Bowl season is a brave new world for UConn players
Senior Graham Stewart and fellow linebacker E.J. Levenberry (who is redshirting) are the only players on the roster to play in a bowl game doing so at Florida and Florida State respectively. For the rest of the Huskies, at this time of the year they usually have turned in their shoulder pads and helmets after another losing season.
"The mentality of the guys walking onto the practice field now, they are walking around with this befuddled look like 'this doesn't feel right, why do I have my pads on right now?'" Diaco said on a conference call shortly after it was officially announced that UConn would play Marshall in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26. "It is awesome, it is the best. It is all uncharted territory. There are two players on this team that have ever been to a bowl so it is new for everybody other than the coaches."
If there was a regret is that the way the bowl games are announced, except for those four teams vying for the national title, there isn't that moment where UConn's name flashes on a television screen during a bowl announcement special.
"It was very hard. We had hoped to have some kind of real moment but the fact of the matter is that these things are so big and there are so many moving parts," Diaco said. "The invitation was extended to Warde (Manuel, UConn's Director of Athletics). Warde and I were in constant contact and then the team has been ready and waiting for the information. When it was allowed to be released to the team, I sent them simultaneously a note from me directly to them so they had a chance to hear it first just before it was released so it worked out great."
It is sounding like it could be all hands on deck for the game with the exception of defensive end Cole Ormsby and tight end Tommy Myers, who is was previously announced would miss the rest of the season.
Diaco said quarterback Bryant Shirreffs has been cleared and is practicing after he missed the regular-season finale and most of the Houston game after taking a helmet to helmet blow.
"He's good," Diaco said. "He has practiced, he is cleared, he looks great - bright eyed and bushy tailed and no limitations no physically cleared to participate and needed more healing time and is now fully cleared.
"There are no surprises, nothing new to report. Maybe Brian Lemelle is healthy enough, he looks better and better every day. He might be finally able to participate and Matt Walsh, it is looking more and more like he will be able to go and participate."