David Pindell likes wearing bracelets. The UConn football teamâs 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 Pindellâs left forearm will be missing something this year that he sported for nearly all of the Huskiesâ2017 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.
âEverything comes more natural now,â 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.
âI know he feels very comfortable with what weâre doing offensively,â Edsall said. âIâm excited to watch him perform this year.â
Yes, the Huskies have switched offensive coordinators and playbooks yet again in the offseason, but Pindellâs increased familiarity with the Huskiesâ 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.
âWe have a real good relationship, like friends, âPindell said Dunn and him. âWe talk a lot. We donât have a problem just talking, real comfortable about anything. Heâs a cool dude.â
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 Huskiesâ 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.
âI definitely know I wasnât at my best last year. I wasnât really sure about everything offensively. I wasnât too comfortable with everything. I was only in camp for a month and had to learn the system,â 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.
âI definitely got an understanding of what the concept is and what heâs 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,â Pindell said.
The Huskies wonât 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 wonât drastically change, most insist.
âA lot of times itâs not the plays but how we teach them in terms of how to read it,â Dunn said. âA lot of that might not be the scheme but how he read things out. Take the gray out. Thereâs no âifâ and âthen.â Itâs more âA, B, C.ââ
Thatâs apparently what Pindell is used to.
âItâs very similar to what David did at the junior college level, âEdsall said. âI 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.â
And if there are any issues with what plays are called, at least during game planning, Pindell apparently has Dunnâs permission to voice his displeasure or make suggestions.
The bracelets remain but apparently the shackles are off Pindell.
âWeâre teachers. You have to let me know if you donât understand something, âDunn said. âOr maybe you learn it better this way. And if you donât like something, tell me. Donât hide it.â
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 wonât exactly be running the option on every play, but Pindellâs feet are weapons that the Huskies canât keep on the shelf permanently.
âWe have to allow David to use his creativity, âEdsall said. âHeâs capable of making something out of nothing. Heâs got good feet, good escapability. We donât 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.â
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 Pindellâs 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.
âYou want him to be him, but you want him to communicate a little bit more, âEdsall said. âHeâs never going to be the rah-rah guy.â
Not that Pindell has to scream at his teammates to prove his worth.
âHeâs earned the respect of his teammates because of how hard he works and the time he puts in,â 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, arenât eager to go through another season as an also-ran.
Pindellâs 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.
âIâve been around long enough. I can see the signs. Does that mean weâre going to go undefeated? No, âEdsall said. âBut at least you feel good because you see exactly whatâs taking place and you know itâs going in the direction it needs to go.â