On March 10 of this year, just about three months into the job and after his first spring practice, UConn Huskies football coach Bob Diaco told the assembled media the Huskies weren’t a good team.
“We’ve got enough players to have a good team, but we’re not a good team,” Diaco said. “We’re not a good team.”
On Monday’s American Athletic Conference coaches call, Diaco repeated those same words.
“We’re not a good team yet. We’ve got a lot to work on.”
Like it did in March, it caught me off guard.
One of things he emphasized in March was they weren’t good because they continued to do the things that cause losing. And yes that happened again on Friday night.
After allowing a BYU touchdown, Deshon Foxx took the kickoff back to his 44 yard line giving the Huskies excellent field position for their first possession of the 2014 season. Or so we thought.
Block in the back penalty. Fumble. Bad coverage. All things that cause losing.
“You can’t start a football game like that and think you’re going win, come on.” said Diaco after Friday night’s game.
So it makes it understandable as to why Diaco said what he said about the team not being good. But does that make UConn a bad team?
In the grand scheme of things, they are a 1,000 times better than when Diaco took over. Are they still doing some things that cause losing? Yes. But, they are doing it less and will eventually get there sooner rather than later.
They are better men, they are better football players. They believe in their coaches. Most importantly, they believe in each other.
As far as the football part goes, they’re only going to get better over time. And if Diaco employs the same tactics he did with playing 50 players including 18 players who had not played a down of college football, they will be a much better football team then they were when they took the field.
“The only way players are going to get better is to play,” Diaco said on Monday. “We played 50 players – 25 on offense, 25 on defense – in the first half. It was meaningful snaps. We stayed on that plan the whole game and didn’t change, so the players got better.”
Being down on the field affords me a different perspective to the game.
I never once saw the guys get down despite the score. I saw them battle hard. I saw a cohesive team on the sideline. If a player wasn’t playing in the game and his unit (offense or defense) was on the field, he was standing as close to the game action as he could be soaking it all in.
The coaches weren’t yelling at the players if something bad happened, they were coaching and correcting it making sure it didn’t happen again.
Overall, the scoreboard might have shown a 25 point loss. But I can tell you, UConn was a better football team on Friday night than they were on Friday afternoon.
And folks, that is progress which I expect you’ll see all season long.