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UConn Huskies versus Boston College Eagles 2017 Offensive Breakdown

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Rhett Lashlee’s lone year at UConn saw marginal improvement on offfense

UConn Football Assistant Coaches John Woike/Tribune News Service via Getty Images via Getty Images

Sadly for Rhett Lashlee he was forced out of / decided to leave a good thing in Auburn as the “offensive coordinator” under Gus Malzahn, who wanted to return to calling plays. Lashlee wound up at UConn and as a guy from Springdale, Arkansas I can’t fathom how that went over. The 2017 Huskies offense would’ve been massively better than the game I found on YouTube, their 2017 contest against Boston College at Fenway Park, had the starting quarterback not been injured.

The Data

Bryant Shirreffs was completing 65.8% of his passes for 8.8 yards per attempt and a 14:5 TD:INT ratio. He also ran for 200 yards and NCAA stats include sack yardage. He was diagnosed with a head injury and the backup was forced into duty. David Pindell was the backup and he completed 52.8% of his passes for 5.9 yards per attempt and a 4:6 TD:INT ratio. 13-percent on completions and three yards per passing attempt is a massive drop off and it showed against the Eagles.

Even without his starting QB for the end of the season, Lashlee improved the O from 119 S&P+ to 105 and they continued improvement in 2018 to 99 after he left. This was the end of Shirreffs time at UConn but the drastic year one improvement was seen. Lashlee’s QB improved his completion percentage by seven percent and his yards per attempt by two yards.

Personnel groups and pictures

Lashlee had to adapt his offense to the personnel on campus. UConn had two viable tight end / h-back types and so against BC I saw a lot of 12 personnel packages and a rotation of the h-backs. Tyler Davis, who grad transferred to Georgia Tech for the 2019 season, was a converted QB to WR to TE and one of Lashlee’s H’s. He hauled in six touchdowns as a junior.

This gave Lashlee two h-backs to play with and we know Auburn liked their h-backs to be versatile so the tempo could stay high and the substitutions minimal. That’s why Lashlee would also have a wingback type who could be a slot receiver but also a running back if needed. This allowed Auburn and UConn to motion in and out of 20 personnel pictures.

Arkeel Newsome played the wingback role for Lashlee in 2017 running for almost four yards a carry while averaging an eye popping 21.6 yards per catch on 25 receptions. Hergy Mayala had his most explosive season under Lashlee averaging 14.3 yards per catch compared to nine yards per catch in 2018. Running back Kevin Mensha became a thousand yard rusher under Lashlee in 2017.

Lashlee lined up in a variety of formations, used motions and shifts, and more motions as a sleight of hand routine for smoke and mirrors misdirection and trick plays.

TEMPO!

In typical Rhett Lashlee fashion the tempo was high for UConn against Boston College. I mean, why not? The Eagles like to play a slow, grinding, smashmouth game with AJ Dillon so getting them off their state of normalcy, and how they practice, is a good gamesmanship move. It wasn’t quite the break-neck speed of SMU but it was still pretty quick and no huddle.

Will running a hurry up no huddle be possible without spring and summer workouts? I’m not entirely sure. I can tell you it doesn’t look good for college football in 2020 right now and whether they shorten the season and push it back or move it to spring remains to be seen.

Attacking Space

Mesh

This was against Tulsa and not BC but here’s Lashlee running an Air Raid staple in 92 or Mesh. You can see the receivers slap hands in the middle of the field as the QB reads post to mesh. The mesh receivers will pass each other at 3 and 4 yards in order to force inside linebackers to pick themselves and it gets one of the two open quite often as it does here.

Red zone

Something I really like about Lashlee at UConn was he wasn’t afraid to throw the ball in the red zone but he also wasn’t afraid to go back to his shotgun wing-t and singlewing style routes from Gus Malzahn and chop it up inside, either. TE inline, another winged h-back, a motioning wide receiver and a back ready to stick it up in the hole... that’s some Auburn-Malzahn stuff right there.

How this works at Miami

If you watch the starting quarterback, Shirreffs, play on highlights you would like the zip he has on throws and his overall athleticism at the Group of 5 level. Does Lashlee come out more Malzahn than Sonny Dykes? I’m not sure. I would imagine he just keeps evolving his offense and adapts to what Miami has. I said the same thing about Dan Enos but I think we all can see that he left Alabama because Nick Saban wanted him to run the Crimson Tide offense and not the Enos offense.

I would like to see D’Eriq King involved on some of these double reverse passes both as a receiver of one and as the guy throwing one from the slot. It will be fun to see Cam’Ron Harris used as both a runner and a receiver, too. Something Miami should’ve done much more with the multi-talented Deejay Dallas. Obviously if Lashlee likes h-backs Miami is loaded with H and Tight End type talent with Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory plus freshmen both redshirting and incoming.

Summary

As bad as UConn is you can see how much better they would’ve been with their starting quarterback. I think Lashlee’s coaching, game planning and play calling are obviously really damn solid that he gets results like this so quickly. Had Shirreffs finished the season I could see this being a different result both in offensive SP+ and in overall record. It’s hard to work with a QB that can’t complete passes and that throws ugly interceptions. Shane Buechele and Shirreffs took care of the football and that’s what any OC wants in his QB.