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February 5, 2014
Diaco Announces Signing Class
"The class, we're very excited about. We had an opportunity to get to know the committed players that were already committed from the previous staff and it was really nice to do. To think we've only really known them for a month but to feel as committed as we do to them is pretty awesome. It shows a great alignment, the guys really represent our kind of guy, which is nice. It's a great group of guys. And then the seven or eight that were added after we got here, we went with the right kind of guys. We have guys that have strong grades, high character, tough reports. People report toughness. They also all happen to be big guys. When you can recruit a big guy you have a better chance.
On potentially adding to the class:
"I would say that there is room, but I would like to not [have to add anyone]. If something changed I reserve the right to add. We're not at this point at 85 [scholarships] if that is the question. What we have is walk-ons on the team that may be worthy of scholarship consideration. So we won't know that until we get a chance to work with the team. We always like to have the opportunity to reward players that have walked on and are part of the organization that are performing and in the two-deep to be sure that we're being fair to everyone. So we have some room there. Next year, 2015, is going to be a small group. There's not a lot of seniors leaving, and we sure hope that there's not attrition. We're working towards a zero attrition. We want and need everyone in the organization. So we like to think that we can recruit to a bigger number in 2015 by having a few extra scholarships.
On bringing in three running backs, include a Parade All-American in Arkeel Newsome:
"I know, it's so exciting and they all have these great resumes too. Brice McAllister was the two-time New England Prep Player of the Year, the last two years they didn't lose a game. Ron Johnson has incredibly acclaimed All-State accolades and numbers in a very challenging football league down there [in Florida]. So what I liken it to is you're a worker or a handyman and you go to a particular job. There's going to be a screw that has a flathead that you're going to need to screw the screw in. Then there's a different one that has a Phillips head and you need to go into your toolbox and grab a Phillips head and screw the screw in. And you might need a hammer for a nail so you grab your hammer and you hammer in the nail. So it's like that, we've got three completely tools in the toolbox to get the different jobs done as needed.
On bringing in four big offensive linemen:
"You know, I think it begins with only having a month. When you only have a month, and really just in general, if you can get a big guy, just a big bodied, long-lever guy, then even though he might not weigh what you want, we're a developmental program. So I know how hard everyone is working in the strength and condition component, the nutrition component, dining services with our medical sports performance team, that we know what we're going to be able to do with these basically pieces of clay. So when you have a lot of clay, when you have a big guy, you've got much less chance to miss. If you recruit a little guy, he might be a game-changing player but he might not be. If he's not, he really has very little value. It's hard to even think of jobs that they can do if they're not dynamic. But big guys can do a lot of different things. You can be a wing on the field goal PAT team, you can be the third tight end that tries to overwhelm the point. There's a lot of things you can do for a team if you're big.
On positive things he heard about UConn on the recruiting trail:
"To say that many things would be too many to list, I would say that there was not a place - and this is a credit to the organization, it's to the credit of Coach Edsall, it's to the credit of Coach Pasqualoni, it's to the credit of the administration and Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie and all these departments - there was not a school that Bob Diaco went to, and I can speak for the staff too, not a school or a home that I went into where the UConn brand wasn't strong. Not one negative, not one off-handed anything, not one look or one moment where you felt like you were second fiddle to another school in there. It was so well-received to every place that I went and every place that the staff went. And that's to the credit of everybody that has been a part of the organization for the last 10-12 years.
On area of needs that were addressed well and areas that are still needs:
"I think that obviously, not that the tailback position needed bolstering, but it was certainly bolstered. The offensive line position, at least from a developmental standpoint and a depth standpoint, has been bolstered with four really solid, solid guys. They're big, they move well, they're really smart. I mean basically a couple of them are 4.0 students. It's an impressive group. I would say based on system that big skilled defensive athletes, we could use a bunch more. That 6'4, 6'5, 6'6, 230, 240 250 pound guy that's athletic, that guy we could probably use a few more of those. They're just hard to find at the very end. These tight end/outside linebacker/defensive end, big safety, big wide receiver, big tailback, that kind of guy.
On his philosophy on recruiting rankings and recruiting services:
"Personally, I have nothing disparaging to say about the recruiting services. There are some guys that really have a handle on how to evaluate players and some guy who don't. There are some guys that are just trying to make a buck. There are some services that if you, as a recruit, engage the service, then your rating goes up. So if you're a recruit that doesn't engage the service then your rating doesn't go up. So it has very little to do with your prowess on the field and a whole lot to do with your wanting to be part of the recruiting world in some instances. If that's the case and that's prevalent, which it is, then how are they credible in any way? What we have is our needs. You can be a four-star recruit, and let's say you're a cornerback. If we don't need a cornerback, then you don't have value to UConn. The value is in what our needs are, not in what somebody else says is a high commodity. For example, someone might say why don't you want caviar, it's very expensive, it's very fancy. I don't like it, I put it in my mouth and it doesn't taste good. So I'm going to have a cheeseburger. By that rationale, we put virtually no thought into who has what stars, who we should recruit based on that information you hear about.
On not having any wide receivers or quarterbacks in the class:
"I would say we would like to grab a quarterback every year. You want to have a quarterback in the class every year. At wide receiver, there's just a bunch of wide receivers on the team. It's really the one position where they're plus. If you look at need, they're really plus on the scholarship count at that position from a need standpoint. At that position, it's a bonus number for the ideal. You kind of have to shut the door on that position otherwise you're going to end up with another position that's incredibly short.
On his philosophy on playing true freshman, specifically on the offensive line:
"It's hard up front. The closer they get to the ball it's harder it is, the development, the massive volume of reps and weight training really shows itself on the offensive and defensive line. The ability to carry that balance and core strength is so much more pronounced in an older play than in a younger player. I'm not going to say it's not going to happen, but it's not optimal for sure. I'd like to think that these guys in the deplete position could be on the bus and in the cooker. The philosophy is a quote, and the quote is `when you're ready, we're ready.' I don't have a hard set number or anything like that. We're not going to prevent anyone from playing because when you're ready, we're ready.
On some of the linebacker recruits that have committed to UConn:
"Vontae Diggs is big, long and athletic. He has third down ability in terms of being able to play on all three downs. He can stand up and play in space but he's also an impact player on the edge rushing. He has flexible hips and violent hands and a very solid initial quickness. He has enough body to push on a tackle for a healthy portion of the game. He's an on the line of scrimmage space player. Luke Carrezola is a captain and incredible bright. He's a great communicator and a tough guy that has leadership qualities. I can see him playing inside driving the defense and becoming an extension of the position coach in the locker room and on the field. And he's big and he's tough.
On how many of the new recruits he or the other coaches had previous relationships with versus those he reached out to recently:
"It was almost zero guys that we had previous relationships with. We kind of just dug into the area and started looking at tape on highly rated players and players that had been recruited. We revisited tape that had been either shelved or evaluated and looked at guys that had been to camp here. We just started scouring through that information. Like anything else, you have a guy you trust and they say to you "Have you seen Jimmy from wherever? He's a heck of a player. Of all the teams we played he was the best one we saw." When you're on the phone lines with these guys you can then create a list. That's kind of how it went.
On if now's the time to take a step back from recruiting and start to evaluate the team he has:
"We're going to recruit every day and we're going to do our recruiting in the morning. It's not the top thing that guys want to do. The guys want to do football and be with the team so when they have all the energy in the morning we're going to have them to recruiting. The main focus for the next four weeks is going to be on our team. It's going to be about the physical, mental and cultural development of our team for the next four weeks every day.
On Arkeel Newsome and if he's concerned about his size:
"I'm not concerned about his size he's a winner. We're going to ask him to do things that suit his traits. We really pride ourselves in not asking players to do things that we know they can't already do but instead focusing on what they can do . He's not the tallest guy in the world but he has stature. He has nice broad shoulders and big legs. This is not a diminutive guy. There are definitely things he could do that are better than the rest.
On how much convincing he needed to do to keep the recruits that were already committed to stay and how he balanced doing that with going out and getting new recruit:
"I didn't do any convincing. I didn't do any selling. I just simply presented what I believe the university and the resources for the football team to be. I then presented clearly our staff and our culture and how we're going to conduct our business. The selling and convincing are not words that we use and that is not how we conduct our business.
On how bought in he is with this recruiting class:
"I'm excited about every one of them and I was excited about every one of them. If I wasn't when I met them they would know about it and I would be open and honest about it. The fact of the matter is we were aligned very nicely with every one of them.
On how UConn's recruiting class stacks up against everyone else in the conference with only having about a month to get it together:
"Sometimes you have moments like this when you end up with 16 guys that really want to be a part of your program and your class isn't necessarily ranked real high but the guys fit and are the right kind of players at that time. I've been on teams like that and three years later they were playing for a national championship. I've also seen teams with a top-5 recruiting class in their conference and three years down the road they can't get out of their own way.
On how it's different recruiting players as a head coach versus in the past when he was a coordinator:
"It really is different. You're juggling a lot of different balls and it's fun and exciting. It's a great challenge. This recruiting season has been very different. I haven't had the ability to just focus on my particular unit. It's about the team and putting it together and seeing how they're doing every day. There are so many different things that distract my time that I hadn't had to deal with before.
On if he feels fortunate that so many student-athletes from last year's team are still around for this season:
"That's what I'm most excited about honestly. I just want to show them a commitment to how we were going to serve them and do a great job of communication with them about how important they are. Everyone has value and everyone is needed and has a role. It may not be your favorite role, but there's no more or less respect for any role than the other. They're all needed and all wanted. Right now we have a group of guys that are busting their butts and trying hard and they all want to be here. It's very exciting right now."