Storrs — Turnover trouble significantly contributed to UConn's woes last season.
The Huskies committed at least two turnovers in six of their seven losses on the way to a disappointing 5-7 season.
They finished with 26 turnovers (18 interceptions, eight fumbles) overall and a dreadful turnover ratio of minus-14.
"I'm not comfortable where we ended last year with the turnover game," coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "When you're turning the ball over, I don't care who you are, it's very, very hard to win."
Throughout the preseason, Pasqualoni has stressed the importance limiting mistakes. It's no secret that taking care of the football is at or near the top of every football coach's priority list.
The Huskies will start with a clean slate against Towson University on Thursday night (7:30, no TV) in the season opener at Rentschler Field.
"That's something we've talked a great deal about," Pasqualoni said. "I'm hopeful that the personality and identity of this team is going to be one where we respect the ball and take care of the football. … That's going to be something that we have to do."
Starting quarterback Chandler Whitmer, who threw 16 interceptions and nine touchdowns last season, plans to do his part to keep team turnover total down. He's focusing on making smart decisions.
As a team, he's seen improvement in that area during preseason.
"Ball security is key on offense," Whitmer said. "When you get possessions, you've got to take advantage of them. … We're taking care of the ball. We're making better reads and checking it down.
"Once we get in game situations, we'll know more. We'll just try to execute what we've learned in the off-season."
Head coach Rob Ambrose, who's in his fourth season at Towson, served as an assistant for seven seasons at UConn, first as quarterback coach (2002-05) and then offensive coordinator (2006-08). He worked with future pros Dan Orlovsky and Donald Brown.
As head coach at his alma mater, he's turned around the Towson program, going from 3-19 his first two seasons to 16-7 his last two years. The Tigers earned their first Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth in 2011 and shared the Colonial Athletic Association title in 2012.
"They had an outstanding team," Pasqualoni said. "He wants to run the ball and wants to play really physical football. He kind of established that here with UConn and the offense here. But at the same time, the comparison to those years, they throw the ball much more now.
" … Coach Ambrose has done an excellent job of adding so much pass offense to his approach to offense. He's always been a great run guy and tough guy. Now they're doing an excellent job of spreading you out and throwing the ball."
Cochran climbs ladder
Redshirt freshman Casey Cochran, who had his share of glory days at New London and Masuk, has earned the backup quarterback job.
"Casey really picked it up in preseason," Pasqualoni said. "He worked hard to come back, lost some weight and got in pretty good shape. He's fought his way right to where he is right now.
"I'm happy with the progress that he's made. He understands there's competition every day. … If something happens and he's got to go in, he's got to be ready to go."
Cochran received all-state honors at Masuk, guiding his team to the 2010 Class L title, and led New London to the Class SS state crown in 2008. He is the state high school career record holder for completions and passing yards.
Almost healthy Huskies
The Huskies are fairly healthy heading into the season opener. Only true freshman linebacker Junior Joseph and redshirt sophomore safety Andrew Adams are expected to miss Thursday's game.
While sidelined, Adams, who's recovering from shoulder surgery, has played a valuable supporting role helping redshirt freshman Obi Melifonwu, who will start at the safety position.
"Obi has stepped up and taken some ownership of the position since Andrew went down," Pasqualoni said.
News and notes
Offensive guard Steve Greene, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen and linebacker Yawin Smallwood, all redshirt juniors, have been voted team captains. … Senior wide receiver/punt returner Leon Kinnard played one season at UConn before transferring to Towson. In 2010, he appeared in nine games for the Huskies, rushing for 18 yards on four carries and completing a pass for three years. "He's a very, very good athlete," Pasqualoni said. "He's very good in the slot."