First-year University of Connecticut Head Football Coach and Cheshire native Paul Pasqualoni was the guest speaker in front of a full house Thursday at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Cromwell.
The crowd gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel to listen to Pasqualoni, head coach at Syracuse for 14 seasons during the program’s last period of sustained success, discuss his joy over taking the head job in Storrs and his high expectations for UConn in 2011 and beyond.
"It is such a great honor to be UConn’s head coach," Pasqualoni said. "I can’t tell you what this responsibility means and what being here today means. Football in the Northeast is the best. Connecticut really does have big-time football.”
Pasqualoni was introduced by Michael Casparino, president of the northern Connecticut branch of People’s United Branch and former standout kicker at UConn.
Casparino said he would bring an “outstanding history, passion and integrity to UConn,” and he was the head coach the program needed.
After a few self-deprecating remarks to open his speech, Pasqualoni begin to talk about one of his major discussion points: how proud he is of fan support of UConn football throughout Connecticut, and how excited it has made him about his job.
Pasqualoni hammered this point repeatedly. “The support for the program and our players is overwhelming. The fans and coaches in Connecticut are very special.”
Pasqualoni’s excitement was obvious when praising the university’s pep band, saying that “their pride and passion is unbelievable.”
While the veteran head coach wisely did not offer any predictions for the upcoming season, he displayed cautious optimism about the Huskies, who were picked to finish sixth out of eight teams in the Big East preseason poll on both sides of the ball.
He admitted the team has not decided who will be the starting quarterback going into the season, arguing the three quarterbacks contending for the spot — Michael Box, Blaise Driscoll and Johnny McEntee — are all skilled in different aspects of the position.
Pasqualoni similarly stated that UConn did not have as much talent at tailback or the receiver positions as it has in the past, but said that the young players there were making good progress.
Much of the success on offense would come down to the work of the offensive line, Pasqualoni said, and that he trusted his players there and believed the line could improve even more. He cited Mike Ryan, Kevin Friend and Steven Greene as three players whose work there had been outstanding.
Even though the coach made it clear his offense would be inexperienced, he also made it clear it could be exciting. Pasqualoni announced that the team would “have the entire playbook in on offense” and that there will be a package for each quarterback.
Though Pasqualoni spent much less time discussing the Huskies defense, it was obvious that he expects it to be a strong one. He praised a number of defensive players, including tackle Kendell Reyes and end Trevardo Williams, for their ability and said that they should have big seasons.
The UConn coach said believed the latter would be good due to his experience. He promised his defense would pressure frequently and hoped it would be successful making big plays.
The speech followed two distinct threads — his excitement over the support for the Huskies and his expectations for 2011. Ultimately, however, Pasqualoni could not help but keep coming back to how happy he was over being the head coach at UConn, and how much he appreciated the fan’s support.
UConn begins its season Sept. 1 against Fordham at Rentschler Field. The game begins at 7 p.m.
The Middlesex Chamber of Commerce next breakfast meeting is Sept. 19 at the Crown Plaza with guest speaker U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney, D-2nd.