The only thing more surprising than Rhett Lashleeâ€™s arrival with the UConn football team was his departure.
Lashleeâ€™s tenure as the UConnâ€™s offensive coordinator, which began when he unexpectedly left Auburn to come to Storrs, lasted only one season. The Huskies announced Thursday that he was leaving to take the same position at fellow American Athletic Conference member SMU.
â€śI really appreciate Rhettâ€™s contribution to our program this year and want to wish Rhett and his family well with his new opportunity at SMU,â€ť UConn head coach Randy Edsall said in a statement released by the school.
Lashlee took a pay cut of more than $200,000 when he left the Tigers prior to last season in order to join Edsall as the latter began his second stint with the Huskies. The 34-year-old Lashlee was, at the time, seen as being eager to guide his own offense without the influence of his mentor, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.
In a statement released Thursday, Lashlee insisted he was taking a job with in Dallas to be closer to his Arkansas roots.
â€śMy family and I canâ€™t thank Husky Nation enough for an incredible experience this past season,â€ť Lashlee said. â€śI want to personally thank (UConn athletic director) David Benedict, Beth Goetz (the chief operating officer in the UConn athletic department) and Coach Edsall for the opportunity to be a part of this great program. The players, coaches and staff were tremendous and I will always be grateful for my time at UConn.
â€śAt the end of the day, the draw to be closer to home for (my wife) Lauren and I (with four young kids) was something we could not pass up at this time. There is no doubt in my mind the UConn program is moving in a great direction under Coach Edsallâ€™s leadership. The future in Storrs is definitely bright.â€ť
Although he professed to be eager to return home, Lashlee also interviewed for an assistant coaching job at Rutgers recently, according to multiple sources.
UConn went through its second consecutive 3-9 season in 2017, though with Lashleeâ€™s help, UConnâ€™s offense made great strides. His no-huddle offense helped produce 283 points in 2017; the Huskies had managed just 178 points the season before. Quarterback Bryan Shirreffs even recorded back-to-back 400-yard passing games.
One name that immediately surfaced as a possible addition to the Husky staff was former UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky. The Shelton native, who recently retired after 12 years in the NFL, has expressed interest in become a coach. He said over the summer, when he volunteered to help the Huskies during training camp, that he would likely prefer to coach in the NFL but would consider becoming a collegiate assistant only if it were at UConn.
It seems unlikely that Orlovsky, who has no coaching experience, would be hired as an offensive coordinator. He could very easily join the staff in another capacity, however.