Monday, September 28, 2015

Wrapping up UConn's Monday press conference

It was a relatively uneventful game week press conference.

Here's what I took from today's festivities which were held on Monday instead of Tuesday because the BYU game will be played on Friday night.

Diaco expects a much different BYU team than what he saw on tape during Saturday's game when the Cougars were humbled 31-0 at Michigan.

Diaco said the Huskies get to "play a team that beat the snot out of us a year ago, exciting challenge and an exciting opportunity.

"They are getting back to who they are. It is another team that I have had a chance to be around for a very long time, you can go back to footage - you could recall footage from Rich Rodriguez who this offense is a Rich Rod tree and running the ball is a necessary component and running the ball with authority. It is a spread but it is not a pass spread offense, it is a run spread offense. I am not in their staff room and I don't know exactly what they are talking about right now but I'd be shocked if it wasn't 'hey, we have to get back to who we are.'

"To me the Michigan game is not even watchable honestly for the players because even if that was the plan, after roughly 20 minutes of football they are down by four scores. All things go out the window and then I don't know how useful that tape is."

BYU is certainly game tested playing at Nebraska, at No. 10 UCLA and at Michigan before an average crowd of 88,837.

"They are a great team," Diaco said. "Nobody's done what BYU's done, nobody in the country. If you could challenge that let me know. They are on the road at Nebraska, UCLA and Michigan and then play their rival (Boise State), who has done that in the first four weeks? So to think they let the rope slip out of their hand a little bit at a 10 a.m. kick as far as their body clock is concerned in Michigan to me, it is not shocking to me. They have been awesome.

"The offensive line is giant, the defensive front is giant, the wide receivers are gigantic, they wear you out. They have a model for how they want to play, run the football so the backs are big, the O-line is big and the wide receivers are big, when they are blocking, it is hard to get off blocks."

As for the Huskies, Diaco said UConn playing from behind was one of the factors while Arkeel Newsome saw the bulk of time at tailback and Ron Johnson, who came into the Navy game as UConn's leading rusher, only touched the ball once and that was to pitch it back to Bryant Shirreffs on a flea flicker.

"We will continue to give the ball to the appropriate player that we believe matches up best to the opponent and run style," Diaco said. "Arkeel is a heck of a back, he also has some tools in the passing game. Unfortunately when you are down and you need to play catch up, you need to go with a back in the game that can do some of those other jobs maybe better than the other guy so he has good hands, runs good routes and he is a pretty good pass protector. He is starting to turn himself into a complete back.

"The game, we are going to throw the ball to get caught back up here, that was the biggest tilt and outside of that Arkeel was a starter, up to that point and he had done a nice job. There were a few other factors that were a catalyst but I am not sure any one were bigger than the conduct of the game, Ron needs to clean that part of his game up he needs to become more of value in the passing game and there is no way why he shouldn't be. He is a big, physical player, should be great in protection and he has good hands but it hasn't clicked yet for him."

There seemed to be times against Navy and other times this season when starting quarterback Bryant Shirreffs was a little too impatient when it came to tucking the ball and scrambling. It wasn't part of the game plan for Shirreffs to run 16 times but since he is athletic enough to make plays with his feet, there are going to be times when he does use his legs to make plays.

"If he runs and gets a first down, I am happy," Diaco said. "If he runs and there is an open guy downfield, then I am not. He has to go with the natural tendency that he feels is appropriate at the time. I think he would be the first to tell you that he probably dropped his eyes a little too soon on a few of the plays, the protection was there, the pocket was there, just give it another heartbeat and the inside or outside breaker would have come open. I am not going to second guess, me personally, his natural tendency, then we are going to create a decelerator and I don't think that is fair."

Diaco said he doesn't feel like receivers dropping catchable passes is a major issue. Thomas Lucas had a drop on the only ball thrown to him and there were a couple of passes that Newsome would like to have back.

"Thomas (Lucas) is particular a good hands catcher, we work hard at it and we will continue to work hard it to tomorrow and the next day but he has great hands," Diaco said. "Noel (Thomas) has great hands, Hergy (Mayala) has great hands, (Tyraiq) Beals has great hands."

I asked Diaco about the emergence of Beals (a team-high six catches) as well as fellow true freshmen Aaron McLean (who caught his first career pass against Navy) and Mayala (who had a catch wiped out due to penalty) and it turned into a chance for Diaco to rave about left offensive tackle Matt Peart, a true freshman listed as the second-string LT although it is more likely that he will redshirt unless something happens to one of the starting tackles.

"I watch a player like Matt Peart each day and he has really got ... You don't see him but you will, he is a dude and there are more guys like that," Diaco said.

With this being a short week, it remains to be seen if Marquise Vann can get back into the lineup after missing the last two games with a lower-leg issue.

"Today we are going to practice, he needs to be full speed," Vann said. "Because it is a short week, it is like going to summer school. You have a three-week session and they are going to stick an entire semester into three weeks, if you miss one class you are way behind so it is like that this week.

"I think Matt (Walsh) is doing a great job so from a production standpoint, I am not sure we had any drop off and he (Vann) has been adding all the intangible pieces because he has gone to every game, he is at every practice and he is on the sideline. We are still getting the intangible leadership and I'm not sure there is any drop off in production from what I have been able to see."

UConn is in much better shape injury wise than BYU. The Cougars already lost dynamic quarterback Taysom Hill for the season with a foot injury. Five players including tailback Adam Hine left the Michigan game with injuries but there are reports that Hine, who suffered an ankle injury, could play on Friday.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall told the local media that (other than Hill) linebacker Phillip Amone is the only player definitely ruled out for the UConn game. Amone, who has two tackles in two games, suffered a torn ACL.


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