Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Diaco excited about UConn's young talent

Sophomore receiver Noel Thomas is one of the host of young players
making an impact with UConn football team in 2014 season
I'll be the first to admit that I don't always know what to make of UConn's first-year head coach.

Bob Diaco's energy and passion is commendable but there are times when his attempt at spin control needs to come with its own filter. However, as spoke with the media for about 40 minutes earlier today it began to dawn on me that the UConn program is in significantly better shape heading into the ninth game this season than it was going into game No. 9 a season ago.

Last year Casey Cochran was taking over as UConn's starting quarterback and the Huskies were closing in becoming the first team in program history to open a season with nine consecutive losses. There were going to be holes to be filled as 11 of the 44 players on the offensive and defensive two-deep charts were seniors with eight others with remaining eligibility no longer suiting up for the Huskies for a variety of reasons. This season 30 of the 47 players on the depth chart (counting the additional names listed at tailback, receiver and cornerback) are either freshmen or sophomores.

Coming off a solid effort in a loss at East Carolina following by a win over defending American Athletic Conference champion Central Florida even though the Huskies were playing without two of its four captains. Suddenly there is reason for optimism which honestly did not exist a season ago.

Diaco addressed the impact of many of the youngsters today.

"I never stood up here and said there weren't enough players to have a good team, not one time have I ever made any (statement) or insinuated that," Diaco said. "We've got enough players to have a good team but we are just not a good team. We are getting better and better every day and that is all I ever said. We have to work on eliminating losing, work on the things that cause winning. There are enough players to have a good team."

Starting his checklist was his take on the young tailbacks, receivers and tight ends.

"They are going to be a problem - Arkeel (Newsome), Ron (Johnson), Noel (Thomas), Thomas Lucas, Dhameer Bradley, Brian Lemelle, Tommy Myers and Alec (Bloom), you are talking about first and second year players, they are impacting the games right now and imagine in two and a half years what it is going to look like."

I also asked what impact the blocked field goal by true freshman Jamar Summers had on how the game changed after Central Florida was in UConn territory seemingly on every play.
"That created an energy and excitement, a momentum swing that you could feel it kind of come over to the sideline," Diaco said. "It wasn't just tangible field position and lack of points, it was momentum and a great stop in plus field setup. Those were difference making it stops, you had a fourth down play that if you really could show the play if you are wondering what we
want to be, wondering what we are trying to become, this is the play to watch. It is mano a mano, they are running a downhill run on our defense and it is fourth down and 1 and we got a stop (by sophomore safety Obi Melifonwu and freshman linebacker Junior Joseph). We got another stop late in the game and Jamar blocks the field goal, three possession-changing stops."

Speaking of Joseph, he got the start ahead of junior Jefferson Ashiru against UCF and he's what Diaco had to say about whether that was a one-time thing or we could see more of Joseph playing ahead of Ashiru.

"It depends on the offensive system we are playing and how it fits and what we are trying to get done, Junior Joseph at this point has a little higher aptitude for some jobs and Jefferson has shown a higher aptitude for other jobs," Diaco said. "We look at them as kind of toolbox players and we will pull the tool out to do the job we need to get done."

Finally, with a lower-leg injury sidelining promising true freshman Luke Carrezola, redshirt freshman Cam Stapleton is now on the depth chart as the primary backup to senior defensive end Reuben Frank, I asked Diaco how Stapleton is different from Carrezola.
Luke and Cam are kind of similar in that they are both bigger guys, they have great hold at the point of attack, balance, strength," Diaco said. "Cam brings another level of athleticism which is really good. I wouldn't say he is necessarily as explosive as Luke is but he is a fine athlete."

The talk wasn't all about freshmen and sophomores. Regarding senior receiver Geremy Davis, who missed the UCF game with an ankle injury, Diaco said "he will practice today and we will know more after today and tomorrow."

Then I asked Diaco about how Frank is emerging as a pass rusher off the edge in the last few weeks.

"That is what he does, a proficient three-point stance, one dimension, one job kind of guy," Diaco said. "It is outside the box for him when he is in a two-point (stance) and he is doing some of our pass drop jobs. We are well pleased with him doing a good job. That really suits him."


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