STORRS, Conn. -
The University of Connecticut football team held its 2015 Media Day on Wednesday afternoon at The Burton Family Football Complex and the Mark R. Shenkman Training Center. The day featured a press conference from UConn head coach Bob Diaco followed by media sessions with players and assistant coaches and finally the traditional group pictures and other photographs.
One of the highlights of the day was Diaco announcing that the team had selected its four captains the season season - redshirt senior safety Andrew Adams (Fayetteville, Ga.), redshirt senior defensive lineman Julian Campenni (West Pittston, Pa.), redshirt junior offensive tackle Andreas Knappe (Silkeborg, Denmark) and redshirt senior linebacker Marquise Vann (Cincinnati, Ohio).
UConn opens the season next Thursday, Sept. 3 when it takes on Villanova at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised by SNY and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.
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Here are quotes from media day with video clips and a Twitter roundup.
Head Coach Bob Diaco
Opening Comments: "Welcome everyone, we finished this morning our 23rd practice. I would consider camp to be broken tomorrow, so we're still kind of in that mode that camp mode.
Tomorrow, obviously will be, officially, one week out from the game. We're looking forward to that moment. The team is still in preparation.
"In relation to camp, it's been a wonderful camp for so many reasons. It's been a challenging camp. We told the players, and the staff that it would be physically taxing, and very intellectually taxing, and very emotionally taxing. We try to do that and create that each and every day. I don't think that we failed or that we failed each other. It was very positive that way.
"Inside of the growth that happened there, we managed to grow those areas, and everybody managed to, knock on wood, stay healthy. You're going to have your normal camp knick-knack stuff. I wouldn't think that if you asked any one of them today how they feel, I don't think they're going to jump for joy or click their heels together, but all in all the guys are healthy and will begin to track their process of recovery so we can be at full speed with the full scope of our talents for games. We kind of build up to that climatic moment.
"There have been so many battles and storylines that we've been working through. In terms of starting lineups, I'll try my best answering questions you might have. We're not really into that starting lineup mode. We have a couple more days on that. I believe Sunday will be the equivalent of our Tuesday game week. That will be the next time we meet to talk about the business of who's lining up where specifically, but we can still talk some about it just in general. But the battles were healthy. Guys really responded the right way to the competition. Competition ends up being the best thing in all areas, for people to keep their heads sharp. That was definitely the case in the hallmark of this camp.
"We wanted to grow in three areas. We wanted to grow our brotherhood through this camp, and that was just that overall love, trust and respect necessary to have a strong family. A strong family doesn't just ride together, they also take accountability together. They're honest with each other, protect each other when necessary. We wanted to work towards the mastery of our work, and try to become the best at doing their job, or closer to the best, become better at doing their job, which is hard. "Millennials can multi-task. They really can. Millennials can do three or four things at one time, and they're pretty good at it. They're really not a group of drilled down focus. You know they're doing their homework, listening to music or have a video game on. Even when I was growing up, we didn't have those distractions. There weren't computers or cell phones or even portable music. It wasn't even possible.
"That piece is new for them, the ability to really drill down/focus on a job. In that conversation, in that calling to do, we came a long way on, eliminating distractions and really being able to focus on what do you need to do to do your job. That was big.
"Lastly, the overall effort that we're here to play with. That mindset that we're going to play with, and the attitude and energy necessary to show up and get the job done. We focused on those areas. We did a great job, and they took accountability. It's been a very, very positive camp for the Huskies. We put on another coat of paint. It's one that'll last. This program, the players, the people that support it, the staff, the coaching staff. It's all being done the right way. It's all being built to last. It's a very strong and solid foundation.
"The last thing on my monologue before I turn it over to you for questions is the team, last night, voted for captains. Everyone that works in our football family has a vote. We were going to select four people to lead our football family. I say it like that specifically, because we don't see them as just leading the team. Even myself may have to be both a leader and a follower in this organization at different times of the day, and everyone needs to do the same thing, be willing to lead and follow.
"The captains that the football family voted on are Andrew Adams, Andreas Knappe, Marquise Vann, and Julien Campenni. They heard that this morning after the tally last night. They will be the four representatives of the 2015 UConn Husky football team. It's an exciting time for them. If you think about what a captain is in general, you're looking for class, you're looking for mental toughness, you're looking for physical toughness. Now you paint this picture of these tough gentlemen, but I'm looking for intellect, but somebody that has some general intelligence and football intelligence. We look for someone that's going to be a high-level producer in games. They should be able to win their individual match-ups in those instances and be productive in games. Some of that is being great at listening, willing to lead and create that culture we help build to and hold people accountable to. If that's what the captains represent, than I think these four guys I think are great. I think the football family did a wonderful job in selecting these four."
On the four captains and what makes them good leaders: "Andrew has a lot of experience at the position. He's played a lot of reps at the position, and he has a lot of cache with the team, being a veteran player. He's demonstrative, he's a quick thinker, so he has a lot of answers. He presents like a coach on the field, running a lot of our automatics and getting guys in the proper position.
"Andreas Knappe, new to the game, but does it all over the play. He takes accountability. He is the epitome of tough gentleman. He has the concept of a gentleman but he has a real backbone there and his principle. When I say toughness that's what I mean, a person with principle. He's definitely that. He knows he's good at the game, and good at the position. He's the first one to tell you that, but he's working on it every day, getting better and better. His best football is out in front of him. He's a well-liked teammate and a great listener and a wonderful leader for the young guys. He can be a source of really that older brother type. He carries himself that way, he acts that way and he's plugged into the locker room that way.
"Marquise Vann is a very strong and faithful person. He has a real strong moral compass, which the guys enjoy. Not that anybody's perfect, but he's a pretty unflappable guy and a very focused individual. He loves hard work. He loves working hard. The guys really respect that. In terms of football IQ, he's new to the game in some aspects. He's been doing it, but not at the rate and level that we're doing it now, and his response to that has been what has separated him from the rest of the pack, which has been great. He's really trying to become a well-rounded football player.
"Julian Campenni is kind of quiet, but a great listener. He does it the right way on campus, and then he goes on the field and produces. I think his greatest trait is that he goes on the field and does well. He plays well, he makes plays, he's hard to block, he's disruptive and that's recognized by the football family in terms of that value. And it's Julien's birthday today so Happy Birthday Julien."
On how we can expect to see brotherhood on the field: "I'd like to see it (the brotherhood) manifest itself in a lot of different areas. One being execution. I'd like to see the execution rise in all three phases. Whether that looks like fewer negative plays on offense, ending the game with a better turnover margin than it was a year ago. I'd like to see fewer communication errors on defense, improved special teams execution, more first-downs as it relates to yard line start position as we trade kicks. I'd like to see the elimination of that moment of crack. Even if the games one year ago, not to look back, but you can see these games are highly competitive. If you just look at the box score, it's not necessarily indicative of how the game went. If you go back and study, there were a lot of games where late in the third or middle of the fourth some kind of adversity happened and what looked like a pretty formidable game up to that point, the train came off the tracks and there was that moment of crack. For the better part of two and a half quarters, a team is held to seven points and then all of a sudden they've gotten three or four unanswered touchdowns. It's just not indicative of their preparation or abilities or talents. That moment of belief, that moment of persistence, a lot of it has to do with investment and preparedness. When you make this great investment, it makes it hard to turn away from it at any point. You have this incredible investment, you have to constantly be engaged to it. And then belief, not fake, not false bravado, but we're really listening for the sights and sounds of false bravado. Now we're getting ready to start the new phase, so as we go into a game do the sights and sounds change? Those are the things we're listening for."
On the true freshmen who might play: "What's exciting is, and I don't have all of this exactly for sure, but I think that it's hard because as ready as they are, they're still going to cost you. There's going to be that moment; they're freshmen. Even the best freshmen I've ever been around. When you see things boiling down, and you start to think about freshmen participating in what we call power positions, now it's like a disaster. The offensive line, the defensive line, the tight end position, the linebacker core, that group there, that could become a mess. So where are they participating? They're participating in potential skill positions and I'm fairly certain that that was the new hallmark this year. I can't imagine in the two deep, there be a true freshman that's going to be a guy the team's counting on. The exceptional freshmen, the only one would be Matt Peart at left tackle, and he's by no means ready to go into the game and play. We'll see if we can get him ready to go into a game in a week, but some positions are three for two or a shuffle. The skill players right now on offense are really talented players. Tyraiq Beals is going to play. Hergy Mayala is going to play. He is exceptional. Tyraiq is exceptional. Aaron McLean, he is going to be another one, and possibly Frank Battle. I don't anticipate any defensive freshmen participating at this point. We're taking a good hard look at David Ryslik. We're pleased with all these guys. That's a great group of guys, really fun group. They're a wonderful energy service for the team. They really enjoyed them accepting them into their family. So no one is disappointed, not one player is disappointed."
On naming the starting quarterback: "No we're going to wait until Tuesday, well Sunday will be like Tuesday, but we've definitely from a business standpoint in terms of the practices reps got the guys the appropriate amount of work as it relates to getting ready for the season. Garrett Anderson's still pushing. He's still doing a nice job."
On run defense needing to be a strength: "It has to be. If a team can run the ball, you're not going to win. My position coach and coordinator when I played college football Bill Brazier, shoutout to Coach Brazier whose going to go into the Iowa Football Hall of Fame this year..he said `if a team passes for 250 yards, you may win, you may lose, either way. You can't really look at it and see what the outcome is going to be. If a team runs for 250 yards, you're going to lose. Period. No chance.' You have to run the football and you have to play it on defense. After that, you have to protect the football and end the game with positive tick in the leger with turnover margin. We have to produce in the red zone, on both sides."
Andrew Adams, R-Sr., Safety
On being named a team captain: "It's great, a great honor to be named captain. I look forward to leading our team and the whole football program to a great season this year. I love being able to lead and I know it's a huge responsibility. I look forward to the challenge and I know I am backed by three other great captains and the rest of the seniors are great leaders too."
On the difference between the four captains: "Julian (Campenni) is a quiet guy but his play on the field isn't quiet at all. So he mostly leads by example. He is a dominant player on the field. Marquise (Vann) is vocal, guys look at him as a role model type. He is great vocally and I try to be vocal on and off the field too. I also try to lead by example too. Andreas (Knappe) isn't too outspoken but when something needs to be said he is there to say it and guys respect him and guys listen."
Reflecting on his time at UConn: "I started at the bottom. When I first came in I was young, naïve. Now, I have matured and grown as a man. My leadership role has definitely risen and I look forward to the responsibility of being one of the team's leaders and helping us win a championship."
Andreas Knappe, R-Jr., Offensive Line
On being elected a team captain: "Very humbled. I am proud that it was a team vote and that it was my brothers that chose this role for me on the team. I am very proud about that." On team's progress through training camp: "I think it's going great. We have been working hard and coming together as a team, a great brotherhood."
On progress of offensive line during camp: "It's been good, we have been working very well together. We are a lot further along this year. For me, I know the guys I am playing with a lot better this year and that is a very positive thing."
Marquise Vann, R-Sr., Linebacker
On being named a captain for a second-straight season: "It is very humbling. It is very encouraging as well to be able to lead the guys and move the program forward. It's definitely awesome." On the one of the big differences from last year's camp to this season: "One of the things is the willingness for each and every play to get to know each other and spend time with each other."
On getting ready to transition to game week: "I look at it becoming more focused and honing in on your job. For me, it's about becoming more studious and try to watch some more film. Just going in and honing in on the details and doing what I need to do in order to fulfill my job."
Julian Campenni, R-Sr., Defensive Line
On being elected a team captain: "It means everything. I want to say thank you to my teammates for electing me a captain. I love all the guys that we have on this team and just to be able to represent them is truly special." On having three captains from the defense: "We take a lot of pride in our defense. The fact that we have three guys from that side of the ball is just awesome. We hope to do great things this year."
On team's growth this training camp: "Our brotherhood, this is the closest a team has been since I got here. You go in that locker room and every guy has each other's back. So our brotherhood is a tight knit group. You have to play together to win and if you trust that guy next to you it helps you play a lot faster. You don't have to worry about that guy. If you have 100% trust in your in all your teammates I think you can be unstoppable as a team."
On his leadership style: "I'm not really a real rah-rah type of guy. I just try to go out and be the same guy every day. Work my tail off to improve my craft. If younger guys watch me and know how I work and go about my business hopefully that can make them better."
Graham Stewart, R-Sr., Linebacker
On wrapping up training camp: "A physically and mentally challenging camp is necessary. A lot of that pain and being tired brings out the best in you and prepares you for a season that is going to be like that. "
On what has been different this training camp: "I think it is the whole maturation process for me. You get older, you become more experienced. You are able to play faster because you know the system better. You become a better player the older you get and the more experienced you are. The big credit to that is already being a year in the system and now we get another year to just keep getting better."
On getting ready for the season opener: "I couldn't be more excited. I have been looking every day at the ticker we have in the locker room, counting down every second. I am just so excited and ready to go. It's a long summer were you are training and then you have a long camp. You get sick of banging on your own guys, you want to go out there and hit someone else."
Max DeLorenzo, R-Sr., Running Back On the newly elected team captains: "They are all big time leaders. Andrew (Adams) is a veteran on the field and off. Andreas (Knappe) is just a big, intimidating factor standing at 6-9, he gets people's attention and he is obviously a big factor for us on the field. Julian (Campenni) and (Marquise) Vann they are key anchors for our defense and our great leaders off the field. We did right in choosing these guys as our captains."
On getting ready to head into Week 1: "Team is probably a little antsy, excited. We have been going each other for a month now and that gets pretty tired after a while. Jus the grind of camp is gone now and it becomes more mental than physical. Preparing for week one and Villanova, we can't wait to do it and can't wait for next Thursday."
On the summer camp: "It was great and definitely the best camp in my five camps here. We grew closer together as a family and really installed our offense. We look good and can't wait to put it out to everyone next Thursday night."
Noel Thomas, Jr., Wide Receiver
On limiting turnovers this season: "As a team we have `musts', and every position is working on ball security every day. Especially as a receiver, catch the ball, tuck it, and secure it and taking pride in protecting the football."
On his strengths as a receiver: "My route running and catching the ball is my strength, the way I attack the football."
Josh Marriner, R-So., Running Back
On moving on from training camp to Week One: "Camp was great. We really just focus on the team and brotherhood. Every day we came out and no matter how you were feeling you made sure our brothers were feeling great and we can have a great day."
On team captains: "Those guys are incredible leaders. They always lead on and off the field. They lead in the classroom. They really try and show the team the right way. They have been here, they have the experience and they are really trying to show us the way for this year."
Bryant Shirreffs, R-So., Quarterback
On protecting the football and limiting turnovers: "You have to be smart with the football. That is in the preparation. If you know what the defense is doing before they do it and if you are comfortable with your plays, you are not going to force the ball in places. If you practice ball security, that will carry over to the game. It is really in the preparation."
Junior Joseph, R-So., Linebacker
On senior captains Marquise Vann, Andrew Adams and Julian Campenni: "Our senior captains, every day they come with an attitude that it's their last go around and they bring the passion and energy every day. It wasn't a hard choice to vote for them. That's what our team needs."
Tommy Myers, R-So., Tight End
On getting ready for the season opener: "We are focusing on ourselves and our team. Villanova is a very good opponent, especially for week one. But for us, we really just have to limit turnovers this year and be good as an offense. We are excited and working really hard. I just want to play."
UConn T Andreas Knappe humbled by being voted a captain: "I Personally didn't vote for myself."
-- Neill Ostrout (@NeillOstrout) August 26, 2015
-- Desmond Conner (@desmondconner) August 26, 2015
-- Kevin Nathan (@KevinNathanNBC) August 26, 2015
Diaco confirms Sunday is the day to talk about players and where they're lining but "battles were healthy" #UConn
-- Desmond Conner (@desmondconner) August 26, 2015
-- Kevin Nathan (@KevinNathanNBC) August 26, 2015
-- Jim Fuller (@NHRJimFuller) August 26, 2015
-- Jim Fuller (@NHRJimFuller) August 26, 2015