As we inch closer to the first football game of the season, information is starting to trickle in as to how the team is taking shape. We've seen position changes made, starting roles claimed and learned a little bit more about Bob Diaco's process. We also got our first look at the bucket hat that Kevin Duffy warned us about.
Easily my favorite story from camp is that of Offensive Lineman Gus Cruz. The redshirt senior had his 2013 season cut short by a life-threatening cardiac condition, but is now off medication and medically cleared to play. From his comments today you can tell he is very appreciative to be on the field and has assumed a leadership role on the team.
Junior linebacker Graham Stewart, a Florida transfer, has stood out as a leader from his starting role as starting outside linebacker. He missed a chunk of games towards the end of last season but showed promise in his part time role. The Xavier high standout earned high praise from Coach Diaco about his willingness to be coached and professional attitude. "Right now his receptors are wide open. All he wants to be is as good as he can be. All is he wants to do is serve the team. He's not a me-me-me guy... I'm really pleased with the professionalism that he's approaching each day with. That's his greatest asset... What he's working on and what we need to continue to clean up is his eye progression, his eye key progression." With the strong defensive minds on our coaching staff, I believe Stewart can begin to reach his full potential this season.
After today's full-pads practice, Diaco also expressed appreciation for an improving offensive line-- specifically mentioning starting tackles Andreas Knappe and Richard Levy. Knappe came over from Denmark and according to Diaco, "is starting to look like an offensive tackle instead of a guy trying to play offensive line." Considering he just moved over there from the defensive line this year, that's great to hear. Diaco also had nice things to say about some of the true freshman on the line, some of which may see playing time this year.
Bob Diaco said Campenni, Ashiru, McQuillan, Levy among players who impressed him during "rodeo" drill at #UConn practice— Jim Fuller (@NHRJimFuller) August 6, 2014
Overall Diaco appears satisfied with the team's performance defensively and expects the Huskies to consistently slow down opposing offenses by preventing big plays, bad tackling and missed assignments. Another key objective will be forcing turnovers.
True freshman Brice McCallister, who was recruited as a running back, has officially moved to corner. But if Bob Diaco looks at a player and sees a cornerback, I'm willing to accept that. There was such a logjam at RB anyway, so no we're now down to four viable options for what should be a healthy amount of available carries. Josh Marriner and Max DeLorenzo have been the top two options so far out the backfield with freshmen Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson next. All four are expected to play some kind of role this year. Unlike the quarterback situation, this makes sense on the surface because there are discernible differences in each runner's style.
Speaking of the most important position on the field, no real news on the QB front except for a cryptic "soon enough" from Bob.
UConn quarterbacks are all getting looks with all groups. Diaco says competition is wide open. We will know "soon enough" who starter is.— Tim Fontenault (@Tim_Fontenault) August 6, 2014
In the interest of molding a disruptive defense, Diaco mentioned that every practice has pash rush school, a place for players at any position to work together on skills and techniques for getting to the quarterback. That is magnificent.
Bob Diaco runs pass rush school, smart, smart, smart, smart, smart.
Diaco and Co-Defensive Coordinators Anthony Poindexter and Vincent Brown truly understand defense-- the players have continuously mentioned how knowledgeable the coaching staff is about the game and what it takes to succeed today's version of the game. We're starting to see why. It doesn't take a genius to know that getting to the quarterback is important, but for them to place a particular emphasis on this phase of the game in this way shows the kind of forward thinking behavior that this team needs.
Overall, another good day of practice, progress is clearly being made. We're only 23 days away from the start of football season folks, get excited and most of all be sure to spread the #HUSKYUP message!