but allowed a record-worst 50.4 during a 1-11 season.

Giufre, an offensive lineman at Syracuse during his playing days, has been around far too long to worry about fans and media second-guessing his play-calling. He's learned to have skin like an armadillo.

He draws inspiration from Bruce Arians, now the Tampa Bay head coach. They were on the same coaching staff in Indianapolis.

"Guys that I've been around, one of the best quotes is, 'No risk it, no biscuit,' from Bruce Arians.  And that's on the top of the call sheet.

"I'm not going to change, we're not going to change who we are and what we believe in. If somebody thinks they can do a better job, I don't critique guys when they're at their jobs. They're more than welcome to come in here and grind the 16-18 hours a day that we do and see if they can last."

"When we walk into the building and when we're at practice, our blinders are on. It's laser focus."

The UConn offense will be a work in progress.

Giufre's goal is to take steps forward every day and become more consistent in every phase of the game.

"We're not going to be satisfied," Giufre said. "We're going to continue to work each and every week. I preach to the offense we want to try to get one to two percent better after each practice and each meeting. And that's what we're going to try to do."

g.keefe@theday.com

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