It is six games through his first season as a head coach, at any level, for Bob Diaco. The record may be 1-5, but it does not signify the growth and maturity that has taken place over those same six games for the UConn football program. The coaches know it and after speaking with several players during media availability this afternoon in preparation for Thursday night’s game at East Carolina, they realize it as well.
I asked Diaco what he needs to focus on, as he continues to grow as a head coach, halfway through his first season.
“Focusing on what our process is,” Diaco responded. “What our recipe is for turning this program into a champion, which we will. Not to get enamored, chase the flavor of the day, the story line of the day or get distracted by noise outside of these walls, these rooms and this locker room.”
With message boards, columnists and fans’ patience running thin following three uncharacteristically bad seasons for a program that expects to at least make a bowl game at the start of each year, skeptics have become abundant. However, it is far too early to judge in a results oriented business like college football.
Take Art Briles for example, who has turned Baylor around from a bottom feeder in the Big XII, to making their first and only BCS bowl appearance last season. The Bears were ranked No. 4 this past week, before falling to West Virginia on Saturday. It took Briles two 4-8 seasons before finishing with a winning record in year three, a 7-5 regular season.
The point? Patience is needed as habits are changed, talent is recruited and development ensues. In the meantime, the players on the current roster will be a main point of emphasis, as always.
“Having discipline to stay focused on the players, what they need and that barometer,” Diaco said. “That benchmark will keep us moving in the right direction, which we are, in virtuously every single category of our program.”
Diaco understands that the season thus far, in terms of results, is not what many expected, but there’s a plan.
“It’s not showing on the scoreboard yet, which it needs to, don’t get me wrong,” Diaco added. “I’m not new in the game, I’m not some naive person standing up here. I’ve been doing this for twenty years. I know it needs to and it will, but I need to be sure that I stay focused and drilled down on our recipe.”
Thursday night will be a prime opportunity to start changing the perception that has taken hold. If they do, there’s some opportunities the rest of the way, to make some noise.by
Friday night UConn fans from all over the state piled in to the basketball capital of the world. UConn’s men’s basketball team had their past, present, future, and hopeful future in the building. Both of UConn’s commits, Jalen Adams and Steven Enoch, were in Gampel with many other recruits in 2016, 2017, and 2018. On a night where championship banners were unveiled, thirteen championship trophies were displayed, the best three point shooter of all time was in the house, and the current men’s and women’s teams put on a show, there’s no doubt the recruits in the house were impressed. Here’s a look at who was here and some reactions from the recruits:
-Jalen Adams (PG): The explosive five star guard who committed this summer was on his official visit this weekend.
-Steven Enoch (PF): The four star big man committed to UConn last month really enjoyed the night. “It was great. The team and everyone involved put on a really good show for us. I enjoyed every moment of it. I can’t wait [until next year], but at the same time I can only imagine how hard they work day in and day out. It’ll take a lot of time for me to reach the level they play on the court.”
-Arkel Ager (SG): Ager was at last years First Night as well. He’s a recruit that UConn has been keeping their eyes on and he could become a bigger target depending on what happens with others. Here’s what he had to say on the night, “It was nice, I enjoyed myself. I liked all the way from the opening to the game and when coach Ollie gave us a nice speech in the practice facility.”
-V.J. King (SF): King’s a polished five star wing that made his first trip to Storrs this weekend. He was at First Night Friday night then was also back on campus for part of the weekend. King is a major target for the staff in 2016.
-Wenyen Gabriel (SF): He’s another recruit who UConn’s keeping an eye on. Like all the recruits he also had a very good time. “First Night was great. The new practice facility is great and the gym was unbelievable. Playing there must be so fun. I was happy that I could be there with all the Rivals [His and Adam's AAU program] family,” and on his favorite part of the night, “It has to be when Ray Allen came into the gym because I’ve never seen him in person before,” he explained.
-Omari Spellman (PF): The powerful big man is a top twenty player in his class. UConn has been on him for a little while now.
-Tremont Waters (PG): The talented four star Connecticut native received an offer from UConn this summer and has been on campus multiple times before Friday night. He’s a big target in 2017.
-Nate Pierre-Louis (PG): Another four star floor general that was in the house for First Night. Pierre-Louis came away extremely impressed saying, “It was great. I loved it. It is really the basketball capital of the world. I appreciate UConn for offering me and letting me experience such a good night. The beginning when they were showing all the championships was the best. When they had the short clips of the dual championships that was emotional.” Nate was also able to get a good look at the new practice facility. “It was great. Beautiful facility. Top notch. Coach Ollie gave us a great speech about family and UConn. It was a great experience,” he explained.
-Hamadou Diallo (PF): UConn got their first look at him this past week and saw enough to invite him to First Night. “The night was really great. I had a good time and enjoyed myself. My favorite part was the tour of the new practice facility and seeing the best three point shooter in the game of basketball was great as well. [On the practice facility] I like that they had a great training room, a great new basketball court, and the academic room was nice. I really liked everything about the practice facility,” Diallo stated.
-Zack Brown (C): A top five player in his class, the talented center made his way up from Miami, Florida to attend First Night. He, like V.J. King, stayed for part of the weekend as well. Zack may have came away the most impressed from his visit out of all the recruits. “UConn’s First Night was exciting. I had never been on a college campus like that before. It was beautiful and I was treated with such great hospitality. I enjoyed the game and seeing some of the players in action. The size of the players and the speed of the game showed me that I have a lot of work to do. I love how the team plays together. My high school coach (Jacob Shaw) develops me as a conventional big man. I like UConn for what they did in the past with the big men. Defensively they work almost the same system as my high school. The practice facilities were great. I like that both men’s and women’s programs don’t have to share the same court. There is a lot of history and trophies when walking in there. They like to win. Very impressive,” explain the big man.
-Louis King (PF): UConn is impressed with him already before he’s even played a game in high school. He’s certainly a name to watch in the next few years.
-Nazreon Reid (C): Another player the staff is extremely impressed with and has already offered. Reid is already considered a top five player in his class before playing a high school game.
Here are some other recruits that attended First Night that the staff is keeping an eye on.
2016- Saul Phiri, Unique McLean, Kashaun Hicks, Tyrique Jones, Mamadou Diarra, Chris Baldwin, and Samuel Japheth-Mathias.
2017- Makai Ashton-Langford.
2018- Aaron Clarke.
Whalers’ Cespedes to play football at UConn, Day
UConn celebrates success at First Night, Post
Basketball Center Named For Peter Werth Of Woodbridge, Courant
Money Needed To Finish Center Could Use Some NBA Bling, Jeff Jacobs, CT Now
Pictures: UConn’s New Basketball Practice Facility, Courant
Photos: UConn First Night 2014, Courant
UConn puts on a show on First Night, Register
UConn basketball First Night live blog, Register
Huskies bring out past, present, future stars, Day
Kevin Ollie Fulfills The Banner Guarantee At First Night, Courant
UConn junior Omar Calhoun shaping up for a bounce-back year, Register
Napier Continues to Grow, Hot Hot Hoops
UConn Women Alumni Well-Represented At First Night, Courant
It was a long bus ride on Friday to Columbus, OH, for the sixth game of the final high school season for the 15th commit of the 2015 UConn football recruiting class.
Travel is nothing new, however, for Mike Tarbutt, who commutes every day from his home in Canada, to Canisius High School, just south of the northern border, in Buffalo, NY.
“I wanted exposure,” Tarbutt said over the phone on Wednesday. “That was a big thing. It’s really hard to get any type of exposure, especially being a kicker and punter up there [in Canada]. It’s difficult and I knew if I wanted to make a jump, I not only needed to go to a school in the states, but I needed to go to someone who was going to get noticed with a lot of prospects. Canisius is just over the border, so I drive. It’s just 45 minutes to an hour, I go over the border everyday.”
Not bad for pursuing your dream, huh?
Tarbutt is also a quick decision maker. UConn offered on Friday and as soon as he heard, the 6′ 0′ 176-pound kicker and punter, committed right then and there.
“They called around 10AM and left a message with my coach, but once I heard, I committed on the spot,” Tarbutt said. “I’ve been talking with the staff for awhile and I knew it was the place for me. I was on campus for a camp over the summer, didn’t really get a full visit, but I did get a tour of the facility.”
Assistant head coach Don Patterson was Tarbutt’s main recruiter.
“The entire coaching staff is great,” Tarbutt noted, “but Patterson stood out. He was always keeping me up to date and ensuring I knew this wasn’t just a one-time thing. The staff there is doing a good job. They are obviously going to have ups and downs, being their first year at UConn, but I know we are going to turn it around.”
The staff has done their due diligence, ensuring everyone they bring in, is not only a solid football player, but one that has high character and can handle themselves. It’s no different with Tarbutt, who’s school is an all-Catholic high school.
“It just helps me to be appreciative of everything and realize that not everything is possible,” he humbly noted. “We do fifty (50) hours of community service, which is mandatory, but it really opens your eyes wherever you go. I volunteered at a hospice the whole summer and it just makes you feel better as a person and makes me want to help out more in my community.”
Tarbutt had a few words about the game in Columbus last weekend.
“It was a rough game Saturday, we didn’t play fully to our potential, they had a really muddy field and we were slipping all over the place.”
One would think they took their first loss of the year, right? Wrong.
“We still won 21-14,” Tarbutt said. “Right now we are 44th in the nation by USA Today at 6-0. We have a really good team, with a number of really good prospects. It was really hard to do any sort of kicking because of the field, but we had three TD’s. I was coming off a little thing on my stomach (abscess), so I really didn’t do too much, leading in.”
Tarbutt possesses a very strong leg.
“My career long in a game is 52,” he recalled. “I’ve done that once down in the states and once back home in Canada.”
He sees himself as more of a kicker, than punter, but didn’t throw away the possibility of doing both at UConn.
“I think they’ll give me the opportunity,” he said. “I just need to work on consistency with my punting, but when I hit my A ball, I can hit it pretty well.”
Before we were done, Tarbutt mentioned that UConn football’s unofficial main recruiter, quarterback commit Tyler Davis, sent his congratulations.
“We had a short conversation,” Tarbutt said. “He was preparing for a game last Friday, but he sent me a text message over twitter. I’m excited about my decision and can’t wait to get to UConn.”by
Week 6 welcomed some former Huskies back from the injured list, and they came back in a big way for their teams. Blidi Wreh-Wilson had argueably the best game of his career, and Sio Moore picked up right where he left off before he missed a couple games due to injury.
Week 6 Stats:
- Dan Orlovsky – DET: DNP
- Donald Brown – SD: INACTIVE
- Jordan Todman – JAX: 3 carries for 1 yard, 0 TD’s, Long of 2 yds
- Anthony Sherman – KC: BYE
- Marcus Easley – BUF: INACTIVE
- Nick Williams – WASH/FA: DNP (Unsigned)
- Ryan Griffin – HOU: 0 rec for 0 yds, 0 TD’s, Long of 0 yds
- Donald Brown – SD: INACTIVE
- Jordan Todman – JAX: 1 rec for 0 yds, 0 TD’s, Long of 0 yds
- Anthony Sherman – KC: BYE
- Shamar Stephen – MIN: 2 Tackles
- Blidi Wreh-Wilson – TEN: 11 Tackles, 1 INT
- Sio Moore – OAK: 10 Tackles
- Tyvon Branch – OAK: INACTIVE
- Robert McClain – ATL: 2 Tackles, 1 Sack
- Dwayne Gratz – JAX: INACTIVE
- Danny Lansanah – TB: 5 Tackles
- Darius Butler – IND: INACTIVE
- Kendall Reyes – SD: 4 Tackles
- Jordan Todman – JAX: 1 KO Return for 25 yards, 25.0 AVG, 0 TD’s
- Marcus Easley – BUF: INACTIVE
- Anthony Sherman – KC: BYE
- Ryan Griffin – HOU: 1 ST Tackle
- Dan Orlovsky – DET: DNP
- Donald Brown – SD: 59 carries for 126 yards, 0 TD’s, Long of 16 yds
- Jordan Todman – JAX: 8 carries for 21 yards, 0 TD’s, Long of 10 yds
- Anthony Sherman – KC: 2 carries for 8 yards, 0 TD’s, Long of 4 yds
- Marcus Easley – BUF: 0 rec for 0 yards
- Nick Williams – WASH/FA: CURRENTLY A FREE AGENT
- Ryan Griffin – HOU: 2 rec for14 yds, 0 TD’s, Long of 8 yds
- Donald Brown – SD: 13 rec for 76 yards, 0 TD’s, Long of 6 yds
- Jordan Todman – JAX: 6 rec for 48 yds, 0 TD’s, Long of 12 yds
- Anthony Sherman – KC: 2 Rec for 13 yards, Long of 12 yds
- Shamar Stephen – MIN: 8 Tackles
- Blidi Wreh-Wilson – TEN: 27 tackles, 1 INT
- Sio Moore – OAK: 29 tackles, 1 Sack, 2 Forced Fumbles
- Tyvon Branch – OAK: 19 Tackles, 1 Sack
- Robert McClain – ATL: 22 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 INT
- Dwayne Gratz – JAX: 19 Tackles
- Danny Lansanah – TB: 26 Tackles, 2 INT, 2 TD’s
- Darius Butler – IND: 16 Tackles
- Kendall Reyes – SD: 11 Tackles, 1 Sack
- Jordan Todman – JAX: 17 KO Returns for 453 yards, 26.6 AVG, 0 TD’s
- Marcus Easley – BUF: 5 ST Tackles
- Anthony Sherman – KC: 4 ST Tackles
- Ryan Griffin – HOU: 1 ST Tackle
As The Boneyard Blog was the first to report, Tyraiq Beals has verbally committed to the Huskies, becoming the 16th player to join for 2015.
Beals is a 6′ 0″ wide receiver from East Orange High School (East Orange, NJ), who camped with the Huskies over the summer.
The staff held off on an offer in order to see some footage of his senior season and liking what they’ve seen, offered on Monday.
Rutgers, Temple and Virginia each had interest in the receiver, who is a bit of a speedster and the smaller of the three receivers currently in the class.
We will catch up with Beals to hear about his decision, his thoughts on the staff and how his senior season is going.by
Lack Of Offense, Turnovers Continue To Haunt UConn Football Team, Courant
Hamilton Brothers Toughened Up Youngest, Daniel, For Time At UConn, Courant
UConn’s Moriah Jefferson has chance to step into leadership role, Register
The Huskies enter their second bye week of the season with one win and five losses. Scoring three points against Tulane is unacceptable, but big picture, the team is making progress in all areas of the game. That fact, is flying under the radar.
Yesterday, we looked at the running game and particularly the production from two true freshmen, Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson. Head coach Bob Diaco talked about their performance during today’s teleconference with the media, to wrap-up the game against Tulane.
“Execution all across the board on offense was much better,” he said. “Those two [Newsome and Johnson] are very talented players. They are working hard and we will continue to give them the ball and allow them to make plays. The execution will only continue to improve.”
That improved execution, refers to the more than handful of runs that saw both backs reach the second and third levels of Tulane’s defense, something that was non-existent in the first five games. It’s a testament to the play of the offensive line, which has now begun to open up some holes.
“They [the offensive line] are so much better than they were just a few weeks ago,” Diaco confirmed. “I have one play family that I am concerned about as it relates to them mentally understanding. The rest of the game plan that was installed, there are very few missed assignments and mental errors. The plays that were negative were either the defense creating overloaded situations at the point of attack, or a player getting beat physically, which is going to happen in the game. You’re not going to win every [one-on-one] match-up, but we have come a long way offensively and the offensive line, in particular, has come a long way in terms of executing assignments and execution of plays.”
On the other side of the ball, the Huskies defense has quietly moved up to 20th in the nation.
“They’re executing the plan,” Diaco said. “We knew that based on what we were going to do, there was going to be a little bit of rushing yardage [given up on Saturday]. It was built by design and it was articulated to the players. They executed our system and the game plan wonderfully.
“At the end, we came off the game plan to try to get a stop and they [Tulane] got their longest run of the game,” he added. “We were fighting and straining to try to dig the ball out [which caused some YAC]. Sometimes that stuff happens at the end of games, but all in all, the defensive players and coaches put together a wonderful game plan and the players executed that plan.”
The discipline and the mental focus has also seen improvement. The Huskies committed just one penalty on Saturday, a season low.
“There is detail in the assignments, the minimizing of procedure penalties, pre-snap errors and selfish errors, are being eliminated,” Diaco said. “We are pleased with the overall mental toughness and discipline of the group and their focus.”
Diaco doesn’t play coy, however. A loss is a loss and a 1-5 record is unacceptable.
“There is no question,” he said. “I understand that everybody is hurting over the results and no one more than the people in our organization, no one more than us.”
But Diaco does recognize that things are changing. Slowly, the rocks he overturns have less fungus than the day before and progress is being made.
“Execution is improving in all three phases,” he said. “We just need to get some points on the board and we will. We are moving forward in so many areas and our culture is taking root. We are in and competing in every game, every game is down to the wire. The players can play hard for long stretches, they give great effort and they have spirit and belief.“
That spirit and belief will be there next week, but in order to compete and get a win against a high flying East Carolina team, the offense will have to produce points and finish drives. They have ten days to get it right.by