May 13, 2014
By Steve Lewis-UConnHuskies.com
University of Connecticut head football coach Bob Diaco talked about issues ranging from the Huskies' starting quarterback in 2014 to the student-athlete unionization movement as the American Athletic Conference held a media teleconference with its heads coaches on Tuesday.
Diaco, who is entering his first year as the UConn head coach, recognized that UConn still has giant strides to make between now and the season-opener vs. BYU (Friday, Aug. 29), but is also very optimistic.
"The spring went well -- we ended healthier than we started and we worked hard. The biggest concern for spring football is that your players stay healthy," said Diaco. "The team needs a lot of work, especially with the physical conditioning part. We're behind when it comes to figuring out ways to win. I have no other expectations other than just trying to get better every day."
UConn has three quarterbacks returning from last season who started four games each - senior Chandler Whitmer (Newnan, Ga.), sophomore Tim Boyle (Middlefield, Conn.) and redshirt sophomore Casey Cochran (Monroe, Conn.).
Several questions about the quarterback situation were asked to the Husky coach, but Diaco is far from naming a leader for his offense.
"They all need to get bigger, faster, and stronger," said Diaco. "They also need to protect the ball. All the quarterbacks will be working well into August before a decision is made."
Diaco talked about the qualities he looks for in a quarterback and also his attempts to make practice as game-like as possible to help determine who would be best suited for the position.
"We try to put our quarterbacks in high-stress situations during practice and being sure we evaluate their decision-making process," said Diaco. "When challenges arise, we want our quarterback to be accountable, responsible and protective of teammates and not looking for an excuse."
Even though naming a starting quarterback is a distant occurrence, Diaco said that it is not that way for every position.
For instance, the UConn coach said redshirt senior Byron Jones (New Britain, Conn.) will be one of the best cornerbacks in the entire country. Some other positions are filled, such as redshirt senior Alex Mateas (Ottawa, Ont.), but others are to be determined.
Diaco wants to push the Huskies all throughout the summer and recognizes that this will be a long, work-intensive process of preparing for the opening game. He prefers to not think about the destination though, but rather the journey.
"We're going to push the team along as hard as we can," says Diaco. "Competing against other teams is a byproduct of your work each day."
The student-athletes on the UConn team have just finished final exams and have gone back to their homes and families and return back to campus on June 2 for summer classes and training.
"Our team right now is away, but not off," said Diaco. "When we start again on June 2, we aren't playing catch-up -- we're getting started. There's a lot to think about before BYU."
A consistent hot topic issue of the entire teleconference was the concept of student-athlete unionization.
"I'm totally against players becoming employees of universities," said Diaco. "Student-athletes get a spectacular education that they would have a hard time affording otherwise. Without a special talent, some might not get in at all. They are student-athletes, this is collegiate athletics, not pro sports. Maybe there should be a stipend, but there shouldn't be unionization. I wouldn't have wanted it as a player and I don't want it as a coach."