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Weist, Huskies are moving forward

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published October 05. 2013 4:00AM

Don't expect drastic changes now that interim head coach T.J. Weist is in charge.

But it's only logical that Weist will make some moves to try to turn around UConn's sinking football season after a dismal 0-4 start.

In his first week on the job after replacing fired coach Paul Pasqualoni, Weist already has started tinkering with the team.

"We understand that you don't go 0-4 and don't make some of the mistakes we made and not change," the interim coach said Friday during a conference call. "We're not going to wholesale change everything. I'm not going to announce that we're going to become something different. What I want to see is changes in execution. I want to see changes in energy and effort, and playmaking."

Weist, with UConn in the midst of a bye week, has extra time to prepare the Huskies for their American Athletic Conference opener against South Florida on Oct. 12 at Rentschler Field (noon, SNY). He's been happy with the way the team has responded during a tumultuous time.

He recently met with some veterans and team captains to get their input about what could be done to help with the transition.

The overall theme is that the Huskies are starting over.

"Every day is a special day for us," Weist said. "We've talked to our players about that, about the opportunity that we have here, starting over. Our players have responded well. We've had three spirited practices. There's nothing magic about it, just getting back to work, refocused on one purpose of this team coming together as a team to win football games."

The biggest personnel change was announced earlier this week when Weist replaced mistake-prone junior quarterback Chandler Whitmer, who had six interceptions and five touchdowns in four games, with true freshman Tim Boyle.

Boyle was a first-team all-state pick at Xavier, passing for nearly 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior while leading Xavier to the Class LL state title.

"He's done a good job," Weist said. "He's shown good maturity in handling the offense. Every day he gets better. And every day he's going to have to improve until we get to game time and find out how much pressure he can handle and instinctively how he can lead this team and drive us down the field and keep drives alive and make smarts decisions."

While Weist added that he'll be patient with his young quarterback, whether Boyle keeps the starting job will come down to performance and winning.

"We're going to give him time," Weist said. "But we have to win. For us, it's a time to win. It's not a time just to play."

Finding a reliable quarterback is just one step needed to fix an anemic offense that has averaged just 18 points and 45.8 rushing yards per game.

UConn's offensive line has been a major disappointment, but Weist doesn't expect changes to the starting lineup.

The return of a healthy right tackle Kevin Friend (ankle) should provide a boost.

"They all play better when Kevin is back," Weist said.

Serving as the offensive coordinator the first four games, Weist is more familiar with the offense. He's focusing on studying the defense and will continue to lean on defensive coordinator Hank Hughes.

"It's my role as a head coach to know the whole team," said Weist, who will still call the plays.

g.keefe@theday.com

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