Since before this season started, the UConn players and coaches used a common refrain when discussing the biggest difference between last year's team and this year's.
Brotherhood. Trust. Caring about the person next to you on the field and believing in his ability to do his job.
It felt pretty easy at the time to dismiss answers like that as an easy way out of a legitimate question. When a TV reporter inevitably asks how important it is to win the next game, you can understand hearing that kind of canned response. But when discussing the reason why the product on the field will be better this year, it can be difficult to process.
But one thing we now know about this UConn team, and ostensibly something Diaco hopes to be a trademark of all his teams, is that it doesn't try to do anything too fancy schematically on offense or defense. Diaco and his staff favor a straightforward brand of football.
The offensive strategy is built on old school tactics, especially by today's standards in the college game: establishing the run, using the passing attack to keep the offense balanced, and counting on the team to execute a relatively simple set of plays consistently at a high level.
Similarly, the defense, with its well-documented "bend but don't break" philosophy, sits back and dares the opposing offense to put together long, sustained drives. The Huskies defense rarely, if ever, dials up blitzes and the secondary prefers to hang back in zone coverage so that it can make plays on the ball.
In the context of an assignment-based defense, and an offense predicated on keeping it simple, trust actually is quite important on the field. On defense, a lack of trust can lead to a linebacker leaving his assignment to cover for a teammate who he thinks may not cover his gap. If the quarterback doesn't trust his receivers to run the right routes, he may be less inclined to throw combo routes and maybe more likely to tuck and run. On the offensive line, a lack of trust can lead to all sorts of missed assignments. For all the planning the coaches put into a football game, there is a ton of improvisation by the players on the field.
So go ahead and scoff the next time you hear a UConn Football player talk about how he and his brothers need to trust each other and execute at a higher level, because those principles are the bedrock of what UConn Football is becoming. There are too many people on the field for pure talent to reign supreme (looking at you, basketball)- too many moving parts to win based solely on an "innovative" offense. You need buy-in. After this season's performance, it's clear that Bob Diaco has that with his players, and that the recruits he and his staff are bringing in are attracted to that environment.
Win or lose today, this season has been a resounding success. When the Huskies take the field in the first game of the 2016 season, we'll be talking about a team dealing with some serious expectations.
After all they've been through, I think we can trust Diaco and the Huskies to handle it appropriately.