Although much of the focus during the UConn football team‚Äôs offseason and preseason has been on the team‚Äôs new defensive coordinator - and rightfully so, given the task Lou Spanos is facing - the Huskies actually had two coordinators making their debuts Thursday night when they opened the 2019 season against Wagner.
Frank Giufre was promoted to offensive coordinator by head coach Randy Edsall following John Dunn‚Äôs departure for the NFL‚Äôs New York Jets in February. It‚Äôs Giufre‚Äôs first venture at any level in the role, and he called plays for the first time in his career last tonight at Pratt & Whitney Stadium.
So how has his first foray in the job been?
‚ÄúHow much gray hair do I have now?‚ÄĚ the quick-witted Giufre replied.
A Syracuse graduate who had long stints as an assistant with the NFL‚Äôs Indianapolis Colts and the University of Maine before arriving at UConn last season to coach the Huskies‚Äô offensive line, Giufre swears he‚Äôs having fun leading the entire offense.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been good. I‚Äôve enjoyed it,‚ÄĚ Giufre said. ‚ÄúFor me, it‚Äôs just trying to get these guys to a place they can‚Äôt get to on their own. To me, that‚Äôs what coaching is.‚ÄĚ
The other members of the staff on his side of the ball and a good group of players have eased the transition, Giufre says.
‚ÄúVery good guys in that offensive room,‚ÄĚ Giufre said. ‚ÄúAnd really good coaches who are better men.‚ÄĚ
The biggest difficulty has been immersing himself fully in the roster.
‚ÄúLearning the receivers names,‚ÄĚ Giufre says with a laugh. ‚ÄúBefore it was just ‚ÄėHey 82!‚Äô or ‚ÄėHey 84!‚Äô Now it‚Äôs ‚ÄėOK, Mason‚Äô and ‚ÄėOK, Elijah.‚Äô I can‚Äôt give them nicknames or bust their chops anymore.‚ÄĚ
The position Giufre has taken over has been one of instability for the Huskies. The coaching profession, be it head coaches or assistants, is full of movement but Giufre is the fifth offensive coordinator the Huskies have employed in the last four years.
Dunn directed the Husky offense in 2018, Rhett Lashlee in 2017, and both Frank Verducci and David Corley spent time in the role during 2016.
It‚Äôs difficult to get a handle on what style of attack Giufre will employ, in part because it‚Äôs his first time in the role. But he says he has a phrase written at the top of his call sheet that he borrowed from Bruice Arians, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‚Äô head coach who worked with Giufre when the two were with the Colts.
‚ÄúNo risk it, no biscuit,‚ÄĚ Giufre said, seemingly indicating that a conservative approach is not in the cards.
Although most offensive coordinators work from the press box on gamedays, Giufre says he‚Äôll be on the sidelines tonight and throughout the season. He spent nearly his entire career as an offensive line coach and is used to being in the thick of the action.
His former allegiance to the line has caused Giufre a few hiccups during his preparation, however. He admits he has to ‚Äúexpand his vision‚ÄĚ when watching plays and games these days.
‚ÄúFor me it‚Äôs been 19 years of, at the snap of the ball your eyes go right to the offensive line,‚ÄĚ Giufre said, equating it to a right-handed person trying to suddenly be forced to brush his or her teeth with the left hand.
There is a sense among the players, on offense and defense, that things could be different this season.
‚ÄúI think people are driven. They work hard and they‚Äôre driven,‚ÄĚ quarterback Mike Beaudry said. ‚ÄúI wasn‚Äôt with them here last year but you can kind of get that feel that nobody wants it to be the same.‚ÄĚ
Playing for Giufre will be fun, Beaudry says, but more than anything else he‚Äôs just glad to be playing against someone else tonight for the first time in 2019.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm kind of sick of seeing the same dudes on the other side of the ball,‚ÄĚ Beaudry said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôll be cool to see a different color jersey.‚ÄĚ