March 24, 2014
STORRS, Conn. -- After a week off for spring break, the UConn football team returned to the practice field on Monday (March 24) for its fourth practice of the spring. The practice was held indoors at the Mark R. Shenkman Training Facility and took place in full pads.
Head Coach Bob Diaco met the media following the practice to share his thoughts.
"Okay. Practice four, spring four. A Monday after a spring break always could be a hairy situation for teams across the country but I feel like the team went and handled practice four well. It wasn't anything that was extraordinary but, I know and the coaches know what it feels like as a player to go on spring break and come back and spring break ends Sunday and to come back on Monday and be electric, it's just not realistic. So we really set up practice today to not ask the players to have to do that, to really acclimatize a bit and they handled that well. They would be the first to tell you that shaking off the spring break rust took a little bit of time but they did. So it fit the model that the coaches were expecting and we were pleased to have a successful practice four.
On how he felt about the players coming back after time off
"I really was [happy]. You know, a lot of coaches have been a part of some post-spring break practices where the players had trouble getting through stretch. So maybe spring breaks are a little different than when I went on spring break. I thought the team responded really well, the guys were on time last night to check in, they were excited and prompt which was a great sign of a focused group that took some time away. Hopefully they took some time away physically and mentally but if they didn't as much physically as we would like they definitely did mentally so it was positive.
On the next step of what he would like to accomplish
"I'd like to see the team begin to transition from survival to, for lack of a better word, attack. A physical assault and a mental attack, where they're not just surviving. So by design, we'll have smart installation. Today was virtually no installation, offense, defense and special teams. It was a shining and polishing, a re-engagement of the first three practices. We'll do the same thing at the end of the week. By Saturday there will be more guys that know what to do and can cut it loose and are cutting it loose. Right now we've got a lot of guys that are trying, expending a lot of energy, in a haphazard way. We'd like that to begin more directed and more controlled where we can have guys cutting it loose in a play they clearly know. I'd like to think we can accomplish that by the end of the week.
On what type of defense he will have
"We're a multiple front defense. We are fifty-fifty, three-down and four-down. We can run three-down and four-down without changing personnel, and in fact can do it just before the ball is snapped. We are a defense that needs to understand defending the plays that cause losing and being sure we eliminate big plays. Big plays happen in the run game because you don't have layers, we can handle that by the call and fundamentally because they players need to understand how to purse the football, and then tackling. Those are things that create big plays in the run game and need to be eliminated on defense. We don't call a lot of defenses where we don't have layers. The number one thing is to keep points down and the way you do that is by preventing big plays. It's the same thing in the passing game, big explosive passing plays where there's been a hole punched in the top of the defense. We have to eliminate those plays.
On what position groups have stood out to him
"It's a little early to single out anyone, but collectively the wide receivers for example. They're a group that has produced plays and playmakers in the past and it's a pretty veteran group and a pretty good-looking group in terms of sheer numbers. But, if you really watched them practice today, what they did away from the ball was what was most impressive. They were blocking downfield giving great effort trying to shield defenders from other ballcarriers and they really made great, great strides in that today. So as a group, that was impressive to me.
There's a good looking group of linebackers that are going to be able to function and produce. The first few groups of secondary players, athletically and physically, communication-wise, they're going to be able to do a nice job. We've been pleased. I don't mean to exclude any other players and positions but those are some groups that seemed to make strides today."