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Analyzing Bob Diaco and the uphill climb at UConn

Bob Diaco AP

Kevin Ollie succeeded in pulling off an improbable run to a national championship last night for UConn basketball, but on the gridiron Bob Diaco has a much steeper climb just to get the Huskies back to respectability.

Diaco, who took over the program in December after spending the last four seasons as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, is tasked with the challenge of getting a team that floundered to a 13-23 record after longtime coach Randy Edsall left for Maryland. UConn football is still in its relative infancy, only being revived at the Division I level in 2000.

But Edsall showed winning in Storrs isn’t impossible — from 2007-2010, UConn won 33 games and made an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl — though it certainly is difficult. Connecticut and the Northeast aren’t fertile recruiting grounds, and that shows in UConn’s recruiting class rankings in the Rivals era:

2002: No. 104
2003: 88
2004: 99
2005: 80
2006: 86
2007: 65
2008: 71
2009: 76
2010: 84
2011: 102
2012: 78
2013: 65
2014: 117
Average ranking: 85.77

In 2014, the state of Connecticut produced just two three-star recruits (who didn’t sign with UConn). Massachusetts offers some more fertile recruiting territory, though Diaco will have to pry the state’s top players away from Boston College (which signed six of Massachusetts’ top 10 players in 2014).

But Diaco does have good recruiting connections in the Northeast and is a native of the talent-rich state of New Jersey. While at Notre Dame, Diaco signed a number of highly-recruited players from the area he’ll have to hit hard at UConn:

New Jersey: ATH Rashad Kinlaw (3 stars), S Elijah Shumate (4 stars), WR Bennett Jackson (3 stars)
New York: DL Jarron Jones (4 stars), DE Ishaq Williams (5 stars)
Massachusetts: OL John Montelus (4 stars)

Not all these guys panned out — Kinlaw, for one, was just kicked off Notre Dame’s football team last week — but Jackson was a two-year starter and senior captain as a cornerback, while Jones and Williams are likely starters on this year’s Irish squad.

Notre Dame, of course, is an easier sell to recruits that UConn. But plenty of Irish players loved playing for Diaco, raving about his energy on the practice field and enthusiasm for player development.

It’ll take a few years to find out if Chef Diaco’s cake at UConn tastes good (seriously, he loves that cake analogy). But if he can start pulling talent from the areas he did while at Notre Dame, he’ll at least give his proud basketball school some hope on the football field.

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4 Responses to “Analyzing Bob Diaco and the uphill climb at UConn”
  1. cubano76 says: Apr 8, 2014 10:35 AM

    UCONN fans should be excited about the hiring of Bob Diaco. Let’s be honest, there’s not really anywhere to go but up after the Pasqualoni era.

  2. steeler1nation says: Apr 8, 2014 11:26 AM

    Wow, dude looks like he’s about 14.
    Very youthful looking.

  3. spreadthecheese says: Apr 8, 2014 12:15 PM

    I’m an ND fan and the word around Diaco was that the players loved him and his energy, but that he wasn’t the most motivated recruiter. He was capble of recruiting well (landing 5-star Ishaq Williams was a major land) but that recruiting wasn’t really his strong point.

    He’s going to have to get a lot better at recruiting if he plans to succeed at UConn. I wasn’t particularly a fan of his bend-but-don’t break defensive philosophy but there was no arguing with its results. He clearly had the best defense at Notre Dame in decades.

  4. shaunodame says: Apr 8, 2014 5:32 PM

    1. Don’t get too caught up in these recruiting sites rankings. Too often players grades/rankings have much less to do with an athletes athletic abilities and more to do with how much said athlete contributes to the site. I believe Diaco actually addressed this earlier this offseason.

    2. Kevin Ollie just made the job of EVERY other coach at UConn just a little bit harder.

    3. If your football program needs to build a foundation, really install an entire new program environment and instill a sense of discipline and toughness, Bob Diaco is one of the most enthusiastic and best coaches in the entire nation that UConn could have chosen to do so. Whether or not he can turn the into an elite program with annual Championship aspirations will be revealed in time, but Diaco is just the man for the job to rebuild this program from the ground up.

    4. All UConn fans should start preparing right now to hear the words “Bend but Don’t Break” about 30 million times come football season.

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