Saturday, September 27, 2014

UConn still running in place

It wasn't too long ago that UConn was among the most productive running teams in the nation as Husky running backs had 200-yard rushing games seven times from 2003-2009.

However, that seems like ancient history when looking at this year's team.

There are 125 teams playing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level and UConn joins Kent State and Washington State as the only programs without a 100-yard rushing game this season. No, I am not talking about a back breaking into triple digits but a team putting up 100 yards on the ground.

UConn coach Bob Diaco said he is seeing progress. He thought there were more creases in the run game against South Florida than in previous games but the backs, forced to improvise to try to make something out of nothing earlier in the season did so unnecessarily in that game.

"It is getting a lot better," UConn redshirt freshman Josh Marriner said. "Coach is with us every day as far as the running backs and the offense, we just continue to move forward."

So where does Marriner think he can make the most improvement?
"Being a little more patient," Marriner said, "I am kind of quick some on some plays sometimes."

Diaco is still moving forward with the plan of having four tailbacks carry in the ball. Before the season he said he'd like to have one guy get the call 20 or so times but no running back has carried the ball more than 10 times in a game this season. It is a subject I asked Diaco about in Tuesday's press conference.

"It's been one guy one week, one guy the next week and one guy the next week," Diaco said. "We have three talented freshmen backs, I will tell you that. Max (DeLorenzo) is doing a hell of a job in leading the team, leading the offense and being a tough guy for us without a doubt. We are pleased with Max and when you think of Josh, Arkeel (Newsome) and Ron (Johnson) for the next 3 1/2 to four years, it is pretty awesome."

With all the focus on Diaco's decision to abandon the passing game until the closing minutes against South Florida after disastrous results the first four times UConn attempted to throw the ball against USF led to me asking Diaco how a team gets to the point to not being able to drop back to pass regardless of the weather conditions.

"The front right now needs a massive amount of work, the offensive line and tight ends need a massive amount of work in the run game and the pass game," Diaco said. "Rome wasn't built in a day and this won't be either. It is a fair question. they made improvement in the area of the run game and still have a long way to go there but an even further distance to go in the pass game so again you probably have to do even more things to help them and manage the game for them so they can kind of take baby steps in that area of protection."

Temple has given up rushing yardage this season so it will be interesting to see if UConn can establish a consistent running game today.

They always work hard and fight, now they are executing their assignments much better, have a better idea of knowing what to do and when you know what to do, you can play fast and physical. They are starting to do that.

We prepared to win the game and run whatever plays we can. It is not like I just go to sleep on the run game or the receivers aren't blocking. I think they did a good job out there being physical and that is where the long runs come from with the receivers blocking downfield. We can use the weapons both in the pass and run game. You want to stay balanced but you also want to do what is the best for the team.

I think it can be an explosive offense passing and running as well. There are a lot of backs who can really move and play and I think it is exciting. We know what we can do in the pass game as well and when we put it all together, I think we will be explosive.

Progress wel, they kind of got thrown into this with the running back only have two (returning players) so it is great ot have them on the team, great for them to step up to the challenge and do what they need to do so it has been a great asset 


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