Notes & Quotes: Diaco talks defensive development ahead of Tulane trip

UConn linebacker Marquise Vann returns an interception during the Huskies' game against East Carolina at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. The UConn defense is tied for third in the country in total interceptions with 14. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

After UConn’s 28-20 loss against South Florida on Oct. 17, head coach Bob Diaco said the four touchdowns allowed by his defense were just a blip.

A week later, the Huskies allowed 37 points against Cincinnati. Once again, Diaco said it was a blip.

Last Friday, the Huskies gave up just 13 points and had four interceptions. It was back to normal for Diaco and the UConn defense.

The UConn (4-5, 2-3 the American) defense is tied for third in the country in total interceptions with 14. They are also seventh in the country in turnovers gained and 19th in the country in turnover margin.

“Awareness and development,” Diaco said was the main difference between this year and last year. “Like you guys [the media] have had an opportunity to see, we’re not a big man outfit. So when you’re on body playing man, it’s then harder then to adjust to the ball in the air. You could be a ball destructor, you could have batted passes but it’s harder to be an interceptor. It’s much easier to be an interceptor from zone coverages.”

The Huskies have had three games in which they’ve had three or more interceptions.

Jamar Summers, a sophomore corner back, is 15th in the country in the interceptions. He had two against ECU last Friday and has five on the season.

Redshirt junior Jhavon Williams has three interceptions, senior Andrew Adams and redshirt junior Obi Melifonwu have two interceptions each. Redshirt sophomore Junior Joseph and senior Marquise Vann have one each.

“I think there is an overall awareness, deeper awareness as to the zone coverages,” Diaco said. “The players are more physically mature and more mentally mature as it relates to football intelligence. So they’re putting themselves in position to invite throws that they want.”

Part of why UConn’s defense has been so successful this season is getting to the quarterback, Diaco said. In games that UConn has won this season, they have allowed just 14.5 points per game. In games that they’ve lost, the Huskies have given up 26.4 points.

“If the quarterback is under duress, that’s a huge help. Every quarterback is a little different in terms of the victimizing plays that come when they are under duress…like run, which could really hurt,” Diaco said. “Sometimes when they get on the move and break the pocket that is scary.”

The Huskies have 13 sacks this season with three games to play. They had 13 all of last season.

“The rushers have done a nice job of keeping the pocket and keeping the player under duress and also keeping them contained into that nest so he has to throw under duress rather than get out to a lane and get on the move,” Diaco said.

The Huskies will face a Tulane team (2-6, 1-4 the American) that is 121st in the country in total offense (304.9 yards per game) and 120th in scoring offense (18 points per game) on Saturday afternoon.


Matthew Zampini is sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.zampini@uconn.edu. He tweets @Matt_Zamp.