By Erica Brancato
Husky head football Bob Diaco held the bar high for the UConn football team during the Blue vs. White Spring Game on Saturday. Diaco said he wanted the team to be professional and play "intense, high effort, passionate football" and that is exactly what the Huskies did on a beautiful day at Rentschler Field.
Both the coaches and the fans were excited and eager to see UConn's progress and hard work pieced together. The game day feel with tailgates and loud cheering fans was an added bonus for the Huskies as they got back to the Rent for the first time since December.
Playing an actual game format brought out healthy competition within the team and gave players the opportunity to showcase their skills on a big stage. It also gave the Huskies more of an idea of how they would operate in a game day situation.
"I think you can see younger guys and newer guys bring to the table in an 11 on 11 setting like this," quarterback Tim Boyle said. "When you are in practice, it is always seven on seven, three on three. So when you are put out on the field and its 11 on 11, you can actually see what people are made of."
The Huskies were strong on defense and showed great progress on offense, as fewer errors were made and they generally looked more confident and composed. Diaco believes this poise comes from the senior leadership.
"Every team I have been on reflects the senior class. That's the backbone of the team whether you like it or not," Diaco said. "If your backbone is brittle and weak then your team is going to be brittle and weak. If your backbone is strong and tough then you team is going to be strong and tough. They are not a big collection of numbers of guys but right now they have definitely flipped a switch."
Though Diaco was extremely pleased with how the team played, he said he purposely left out things they have practiced so they could focus on perfecting the essentials within the offense and defense.
"The offense you saw is not the offense you are going to see during the season," he said. "It's got a lot more stuff and the defense too. I limited the menu on offense and defense. I was interested in looking at our fundamentals and execution for today."
Now that spring practices have come to a close and the end of the semester is fast approaching, Diaco and the coaches look to give the team some down time -- although conditioning continues. With time away from football and a bit of a break in the summer, Diaco believes the team would come back refreshed, energized and excited for fall camp.
"This needs to kind of look and feel like a sprint-like the 100 yard dash-not a marathon in terms of energy," he said. "Football has these climactic spikes and if you are here 365 days, all day, you can't help but kind of flat line your energy... so when they come back they have that absence makes the heart grows fonder for the school, not just for the team, for the school, for that Bleed Blue spirit."
Overall, the Blue vs. White football game was a success. The Huskies played with few errors and improved greatly within the few weeks of spring practices. Their foundation is stronger than ever and they look to continue to improve each and every day.
"Our hearts are in the right place and going the right way and our team is starting to look like a team, not just a collection of individuals," said Diaco.