Building The Pipeline - UCONN
The University of Connecticut Huskies football team had a tough year in 2019, finishing 2-10. Despite the unsatisfying campaign, the Huskies will attempt to turn it around in 2020. UConn features a total of 8 Canadians on their roster heading into this season who are all looking to contribute to a better season. Among the 8 Canadians, UConn features 2 Canadians who had standout years in 2019: Freshman QB Jack Zergiotis and Sophomore defensive lineman Lwal Uguak. In 2020, they will hopefully be surrounded by other Canadian starters.
Jack Zergiotis, the Montreal native, played in 10 games last season. The freshman quarterback threw for 1782 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2019. He came out swinging and surprised many people with his arm strength and natural ability to fit the ball in tight windows. Zergiotis made a splash in his first game when UConn ultimately lost a close game against Illinois. Building on his impressive season, Zergiotis’ best game came in the second to last week of the season against Eastern Carolina where he threw for 418 yards, including a 94-yard TD. Zergiotis turned a lot of heads in 2019 and he’s looking forward to an even better 2020: “My expectations in 2020 are to lead this team to a bowl victory. We’ve improved and I’m excited to take the next step this season.” Zergiotis added that he loves having other Canadians on the team: “I think it’s great having other Canadians on the roster. It’s hard being so far away from your family, but having other Canadian guys around gives you a sense of home.”
UConn has several other Canadians on the offensive side of the ball who will try to make an impact in 2020.
Kevens Clercius is one of them. The Montreal native wide receiver redshirted in 2019, allowing him to adjust to the American game. Clercius was a standout receiver for College Montmorency in Quebec. His speed and crisp route-running allows him to gain separation, which he uses to his advantage. Clercius has been training with Zergiotis this offseason and improving their chemistry, which will undoubtedly translate to the field in 2020. Although the Huskies were the only offer Clercius received, he’ll be looking forward to proving to every other team that he belongs in the NCAA.
Russell Dixon is another Canadian asset that UConn has on offense. The Edmonton native played wide receiver in high school but is a versatile pass-catcher that can be used at any position on the field. Listed as a tight end, Dixon’s 6’2” frame makes him a weapon that the Huskies can move inside or outside. His route-running is deceptively good and paired with his solid hands, Dixon can earn himself a starting job in 2020.
The Huskies also added a Canadian OL in their class of 2020 when Christopher Fortin, Beauce, QC native, committed earlier this year. UConn’s offensive line struggled last season and, to make matters worse, lost their star right tackle to the NFL. Adding the 6’4”, 273-pound lineman will undoubtedly solve some issues for the offense in 2020.
Last but certainly not least, UConn added quarterback Jonathan Senecal from College Andre-Grasset in Montreal. The 6-foot QB has demonstrated an ability to dominate at the highest level of competition in Quebec, throwing for nearly 6000 yards and 59 touchdowns (a division 1 record) in his CEGEP career. Senecal’s 2019 season was cut short when he tore his ACL in week one. He enrolled at UConn in January, and in hopes of a speedy recovery, will be ready to go for training camp in August. Senecal chose the Huskies over Syracuse and will be leaning on the rest of the Canadians on the roster, but notably the fellow-Montreal QB Zergiotis.
On the defensive side of the ball, UConn has 3 Canadians that will try and improve their unit in 2020.
In 2019, Lwal Uguak did just that. The Edmonton native defensive lineman stands at 6’5”, 270 pounds. That alone is intimidating, but his impact on the field makes him even more threatening. In 2019, Uguak was a rare bright spot for the Huskies on defense. He finished the season with 4 sacks and 19 tackles. With many players opting to leave UConn, including starters, Uguak will assume a much bigger role – both on and off the field. Uguak, who is now a junior, will be a leader and take the fellow-Canadians under his wing.
Terrence Ganyi is yet another Canadian that will step into a bigger role on UConn’s defense in 2020. The linebacker from Montreal was a difference maker at Dalbe-Viau high school. Ganyi fits the mold of the trending hybrid linebacker that has become popular over the last few years. At 6’2”, 211 pounds, Ganyi is a sideline-to-sideline backer that has showed the ability stop the run and tackle, but further, drop and play the pass. Ganyi played in 11 games in 2019 and finished with 13 tackles, including 5 tackles at Indiana. The linebacker will be taking on a much larger role in 2020 and is aiming for a starting spot. Ganyi and Uguak on the same unit will be trouble for opposing offenses in 2020.
The Huskies also added a defensive end from Toronto in 2020. Carter Hooper, the 6’5”, 230-pound defensive end will attempt to make an immediate impact for UConn in 2020. Hooper played for IMG Academy in Florida, one of the most well-known high schools in the US for football, in 2019. He had 32 tackles in 12 games last season, an impressive stat for a defensive lineman. He has a combination of pass-rushing and run-stopping talent that will continue to develop at UConn, especially learning from fellow-Canadian Uguak.
It goes without saying, but the Huskies need to move on from 2019. The 8 Canadians on this roster will try and turn things around for their team in 2020 and continue to represent Canada at the highest level.