UConn quarterback Pindell has new level of confidence after working with new offensive coordinator

Published on Wednesday, 29 August 2018 19:00
Written by Neill Ostrout

Journal Inquirer

David Pindell likes wearing bracelets. The UConn football team’s quarterback has five of the popular plastic bands on his left wrist and four more on his right, ornaments that he insists that are never taken off.

But Pindell’s left forearm will be missing something this year that he sported for nearly all of the Huskies’2017 football season, his first in major college football: an arm band with a list of offensive plays.

The senior from Columbia, Maryland, is, according to nearly all accounts, quite a bit more confident as he begins his second and final season with the Huskies.

“Everything comes more natural now,” is how Pindell puts it.

Head coach Randy Edsall, who recruited Pindell from Lackawanna Junior College in Scranton, Pennsylvania last summer and named him the starter in Week 1 a year ago, sees a difference in his quarterback this season.

“I know he feels very comfortable with what we’re doing offensively,” Edsall said. “I’m excited to watch him perform this year.”

Yes, the Huskies have switched offensive coordinators and playbooks yet again in the offseason, but Pindell’s increased familiarity with the Huskies’ overall approach, their personnel, and his growth as a player should translate to a better performance on the field.

Besides, Pindell has bonded with new offensive coordinator John Dunn in a way he never did with his predecessor, Rhett Lashlee.

“We have a real good relationship, like friends, “Pindell said Dunn and him. “We talk a lot. We don’t have a problem just talking, real comfortable about anything. He’s a cool dude.”

Pindell started the opener as well as the final three games of the season, and played in seven games total. Bryant Shirreffs was essentially the Huskies’ No. 1 all season before injuries ended his college career, but Pindell at a minimum gained valuable experience.

He finished the 2017 season 84-of-159 for 937 yards, with four touchdowns and six interceptions. Pindell added 289 yards rushing and three more scores.

“I definitely know I wasn’t at my best last year. I wasn’t really sure about everything offensively. I wasn’t too comfortable with everything. I was only in camp for a month and had to learn the system,” Pindell said.

That comfort level shifted in the offseason, it seems, especially with the addition of Dunn, who spent the last two seasons as an offensive assistant with the Chicago Bears.

“I definitely got an understanding of what the concept is and what he’s trying to do. And a lot of the stuff we did at my last school, my junior college, is similar to what he (Dunn) does, just a little bit more wordy here,” Pindell said.

The Huskies won’t play as fast as they did last season. There will be some up-tempo play, but there will also be-gasp!-huddles before plays. But the basic structure of the offense won’t drastically change, most insist.

“A lot of times it’s not the plays but how we teach them in terms of how to read it,” Dunn said. “A lot of that might not be the scheme but how he read things out. Take the gray out. There’s no ‘if’ and ‘then.’ It’s more ‘A, B, C.’”

That’s apparently what Pindell is used to.

“It’s very similar to what David did at the junior college level, “Edsall said. “I think they have a really good relationship in terms of understanding things. David knows exactly what the coach expects out of him, what he wants done, and what he has to do within our offense.”

And if there are any issues with what plays are called, at least during game planning, Pindell apparently has Dunn’s permission to voice his displeasure or make suggestions.

The bracelets remain but apparently the shackles are off Pindell.

“We’re teachers. You have to let me know if you don’t understand something, “Dunn said. “Or maybe you learn it better this way. And if you don’t like something, tell me. Don’t hide it.”

While he has shown much-improved touch, especially on long passes, during training camp this month, Pindell also has permission to escape the pocket when needed.

UConn won’t exactly be running the option on every play, but Pindell’s feet are weapons that the Huskies can’t keep on the shelf permanently.

“We have to allow David to use his creativity, “Edsall said. “He’s capable of making something out of nothing. He’s got good feet, good escapability. We don’t want to run him 20 times a game or anything like that, but there are times when he can do things with his feet that put more pressure on the defense.”

As well as he can run, however, Edsall believes Pindell has what it takes to run a full complement of offensive actions.

Edsall actually had few issues with Pindell’s physical ability last season.

He did, however, hope that his quarterback would develop a few more leadership skills as time progressed. And Pindell, despite his rather quiet, reserved nature, obliged.

“You want him to be him, but you want him to communicate a little bit more, “Edsall said. “He’s never going to be the rah-rah guy.”

Not that Pindell has to scream at his teammates to prove his worth.

“He’s earned the respect of his teammates because of how hard he works and the time he puts in,” Edsall said.

Pindell and the rest of the Huskies will be looking to earn more than respect when they open the season Thursday against Central Florida.

The self-proclaimed defending national champions will come to Pratt & Whitney Stadium with a No. 21 national ranking and a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in McKenzie Milton.

The Huskies, having been through consecutive 3-9 seasons, aren’t eager to go through another season as an also-ran.

Pindell’s improvement, its plethora of returning offensive starters, as well as some bright spots from newcomers on defense, has given UConn confidence it can compete in Week 1 and beyond.

Edsall says the Huskies are clearly improved, though he stops short of predicting a dramatic increase in victories.

“I’ve been around long enough. I can see the signs. Does that mean we’re going to go undefeated? No, “Edsall said. “But at least you feel good because you see exactly what’s taking place and you know it’s going in the direction it needs to go.”

Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Wednesday, 29 August 2018 19:00. Updated: Wednesday, 29 August 2018 19:03.