Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Mutual respect exists between UConn, Navy coaches

There's a lot of lip service that exists when collegiate football coaches discuss the team they are playing next and in particular the opposing team's head coach. However, when Navy's Ken Niumatalolo and Bob Diaco of UConn heap praise on their counterpart I am inclined to believe it is truly what they feel.

Diaco might have been more questions about defending Navy's triple-option offense than any other subject at today's press conference. It is a subject he knows well dating back to his days as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator.

"We kind of laugh about but as prepared as you are, they are still going to have one formation, one small little wrinkle one way they are getting their business done that is not even on your wallpaper board, it is not even on anything that you have watched," Diaco said. "If they have to do it 35 times in a row, they have to do it 35 times in a row. It is a very unique preparation."

Niumatalolo recalls the matchups between Navy and Notre Dame as well as last year's game against UConn when Diaco was at the forefront of explaining the nuances of the triple-option offense to his players.

"He is one of the best defensive minds, best football coaches in the country," Niumatalolo said. "I think he has done a really good job at UConn in changing the culture there. His guys, you can't trick these guys. Different things we do, a lot of it is deception, doing different things but his guys are always clued in with their keys, they know what they are doing. It becomes a real physical game because that is how they play. Sometimes we can get people by tricking them, do certain things to deceive them but with UConn and with Notre Dame over the years, his teams are always well prepared, assignment sound and are very detailed in what they do."

One of the things that jumped at me when I looked at Navy's game notes is that Niumatalolo, offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper and defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson have been on the coaching staff at the Naval Academy 19, 17 and 21 seasons respectively. If there is another team in the country with the three top coaches having been with the program that long, I am not aware of where that would be.

"It creates a circumstance  where at no point in time are you going to surprise them," Diaco said. "At no point in time are you going to create something that they haven't already seen, at no point in time do they not know instantaneously know where to go with the ball based on what you are doing."

Diaco also brought up the new NCAA rules limiting the areas when cut blocking is allowed which could come into play on Saturday since Navy utilizes cut blocking to run its offense. Now players who are outside of the tackle box can't come back into the area and block low.

"You no longer can come from outside of the offensive tackle whether you are pre-snap aligned there or not, the minute you extend outside the offensive tackle, you are restricted from coming back in and blocking below the waist which is brand new," Diaco said. "I could show a half dozen clips of our Mike (middle) linebacker being chopped at his knee by a front side slot (back) who pre-snap was tied to the (tackle) box but then extended outside, came back in and cut a scrapping linebacker, you can't do that any longer. I think it is all spectacularly good for American football."

While the Connecticut high school football season doesn't begin until later this week, some of UConn's commitments from other state have already started their senior seasons.

Getting stats on some of these games has been a bit challenging but I can report that cornerback Abiola "Bebe" Olaniyan had a team-high seven solo tackles as Woodberry Forest opened its season with a 37-35 victory over Bishop McNamara.

It is not the first time Olaniyan as he had six tackles and an interception in last season's 37-18 win over Bishop McNamara.


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