Edsall sees progress

Storrs — A couple of professional scouts watched UConn football practice on Tuesday.

They made some interesting observations to coach Randy Edsall about the team's progress this season, backing up what he already believed.

"They told me, 'Randy, we can see how much better you are since the beginning of the year. So many people just don't understand the process that you have to go through,' " Edsall said.

Edsall measures progress by more than just wins at this relatively early stage of his rebuilding project.

Heading into the regular season finale Sunday at Temple, the Huskies are only one overall win better than last season, standing at 2-9. They're still winless in the American Athletic Conference, dropping 18 straight in league play dating back to 2017.

But Edsall is encouraged by the improvement that he's seen both on an individual and team basis through the first 11 games.

"There's improvements in every area," Edsall said. "Is it where I want it to be? No. The good thing is we're trending in the right direction. We're trending upward, not downward. That's the whole key.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to continue that again this weekend."

Edsall gave a rundown of his team's improvements.

First, Edsall talked about the offense, pointing out the Huskies are better in the passing and running departments.

Freshman quarterback Jack Zergiotis is coming off his career best game, throwing for 418 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-24 loss to East Carolina on Saturday. He's just the sixth Husky quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards.

On one play, Zergiotis made an adjustment before the snap of the ball and connected with Cam Ross on a 94-yard touchdown pass.

"He just went out there and played," Edsall said. "When a bad play happened, he didn't let it faze him. He just moved on to the next one. I thought that was something that was really good for him."

Junior Kevin Mensah is on his way to a second straight 1,000-yard rushing season, needing just seven yards to join the club. Ross, a freshman receiver, is enjoying a terrific debut season, leading the team in receptions (55), receiving yards (696), touchdown catches (four) and receiving yards per game (69.6).

Defensively, the Huskies have given up fewer big plays than earlier this season and cut down on missed tackles, according to Edsall. They've also allowed fewer points than last season, 39.7 compared to 50.4 in 2018.

Young players like freshman linebacker Jackson Mitchell and redshirt sophomore defensive back Rob King have made an impact and gained valuable experience.

Communication is better on defense, according to junior linebacker Omar Fortt.

"We're more on the same page," Fortt said. "We spend more time (together) outside of the football facility so it brings us closer together. ... I think that's special to have with the defense, especially because you've got to hold it down when times are tough and you're going to play for your brother."

Special teams play has been steady, according to Edsall.

Plenty of encouraging signs across the board for the Huskies.

Mensah is optimistic about the future of the program.

''There's always room for improvement," Mensah said. "But definitely just going out there and seeing how the guys play, there's definitely progress. I'm excited for what I'm seeing throughout the whole team. If we can just build off that and continue to develop as players and individually, next year we'll be really fun to watch."

News and notes

• Edsall opened his weekly press conference Tuesday by apologizing for a failure to honor seniors that work behind the scenes before Saturday's regular season home finale. The game day administration dropped the ball, Edsall said.

"There was an error on the administrative side that didn't allow these young men and women to be recognized as seniors. These guys need to be recognized because it's embarrassing to me because they're part of our football family."

Edsall thanked the following seniors working in the video department, equipment room and sports medicine for their contributions: Jordan Burgess, Meg Garcia, Greg Lapeine, Chris Maddox, Carter Orce, Matt Ortiz, Sam Collins, Nick Lajara, Ricky Velasquez, Joe Vernieri, Christian Battey and Akash Kumar.

g.keefe@theday.com

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