ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The University of Connecticut football team spent Wednesday continuing to prepare for the St. Petersburg Bowl, but also enjoy the festivities around it.
UConn takes on Marshall in the game on Saturday, December 26, from Tropicana Field at 11:00 a.m. The game will be televised on ESPN and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.
The Wednesday practice was once again held at Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater and the UConn travel party then enjoyed a fun afternoon at the world-famous Busch Gardens amusement park.
The Huskies will hold their final practice at Calvary on Thursday morning, enjoy a Beach Bash party at Madeira Beach in the afternoon and have a team holiday party on Thursday night.
Here are some quotes from the media session following the Wednesday practice.
Head Coach Bob Diaco
On the team’s biggest improvements from year one to year two: “Trust. Trust created an opportunity for everyone to improve, both on the good side and the bad side. The good side is that warm, fuzzy feeling of trust that you’re going to count on me and I count on you, but you also trust that if you turn the stove on and touch the top of it, you’re going to burn your hand. So there’s that trust too, and understanding that some things are hot stove items and don’t touch them yet. That’s the culture that we’ve created and built and that will continue to grow as we keep adding the right kind of guys and more layers on it. People will just keep improving, coaches and players alike.”
On the veteran defense and how they’ve worked to become what they are today: “I think it’s an understanding that it’s a work in progress. The understanding that you’re a defender. When you’re a defender, it’s never off. You’re like a fireman. It’s two o’clock in the morning and the bell sounds, you jump out of bed and slide down the pole. You don’t wonder how big or small the event is. You just get ready to go, and that is what a defender must live like.”
On how important it is to stay on track with training: “It’s a huge deal. We try to, from a strength and conditioning piece, keep our in-season development going. We don’t believe in just a maintenance. We’re trying to get stronger and faster and always get better there. If we can eat right and sleep right and keep that up, we’d like to think that down the stretch you’ll have the chance to be more physical in the game.”
Offensive Coordinator, Frank Verducci
On the offensive line: “We’re seeing some improvement. I still feel like we have some things we need to prove. The biggest thing for us is, you’re only as good as your last outing and our last outing wasn’t very good versus Temple. That’s forever in our minds until we get the opportunity to go out Saturday and hopefully play better and leave with a much better result.”
On Brian Lemelle being back and his current role: “He’s what we would call a ‘next man’ right now. His job is tough, because he has to be ready to fill multiple roles.He’s not defined in one specific role, like a starter would be.Brian is a guy that’s been on the field, he’s able to do a lot of different things as a right guy. His role will kind of unfold as the game unfolds and some of it depends on the guys who are in front of him. Any contribution that we get out of him Saturday will be a major plus for us.”
Defensive Coordinator, Anthony Poindexter
On Jamar Summers and the plays he has made for the team this season: “He’s grown. We played him as a true freshman last year and the kid has grown. With credit to him, he got better and has been practicing hard, both his off-season preparation and each week this year he’s been preparing well. He’s going to make the plays. At the end of the day, he has to make them and he has been making them for us and some have won several games for us. We’re happy with the way that he’s playing.”
On the veteran players on defense: “We have veteran players up front. We have three guys that have played a lot of football. They’ve really learned how to play in this defense and they’re doing a great job. We’re still kind of young on defense. I think we lose four guys, but we play a lot of guys on defense. We play 22 guys or 23 guys per game. If they’re ready to play in a game, we put them in and so far so good.”