STORRS, Conn. -
The University of Connecticut football teams begins its 2015 season under second-year head coach Bob Diaco on Thursday when it takes on Villanova. The game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field and be televised on SNY and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.
Villanova beings the season ranked fourth in the country in the NCAA FCS and returns a number of talented players from last year's team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the FCS championship and had an 11-3 record. Senior quarterback John Robertson returns and was the winner the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the FCS. The Wildcats have reached NCAA play five times in the past seven years.
To purchase tickets for the game, CLICK HERE.
Sunday was Media Day in Storrs for the game and Diaco formally announced that redshirt sophomore Bryant Shirreffs (Jefferson, Ga.) will be the starting quarterback for the Huskies.
For the UConn media notes, including a copy of the UConn depth chart, CLICK HERE.
Here are quotes from Diaco and other Husky players with video and a Twitter recap of the day.
"Camp went really well. It went really well. We had some objectives to get done and we got them all done. I don't have a negative comment coming out of camp. It smelled like camp, it smelled like summer camp. We really enjoyed each other. We really enjoyed work, not that they were tip-toeing and skipping through lilies every day. It was a good workman's attitude and energy. I think that one thing we can see now is that the guys like playing football. They might not love going to practice at 10 a.m., but once it starts and the gates close and the horn sounds, they like to play. And that travels, and that plays against everybody we play against. If we play against a team on the road, we play against a team in the rain, we play against a team in the cold, play against a team that throws it, that runs it, that plays one defensive system or another. It travels and they love to play. I believe that I can say with certainty, that collectively these guys like being together and they like playing football so that's exciting, because the energy just ran itself."
"Now we're in game week one against Villanova and how exciting of a time it is to see what the investment looks like, what the return on the investment is going to look like. Obviously you make an investment in anything, and then you get a chance to see the results. That's the phase we're in right now. We also need to have the maturity as a group to understand that having a strong winter program, a strong spring program, a strong summer program and a strong football camp, gives you a chance. It doesn't lock in any scoreboard guarantees. That's not the case. It gives you a chance, otherwise if you don't have that you probably have no chance. Unless you are just so exceptionally better then everyone else you play or most people that you play. Without doing that you have no chance, and with doing it you just have a chance. Now it's about preparation, it's about how we prepare as a group, turning that metaphoric screw another half-crank in all areas, physically, football intelligence wise and opponent prep, you know skill prep and jobs, technical stuff. The group that does that the best on a week to week basis is going to win the game. If you've done the prerequisite amount of work leading up to it.
"So we're standing here at the beginning of game week, we've done that work, and we have a chance. Now we have a great week of preparation ahead. In the event that we have a great week of preparation ahead, we can show up to the game with confidence and excitement and ready to persist. The team has responded properly to that with the little things. You can really see with the little things, and when you're not obligated to be doing a particular amount of work, when the players are doing things on their own and for themselves, in the dark hours, in their time when they're still doing football things, that's when you can get excited. We're excited about our team, we're excited about our guys. They're doing a great job. They're giving everything they have. We're looking forward to playing another team without the same color jerseys. I'm sure they're excited about not slamming into each other anymore, and having the chance to slam into somebody else."
On Bryant Shirreffs development since camp:
"Yes, no surprise at quarterback, Bryant Shirreffs won the job. He has performed well. He hasn't played in a football game in a long time. We're not going to keep too much pressure or praise on him at this point. We're just going to let him be him. He has had a strong winter, spring, summer and fall camps. We're looking forward to turning the keys to the car over to him, to let him drive it. We're hopeful and optimistic that it's going to be done properly. He has a high level of football intelligence, and most of the position players do. Some of them are a little bit more mature in their game than others, there's a few freshmen in there. He's a football intelligent player. He's a physically strong player, and he has good quickness and good speed. He could be a guy that has appropriate and even good escapability. With the ball in his arm on perimeter, he throws well on the move and can also run well. He is a good physical body, most of them are big guys. He's an accurate passer. He can make all the throws, he doesn't have the strongest arm in the group, but it's not where it needs to be managed. He has made appropriate decisions to protect the football, and that obviously is going to be the difference between winning and losing, the ability to do that in games. It's the number one statistic: turnover margin. That needs to be, and has been first and foremost on his mind, and he has shown that in practice. That's the main reason why he's going to be the quarterback."
On dealing with a running quarterback:
"I think it creates a problem all over. It's the same problem that the outside of the ball is dealing with this week with John Robertson. He's just a fantastic runner, very hard to tackle, and a tough guy. He plays the game the way you'd want a quarterback to play. It's not just passing and dealing the football, this guy is a tough guy. But it creates a problem on defense. He can run it well or in the event that you stay in coverage and you're a half-step late, he'll throw it over your head. It creates a major issue."
On the depth chart Ron Johnson "or" Arkeel Newsome:
"There are a few plays that these guys run, they can all run all the plays, but there's a few that each one runs better than others. I hope we try and track it statistically, but there's enough of a mix in there, but to list one as a starter and the other one not. You know, you list Ron (Johnson) as a starter and Arkeel (Newsome) runs the ball more than him or you list Arkeel as the starter and Ron carries the ball more. They're both going to be in there. They're going to get the lines share of the hand offs and pitches. That's why they're "or"."
On if he's worried that there's only one senior on the depth chart:
"You're optimistic about the future. Our greatest future is out in front of us. Every day that passes, our organization and team and football family gets better. It's very exciting, the fact that we're really moving forward and having every single person in most of the two phases back and not many on defense. That's pretty exciting moving forward. There's no real concern. More veteran players that are grizzled that have this great depth of understanding of their jobs is always better, but you can't have everything."
On how crucial it is to win this first game:
"It's everything. It's so critically important. I recognize that, we recognize that. We recognize that as being the vision that people see of the work done. We know something different than that, but there's no reason why we would be upset with anybody that didn't. There's no reason why anyone outside of our day-to-day interaction would know anything different than winning the games. That's the culmination of a job well done. We recognize that, and for a young man that is very important. It takes a deep level of understanding and a deep commitment to be able to to continue with energy and persistence along a process oriented task and still have that same fire and have it grow every day. That's not an easy thing for anyone to do on the planet, let alone someone that's a young man. Positive results have become a critical piece to any collection of people trying to do something great. Early positive results to build that energy and morale become a priceless tool."
On if the FBS vs. FCS really matters:
"I think it is absolutely not the case. I think that that model is gone. There's very little that separates one team from the next. I mean did you guys watch the game last night? 12 beat one last night, Villanova is three or four in whatever poll you look at. Now today they're either two or three. We saw 12, we saw what 12 did last night. They're a buzz saw team. They're a buzz saw on offense. It'll take everything that any team has against this team."
On Tyraiq Beals being consistent:
"He can catch. When the ball is thrown to him he can catch it with his hands, which is great. That's pretty much his greatest quality that when you throw the ball to him he catches it. Other than that he has good speed and quickness, he has good vision running. Beyond that he's so developmental with blocking, with his body and his overall physical presence on plays."
On if they originally thought they would have that many promising freshmen:
"We were excited about the group for sure. We never know so I don't really think about the freshmen much until they are here doing their work."
On Michael Tarbutt and Bobby Puyol:
"It's just a little different. Michael (Tarbutt) has a role that he is going to play in that world. Bobby (Puyol) is going to kick PATs and inside field goals and when it extends out then Michael is going to kick field goals. They're both going to have a place and specialist duties."
On Villanova's defense:
"Their strengths are in the football intelligence that they play with, and their structure and fundamentals. They tackle well and they run the ball hard and they block hard. Their inside linebacker (Don Cherry) is a great player. He ruins a lot of games running from sideline to sideline making a bunch of tackles. He drives that group. He's a very smart person. We love this whole team, watching them play. They're a great group and they've been doing it a long time. Coach Talley has being doing it at Villanova for thirty years, and all of his staff has been together for at least 15 years. The team is all seniors with a couple of juniors, everyone of them. They went to orientation together and got their books and campus maps together and now here they are four or five years later."
On his thoughts on Sean Marinan:
"Love Sean. He's a great teammate. He's a guy that goes hard all the time. He's a great worker in all areas. He's a give it up for the team guy. Any role that he'll have, he wants and he'll do it well. He's constantly trying to ask for more work. He's doing a nice job. I have no reservation about putting Sean in the game."
On him saying he has the best safeties in the conference:
"I do. If that's not true, I'll be very disappointed. I'll be disappointed absolutely. They are as good of role players in a system as I've been around. Andrew (Adams) is very solid in his work intellectually. He's a demonstrative communicator. He's a great guy, obviously he's captain of the football team, and he also has some physical gifts. He's fast, tough and strong. He has change of direction. He's athletic. And Obi (Melifonwu) is a whole different person just in general on the team. Obi is going to the best if not one of the best prospects in the country. He's a talented player. His game is not as clean as Andrew's but he's a talented player."
On Zordon Holman:
"He has this awesome athletic background of winning with the school he was at. He understands winning. He understands competitiveness. He has lead every team he's ever been on. His father is one of the baddest dudes on the planet for real. They've spent a lot of time together. Gordon has this incredible toughness, and depth of toughness and character that separates him from other people of his age. So that's what has kind of catapulted him into kind of a bigger role that he might not otherwise be physically ready for. This guy is on full attack all the time. His greatest traits right now are intangible."
Julian Campenni, R-Sr., Defensive Line
On comparing Villanova's quarterback to BYU's quarterback:
"It's the same thing just doing your job. A guy like that, you need to keep him contained. If you don't and you let him get outside, he's going to victimize you. Playing BYU last year will definitely help us this game."
On the FBS vs. FCS:
"Two years ago we played one of the top FCS teams in the country. We know they're a great football team. We don't look at that. It's just another obstacle ahead of us and we're looking forward to it."
On how anxious they are to hit someone else that isn't on their team:
"Absolutely we're excited to go out there and play. It's a big game. It's always fun to get to hit someone else after you go up against your teammates for pretty much eight months."
On how different the team particularly the defense is going into the opener compared to last year:
"Completely different, another year in the system. Guys got valuable experience last year. I think we're a lot of steps ahead of where we were last year going into the season."
Andrew Adams, R-Sr., Safety
On what it means to him to be a captain and how his role changes:
"It's a great honor to represent the whole football program as a captain. I'm backed by the three other great captains. Our whole senior class conducts itself as leaders. My role will just be a little more vocal. I always lead by example so that'll stay. I'll just try to lead by my play on the field."
On Coach Diaco saying he has the best safeties in the conference if not the country:
"I hold myself to a high standard and so does Coach Diaco. Anything below that standard is unacceptable. I'm thankful that Coach Diaco has that kind of confidence in Obi and I. We work together, we study film together, and that's our plan to be the best in the country."
On what separates UConn this off season and gives the team confidence going into the opener:
"I would think mental toughness. Almost everybody will be prepared physically, but not everyone will be prepared mentally. I really think our mental toughness is going to give us that edge this year."
— Desmond Conner (@desmondconner) August 31, 2015
— Jim Fuller (@NHRJimFuller) August 30, 2015
Diaco says the father of frosh TE Zordan Holman is "one of the baddest dudes on the planet."
— Ed Daigneault (@EdDaigneault) August 30, 2015
— Joe D'Ambrosio (@JoeDSports) August 30, 2015
— Joe D'Ambrosio (@JoeDSports) August 30, 2015