Wednesday, June 04, 2014

UConn's Diaco on running backs, rewarding walk-ons and plenty more

Today happened to be the day when I was able to schedule some time to sit down with head coach Bob Diaco and other than the news that Lyle McCombs, the team's leading rusher in each of the last three seasons is no longer a part of the program.

UConn announced the departure of McCombs, who ranks second on the Huskies' career list with 677 carries and is fourth with 2,681 yards although he remains on scholarship until he is done talking the final classes this summer he needs in order to graduate.

Diaco didn't have much more to say on the matter although he said everybody else that he was expecting to be back is still in the fold.

"I don't know what I can say," Diaco said. "He has not met the expectations set forth by the group and for that he won't be moving forward with us."

With McCombs out of the picture, Max DeLorenzo and Jazzmar Clax are the only returning running backs who had carries during the 2013 season. Josh Marriner came to UConn with plenty of buzz and he will push for time after redshirting as a true freshman. Clax and fellow fullback Matt Walsh may also factor into the running back derby and UConn is bringing in three tailbacks in Register State Player of the Year Arkeel Newsome, Ron Johnson and Brice McAlister.

"We've got six scholarship players at the position that all have aptitude, three older players and three brand new guys coming in," Diaco said. "The tailback issue is not going to have an issue functioning."

On a brighter note, Diaco recalled with glee the moment when he informed walk-ons Chris DeBerry, Dominick Manco and Justin Wain that they were receiving scholarships.

"It is awesome," Diaco said. "It is the best, it reaffirms everything we are talking about. It gives an indication of the DNA and character of the team and our coaching staff. You put something in and you are going to get it back out, it is not like we are just going to use and use. We could sign more guys but those guys earned that opportunity. Both Dominic and Justin are going to play in the games (Manco as the long snapper, Wain as the punter). Chris is being rewarded for being a great teammate."

So how did Diaco break the news to the trio?

"I told the team," Diaco said. "I told them collectively together as a team. There were guys in the room crying it was that important to the team. They were jumping around, celebrating, hugging, crying. It was a very emotional outpouring response by the whole team. It was one of the more awesome moments we have had as a team together. "

The incoming freshmen are not expected on campus until later this month but Diaco was optimistic that all the players who signed with the team in February

"So far everything seems fine," Diaco said. "They are all working, checking every box, getting registered, applied for housing and all the things that are needed to be done to move from high school to college."

When the team wrapped up spring practice Diaco asked the players to use good judgement during the time that they would be away from campus. When the team reconvened on Monday he was delighted that the players did just that.

"We were able to move forward," Diaco said. "The concern is you have to spend a week, two weeks, three weeks going back to where you were at the end of spring training. After having three weeks or in some cases four weeks off, these guys came back (in good shape)."

Diaco didn't have much of a reaction to being placed in a division with Central Florida, Cincinnati, East Carolina, South Florida and Temple as the American Athletic Conference announced the two divisional format beginning in 2015.

"For us, the only difference between the future models is one was Tulane and the other one was Central Florida so it was no real consequence for UConn," Diaco said.

Finally, Diaco said his kids will be finishing school on Friday and he is anxiously awaiting the chance to get his entire family together in Connecticut.

"I have a house but it is empty and there is nothing in it," Diaco said. "They have finish school, my children are still in school."

So how much is he looking forward to seeing his kids and wife arrive in Connecticut?

"More than anything," Diaco said. "It has been horrible."

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