STORRS, Conn. (AP) -Tyler Lorenzen came to Connecticut from a California junior college, via Iowa State, billed as the quarterback who could fix the Huskies' two-year problem at the most vital position.
His first day on the job didn't go well.
``That first day of spring practice, how many of you guys were thinking, 'Holy God, this guy is awful?''' Huskies coach Randy Edsall asked a room full of reporters Tuesday. ``Go ahead, raise your hands.''
If Lorenzen was in the room, he would have put his hand up.
``I felt lost,'' he said.
Fortunately for Edsall and No. 16 UConn, Lorenzen figured it out and for the first time since Dan Orlovsky left Storrs for the NFL after the 2004 season there is no doubt about the Huskies No. 1 quarterback.
Lorenzen has brought stability, leadership, charisma and his ``midwestern values'' to UConn, and has helped the Huskies become one of college football's biggest surprises.
Picked to finish seventh in the Big East, UConn (7-1, 3-0) is all alone in first heading into the final month of the season. The Huskies, who made the move up to Division I-A in 2002, entered the AP Top 25 for the first time this week after beating South Florida 22-15 on Saturday.
After going 4-8 last season, the Huskies have become conference title contenders on the strength of the second-best defense in the Big East, a strong running game, some good fortune - an illegal fair catch turned into a touchdown and helped them beat Louisville - and Lorenzen's steady play.
His numbers aren't flashy - 1,583 yards, nine touchdown passes and four interceptions - but compared to what UConn has had from its quarterbacks the past two seasons he might as well be Matt Ryan.
After Orlovsky and his NFL-caliber arm left UConn, the Huskies couldn't find a decent replacement. Aside from leaving the team with a one-dimensional offense, the rotating quarterback situation had the entire team unsettled.
``The quarterback is the most important position on offense, if not on the football team,'' defensive end Dan Davis said. ``He's the general. If your general is not stable, you're not going to have much success.''
Lorenzen always knew he could be that type of general at a big-time college, even if others didn't. The Fremont, Iowa, native signed with Iowa State but the staff there had him switch positions.
``I knew I could play (quarterback) at Iowa State,'' he said. ``I didn't enjoy football the way I did when I played quarterback.''
So it was off to Palomar Community College in San Marcos, Calif. Not many guys willingly leave big-time college football to play at a junior college, but Lorenzen figured it was worth the risk.
``At least I wouldn't have to live with the what ifs,'' he said.
Playing in an offense that allowed him to display his talents, he had a big 2006 season, throwing for 2,960 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Something else caught Edsall's attention.
``His presence. His demeanor,'' he said. ``I knew he had certain qualities in terms of those intangible things you want in a quarterback.''
Edsall said the Huskies were immediately drawn to the affable and polite Lorenzen, who has suggested the people who work in the Huskies dining hall should wear name tags so the players could get to know them and thank them properly.
Lorenzen even won over the guy whose job he took.
D.J. Hernandez was one of the quarterbacks who had little success trying to replace Orlovsky. When Lorenzen arrived, Edsall moved Hernandez to receiver. Lorenzen and Hernandez immediately bonded and Hernandez is now the team's second-leading receiver with 24 catches for 336 yards.
``He's just got something special,'' Hernandez said of his quarterback.
All Lorenzen needed was a chance to show it.
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