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UConn 'O' puts faith in Weist

By Chuck Banning

Publication: The Day

Published 01/23/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 01/22/2013 11:52 PM

T.J. Weist, who played a major role in helping develop Cincinnati into one of the most prolific offensive teams in the Big East Conference, was named offensive coordinator at UConn on Tuesday.

Weist, the Bearcats' wide receivers coach since 2010, replaces George DeLeone, who remains on staff as associate head coach under head coach Paul Pasqualoni and will continue to work with the offensive line.

"I'm excited to be here because I'm excited to be a part of this coaching staff," Weist said during a conference call Tuesday night. "Coaching against UConn for the last three years, one thing I've noticed is that they've always been a tough football team and always a well disciplined and well coached team."

But the Huskies haven't been a very good offensive team, which led to the change.

Under DeLeone, UConn ranked last in the Big East in scoring (17.8 points), total offense (318.3 yards) and rushing offense (87.9).

Cincinnati, meanwhile, led the conference in scoring (32.3) and rushing (201.5) while ranking second in total offense (440.2).

And Weist got the chance to be offensive coordinator after head coach Butch Jones left for Tennessee, and the Bearcats put up 554 yards of offense in a 48-34 victory over Duke in the Belk Bowl.

Weist said it's difficult to set particular goals right now because he just started evaluating UConn's returning personnel, but he did share his philosophy.

"I believe that you win games running the football and throwing the football," he said. "I'm not going to characterize us as a run the football or throw the football team, but I want to be an aggressive play caller. I want to spread the field vertically and horizontally.

"Based on personnel, I want to be able to attack and have a physical offense with a balance to it. We can throw deep ... no question. We just need to get the ball to our playmakers. I think we're going to put our players in the best position to make plays."

UConn returns the bulk of its skill-position players, including quarterback Chandler Whitmer, tailback Lyle McCombs and the top two receivers - Geremy Davis and Shakim Phillips.

Weist said he's already had a chance to watch film of all 12 UConn games in 2012 and believes the Huskies have the talent to become a productive offensive time this fall.

"I was pleased at times at what I saw," he said. "I saw guys making plays and saw guys who were athletic. It's continuing drives ... that's what wins games. It comes down to guys making plays.

"I'm thrilled with what we have coming back. We need to take this class and improve on it and take the next class and see where they fit."

Weist, a wide receiver at Alabama from 1985-87, spent his first two seasons in coaching as a graduate assistant with the Tide under offensive coordinator Homer Smith.

"I walked into Bill Curry's offense and said I want to get into coaching," Weist said. "And he sent me down the hall to see Homer Smith. I had no idea who Homer Smith was, but it was the best six months of my coaching career. I learned an unbelievable amount of football."

His travels led him to Michigan (1990-93), Southern Illinois (1994-95), Tulsa (1996), Indiana (1997-2001) and Western Kentucky (2003-2009), where he was offensive coordinator for three seasons and assistant head coach for three more before joining Jones' staff at Cincinnati.

During Tuesday's conference call he made one guarantee (that was accompanied by a laugh): "We're not going to be a spread offense that slings the ball all over."

He did add, however, "to win a Big East championship you've got to have a balanced attack. What I can give is a fresh approach to the situation."

c.banning@theday.com

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