UConn's Linebackers Tuned for Speed

STORRS – With the loss of middle linebacker Danny Lansanah the University of Connecticut football team decided it was time to remake the linebacker corps. Out is Lansanah, a fundamentally sound linebacker who was a force in stopping the running game. Who is in?

Former outside linebacker and sophomore Scott Lutrus and his 4.5 40 speed and 38 inch vertical jump. Then, strong safety Dahna Deleston was moved to Lutrus' position at Husky linebacker. Add that to the undersized yet fast Lawrence Wilson on the weakside and it's no secret what the Huskies are trying to do --- get speed on the field.

"You know what our league is about," UConn defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said. "With Pat White's (and other skill position threats) you have to be fast. It's just a different animal."

The Huskies defense was the bend but don't break variety in 2007 during its 9-4 campaign. UConn made a habit of not giving up touchdowns, but unfortunately for the unit broke down late in the season with blowout losses to Cincinnati and West Virginia and then a loss to Wake Forest in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

When the Huskies coaching staff looked at the defense they felt they needed to get much more speed on the field to compete.

Lutrus, a freshman All-America at outside linebacker last season, is now in the middle and the results have generally been positive according to Orlando. The biggest difference of course is speed and athleticism. Lansanah ran a 4.7 40 while Lutrus is in the 4.5 range. Deleston brings secondary speed to the position and is a slight upgrade speed-wise over Lutrus.

"(Speed) is critical, if you can upgrade to a 4.5 middle linebacker from a 4.7, we have upgraded a lot of positions," Orlando said. "Scott with 4.5 and 38 inch vertical, he is insane some of the stuff he can do athletically."

There won't be a drastic change in scheme next season, but the Huskies are going to be noticeably faster.

"We are predicated on speed and we want to simplify things," Orlando said. "When you upgrade the talent level you don't want to (give them complicated schemes) to slow them down."

Orlando is happy with Lutrus' performance while Deleston, a senior, has fit right in as the playmaking Husky linebacker.

The only position holdover in the unit is on the weakside where Wilson like Lutrus was a freshman All-America selection.

Wilson has the speed the Huskies crave and was extremely productive with 113 tackles. The key for him is getting bigger and stronger.

"Last year was such a learning experience, now I understand where I need to be," Wilson said. "I have to just get bigger and stronger. I am light and undersized for the position."

Wilson also has to learn to work with Lutrus as the captain of the defense. Lansanah was an institution in the middle its hard to think of life without him.

"It's kind of weird to not have him right next me," Wilson said. "Scott understands the position though. He spent time in the middle in our redshirt year."

Setting the scene

UConn coach Randy Edsall started to chide his injured wide receivers halfway through practice. With Brad Kanuh, Ellis Gaulden and D.J. Hernandez huddled in the corner talking it up Edsall turned and asked them to get to work.

"Don't over exert yourself there," Edsall yelled at the trio. "Would you like some crackers and cheese?"

Edsall also got on defensive end Julius Williams as he left for class.

"You come late and you leave early? I want that job," Edsall said.

Williams laughed.

"I'll make it up to you coach."

Double digit sacks next season would be a good start.

Practice Notes

Several Huskies sat out practice with injuries with Alex LaMagdelaine sporting a bulky knee brace on his right leg while Steve Brouse also missed practice and was wearing a sleeve on his left knee. Running back Andre Dixon also didn't participate but didn't seem injured.

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