EAST HARTFORD, CT – NOVEMBER 3: Coach Randy Edsall of the University of Connecticut Huskies watches the action against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Rentschler Field November 3, 2007 in East Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

After a disastrous 2016 campaign, UConn fired Bob Diaco, and brought back Randy Edsall to lead the football program. His return gave the Huskies fan base hope that the team will get back to where it was between 2007 and 2010, when it won eight games or more every season.

But will it happen this year?

Despite what many experts are saying, it seems possible that Edsall will turn things around this season.

Let’s not forget what Edsall did during his first stint at UConn. Just two years after the program moved to the FBS level, he led the Huskies to a 6-6 record, highlighted by road wins over Navy and Iowa State. UConn followed that up by going 9-3 and 8-4 the next two seasons. After finishing with a losing record in 2005 and 2006, the Huskies won eight or more games in each of the next four years, including a trip to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010.

In other words, Edsall has already rebuilt this program once before. And he did so with a lot less talent that what he inherits this season.

Don’t let last year’s poor defensive numbers fool you. UConn has a ton of talent coming back on defense, including Jamar Summers (11 career INT), Luke Carrezola (11 TFL), Cole Ormsby (8.5 TFL, 4 sacks), and Vontae Diggs (84 tackles, 8 TFL).

The defense will also get a huge boost from new coordinator Billy Crocker. During his time at Villanova, Crocker turned the Wildcats into one of the stingiest defenses at the FCS level. He inherited a squad that allowed 30.6 points per game, and turned it into a perennial top 25 unit.

Under his leadership, Villanova never finished lower than 29th in points per game, and never allowed more than 22.3 points per game. More impressively, his defense led the nation in both scoring defense and total defense, and held Pittsburgh – the same team that beat top five opponents Clemson and Penn State – to a season-low 261 yards.

It’s hard to argue with those results.

Of course, Crocker wasn’t the only outstanding hire that Edsall made in the offseason. He was also able to lure Rhett Lashlee away from Auburn to run the offense. A former quarterback and coordinator under offensive guru Gus Malzahn, Lashlee knows all of the intricacies of the spread, up-tempo attack. Although he wasn’t able to install the entire scheme during spring practice, the final scrimmage left no doubt that the offense will be much better this fall than it was last year. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs was especially sharp, completing 19-of-33 passes for 310 yards.

At this point, the skeptics will argue that even though Lashlee’s offenses have been successful, there’s no way he can repeat that success at UConn. As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” After all, in his first season at Auburn, Lashlee inherited a 3-9 squad that ranked 118th in total offense and 114th in scoring offense. Under his guidance, the Tigers finished 11th nationally in total offense and ultimately reached the BCS Championship game.

Does that mean the same thing will happen in Storrs this fall?

Probably not.

However, it strongly suggests that the offense will be considerably better than it was last year. That ought to be enough to win some of the close ball games that the team couldn’t win under Diaco (8 losses by 8 points or less).

Adding all of these factors together, it’s easy to see why UConn might be the most pleasant surprise in college football this year. Randy Edsall has already turned the program into a consistent winner once before, and started his second stint by hiring two solid coordinators. He might not win the AAC this fall, but the team will be noticeably better, and will earn bowl bid in 2017.

About Terry P. Johnson

Terry Johnson is the Associate Editor for The Student Section. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.