Football: Diaco addresses offensive woes and more in final weekly press conference

UConn football head coach Bob Diaco talks to Obi Melifonwu (20) and the rest of the defense during the Huskies's loss to Temple on Nov. 4, 2016. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

UConn football head coach Bob Diaco talks to Obi Melifonwu (20) and the rest of the defense during the Huskies's loss to Temple on Nov. 4, 2016. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

UConn football head coach Bob Diaco addressed the media for his final pre-game press conference of the season Tuesday. With the Huskies out of bowl contention, the third-year head coach discussed UConn’s offensive woes, Senior Day and roster changes.

As UConn resides in the bottom-100 in total offense for the fifth-straight season, something no other FBS program in the country has done, Diaco knows the offense has its fair share of problems. In the last 14 quarters of play, UConn has not scored a touchdown and has been outscored 109-3 in that span.

“What I created up to this point has created this miserable slide that is the fall of 2016,” Diaco said of the offense. “We have to fix the offense. The fact that we played such a challenging schedule didn’t help, but it definitely proved to be a lot to chew on for as bad as we were on offense.”

While true freshman quarterback Donovan Williams has struggled in his two starts under center, Diaco is pleased with the progress Williams has made in a short timespan.

“I thought I saw it even from the first week to the second week. He had better ball security when running, I thought he had better vision in the pocket, really did a nice job neutralizing [Boston College’s] rush,” Diaco said of Donovan’s improvement. “Now it’s some of the decision making and ball security throwing the ball, but he’s trying.”

Saturday marks Senior Day

Saturday’s game against Tulane marks the final game for many of UConn’s 18 seniors. The senior class owns an 11-15 record in their four years at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, including last season’s momentous upset of No. 13 Houston to secure the program’s first bowl bid since 2011.

“They’ve been great leaders, they’ve been great ambassadors for the program,” Diaco said of the senior class. “Some will go on to have great success continuing to play I’m sure, and some will not but their care for the program has been incredible.”

While some of the Huskies’ seniors will see their football days come to an end, the final game of the season means new beginnings for star players Noel Thomas and Obi Melifonwu. Thomas ranks fifth in the nation with 8.3 receptions per game, and recently broke the UConn single-season record for receptions with 91 and counting.

Melifonwu is widely regarded as one of the top safeties in the country and ranks seventh in the nation amongst defensive backs with 5.6 solo tackles per game. The senior safety was recently invited to participate in the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, one the most highly-regarded collegiate all-star games in the country.

“It’s definitely a big milestone, not a lot of players get honored in that game,” Melifonwu said.  “I’m just thankful and grateful for the opportunity.”

Blackwell off the team, Williams remains

Towards the end of the press conference, Diaco informed the media that Felton Blackwell, who was arrested with weapons possession in a motor vehicle for having an unmarked BB gun with him in the passenger’s seat, has been dismissed from the team and the University.

“Based on the incidents that he had had, the community standards piece on campus dismissed him from school… He’s not even here,” Diaco said of Blackwell.

Williams, who was driving the vehicle and was charged with possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana, weapons in a motor vehicle and possession of alcohol by a minor, is still at UConn and will have an opportunity to return next season.

“It looks like he’s going to be able to make better choices in the future. He’s not a bad guy,” Diaco said of Williams. “He’s a young person and he made a mistake, and it’s an isolated incident at least at this point…He’s got talents as a person.”


Dan Madigan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering football and women's basketball. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.