STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football teams hits the practice field for the first time on Friday morning and UConn head coach Bob Diaco held a Reporting Day Media Session on Thursday.
UConn opens the season on Thursday, Sept. 3 when it takes on Villanova at 7:30 p.m. at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.
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Here are Coach Diaco's comments with videos and Twitter highlights at the end.
Opening Statement: "It's an exciting day with the start of fall football camp. The energy in our building is typically high. For us it's normal, for some that have joined us recently it's their new normal. Today it is particularly high, even for the new normal. It's just so great to drive past elementary schools and parks and see cars in the lot and kids on the field. You know what's happening. You know that the little ones are back at football practice. Now a freshly cut patch of land kind of takes on a whole new feel. It smells like practice. Where a little while ago it smelled like summer and spring, now it smells like football practice. That's the best time for us who are so excited to get our football family back together. For the players, a few days away. We're never off. The culture never shuts its lights off but it's a few days away. We can't wait to see those guys. We're just so excited to all get back together. It's a unique situation when you think about. I don't know if you guys get the opportunity to, number one, have what you love blended with what you do. Then to have a period of time where everybody collectively gets together to just drill down and focus on that one thing. It's just so unique and awesome. It's such a great time and we're so excited for it."
On his feeling about starting camp: "I think all the time there's an anxiousness, an anxiousness that builds. As a younger player, it's even more heightened. You don't know exactly where all the stuff is, where the fields are, what the meeting rooms are like, how you're going to be coached, what it's going to feel like to be coached by these people, whether you're going to be able to assimilate to locker rooms and make friends like you think you'll be able to. Where's the dining hall, how the schedule becomes a weight for you and to make sure you're on time if you're conscientious. You're kind of stressing about all these things and excited for all these things. As you get older, for me and I feel like I can speak for our older players, they're really excited to build a team and see what the team is going to be built into. There's instances where we used to have a lot of conversations about little tick tack stuff with those older guys. We're not having that. It's not because the tick tack stuff is gone but because they're not focused on it. They're handling it or they don't necessarily care about it because their focus is on football. So as you lead up to camp as a player, it's a little different whether you're older or younger. There's still an anxiousness but one is focused on almost a little bit of survival and the other one is focused on how to compete and win."
On having set a foundation in his first year, how different it is starting with a group that has been with him for a year and how that translates onto the field: "A year ago it was explained like this, the player memorized based on factors of alignment exactly what they should call. Now we enter camp with that foundation laid and the vernacular understood that this is the call and this is the hand signal. You show up and they show and you have sign language. We have a whole sign language to get the plays articulated so there's that piece of nonverbal and verbal communication that needs to get worked out, let alone the assignment. Now we can teach them here's why we made you memorize this. Now the roundness of that creates for faster play, more aggressive play and it allows for improvisation when it doesn't look exactly like it did on the board in the meeting room, which most football plays don't. That's that next level and it's at every spot in all three phases. We're ready to go to that next level of football understanding. You'll see it in our execution, absolutely, in all three phases. I can say that unequivocally. The challenge on us as a staff is to get it articulated, to get it thought about. We have to be pressing. We have to be pressing ourselves, pushing ourselves, taking accountability ourselves and making sure that we're not just rolling out the information as we always would. He knows it like that, what's the next level for him to move him forward given what he needs?"
On what happens in the first five days of camp: "The NCAA has an acclimatization period where they don't allow universities to have two-a-day practices during those five days to acclimatize to the external conditions that play of athletes, may it be anxiousness, weather, equipment and so forth. The first two days, the players are mandated to be in helmets only. The next two days, the players can be in a half rack, that's shoulder pads and a helmet. On the final day, the players can be in full equipment. (The NCAA) mandated and managed an acclimatization period in terms of how much work you can do in a day, physical work in a day, then also the equipment and what that work will look like. It's a great thing and a great help. It's so often the case, especially in the protocols that have come out recently, they really don't hinder us. I think that people on the outside looking in think we're full speed tackle and full speed blocking instruction every day. It's just not the case. That's what the first five days are about for us. We'll practice in the morning, allow the players some time off in the afternoon and recollect to do meetings and/or walk through situations in the afternoon. In between the morning, afternoon and evening we'll have meetings. Those meetings will always have some kind of special teams piece, team piece and some kind of position piece."
On the feeling of a summer camp: "This is a unique time where we can sequester together and go to camp, go to summer camp. How cool is summer camp right? Kids leave for three weeks. They're away from the family and friends. They can't come and they can't leave. They get together and do what the camps doing, whatever the camp is. This is football camp so we try to sequester as best we can that group because it's such a unique time and the specialness of it in growing together and staying focused so we can become as good as we can at our jobs is a special time that we try to manage."
On the plan for the quarterback position: "Love them, feed them, make sure they're sleeping, teach them and help foster an environment of leadership for them to grow from. We grade every player, every play, every day. That is what we do and it didn't change. It's not like we're just looking at the 11-on-11 situation to get an evaluation on a quarterback. He's being evaluated in individual drills, one-on-ones, seven-on-seven and 11-on-11."
On young offense and change of offensive staff as an opportunity for growth: "Oh absolutely. It's the best part. That is what we need to do. It's a huge focus. We're already predisposed that way. The main component of our development is that they grow and we grow together. To help them grow, we know we have to do it together, because they are not going to pay attention to everything if they do not think that we are together, if they don't think you care. You have no chance of reaching them on any level. It's a huge piece to emphasize. That's probably one area that's been exemplary over the course of the last year and a half. Just the love and trust and understanding and respect from each person has allowed us now to take that next step."
On position changes on the coaching staff: "Well think about this, you write sports and your buddy writes politics and then you guys are still buddies and switch. He could help you write politics and you could help him write sports. We have all this cross pollination of direct information. So we have some experts doing jobs now that we feel like we moved them because we felt that we've taken full accountability of each person's assets and liabilities and we've tried to put ourselves together. I didn't just dictate it to the people, I love these guys and we worked together to create `yeah I do this really well or I like doing this' or `I don't do this so well or I don't like doing this.' We piece together the assets that everybody is doing. Now you can also have someone else in the room help you close some of the details, close some of the gaps in information and personnel. It's awesome. That's what has been really wonderful about Coach P (Don Patterson) helping Wayne (Lineburg) with the quarterbacks. Wayne's an expert quarterback coach and now he has this other guy sitting next to him that knows a whole bunch too as an expert quarterback coach. Then you have Coach P who has coached tight ends and you have Mike Cummings who's sitting next to him who has all of this information on those specific tight ends. Going in you have a little bit of a, not a cheat sheet, but of a cheat sheet so to speak. It's kind of cool. It's been helpful."
On if all the players are here that were supposed to be here: "Every player that was a veteran player is back. We had a strong summer. Our student services center is run by Associate Athletic Director Ellen Tripp. She's a star. If you don't know her, get to know her. She's just awesome. So she runs that, and for the first time since she's been running it that there were no football players up for University discipline academically. Zero. First time. Only something bad could happen in summer school right? They were all in summer school and they did well. So they all did well and everybody is ready to go, everybody is eligible to play and ready to go."
Do you use Andreas Knappe (who represented UConn at American Athletic Conference media day) as an example? "Definitely. It does my heart good to hear that he was able to show who he is. So in many of the cases you get put in that kind of `I'm not sure that the light can shine on the kid like it's supposed to.' So it's good to hear that there was an accurate representation of who he is and his DNA, because he is a special, special guy. He has a rare combination of tough gentleman. He has a rare combination of aggressive intelligence. He has some things that don't normally blend together, that blend together nicely for him. We use him as an example in a lot of those cases, and more often than not he uses himself as an example from an accountability stand point. From a team stand point, that's really one of the best things he does. He'll stand up and say `I needed to make that block.' One of the coaches might be coaching the back on `well, you know, we got some work to do' and he'll stand up and say `no, no, no, I need to knock that guy back.' That's the best stuff that he does. He is constantly inspecting his game, his moment, his aptitude and trying to make the necessary corrections to be better. If he carries that for the rest of his life, don't put a limitation on him. He'll smash it to smithereens. His best football is out in front of him. Guys I know you know this, he really just started playing offensive line. He's not going to realize, no one is going to realize the top of his potential. None of our masters in history, but he's not even going to be close to it before he leaves here. He can be great. He has traits to be great and he's just getting started."
-- Jim Fuller (@NHRJimFuller) August 6, 2015
Love talking to the #UConnFootball coaching staff, all genuine
-- Desmond Conner (@desmondconner) August 6, 2015
Diaco on plan for QBs: "Love them, feed them, make sure they're comfortable sleeping." Order: Shirreffs, Boyle, Anderson, Davis right now.
-- Ed Daigneault (@EdDaigneault) August 6, 2015
-- Robert W Stowell Jr (@Thephotodawg) August 6, 2015