Bob Diaco

Analyzing Bob Diaco and the uphill climb at UConn

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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.

DL Josh Moore tweets decision to transfer from Mizzou

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 05:  Head coach Barry Odom of the Missour Tigers reacts during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Tyler Lecka/Getty Images)
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Missouri’s defensive line grouping will be a little lighter personnel-wise when the Tigers kick spring practice off in a couple of months.

On his personal Twitter account Monday, Josh Moore announced his decision to transfer from Mizzou in order to “follow other opportunities academically and athletically.” No specific reason was given for the lineman’s decision to move on from Columbia and head coach Barry Odom‘s football program.

Moore was a three-star member of Mizzou’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Kansas. Listed as a tight end coming out of high school, Moore played both end and tackle along the Tigers’ defensive line the past two seasons.

After playing in 11 games as a true freshman, Moore saw his playing time cut in more than half as he took the field for just five games in 2016.

Cal hires Marques Tuiasasopo to coach quarterbacks

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Noah Westerfield #33 of the California Golden Bears runs onto the field prior to the start of an NCAA football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at California Memorial Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Former Washington quarterback great Marques Tuiasasopo is making his rounds through the entire Pac-12.

On Monday, California announced the hiring of the former Husky to coach the Bears’ quarterbacks and serve as the team’s passing game coordinator. Tuiasasopo served in the same capacity for UCLA last season, and previously worked alongside Golden Bears head coach Justin Wilcox at USC and his alma mater.

“It is important that the coaches on our staff have strong connections on the West Coast and Marques certainly has been a fixture in the football world on this side of the country for a long time,” Wilcox said in a statement. “The connections he has made over the years along with his familiarity with the Pac-12 will pay tremendous dividends for us in recruiting. Also, having been a former player he understands the game from the players’ perspective quite well and is enthusiastic on imparting the knowledge he has gained as both a player and young assistant coach to our players.”

Tuisasopo jumped into coaching as a strength and conditioning assistant at Washington in 2009, then moved on-the-field as an intern and later tight ends coach at UCLA.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Cal football family and to be coaching with Justin Wildox again,” Tuiasosopo said. “Justin is a great coach and an even better person. I look forward to working with the new coaching staff that is being put together at Cal and tapping into the program’s rich football history, building off that and bringing championship football back to this great University.”

Tuiasasopo spent four years as a quarterback at Washington, ending his run with an eighth-place finish in the 2000 Heisman Trophy voting, a Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award and a Rose Bowl MVP trophy, leading the Huskies to the No. 3 final AP ranking, which still stands as the program’s highest year-end ranking since their 1991 national championship. He left school as the Huskies’ all-time leader in total offense and become the first college quarterback ever to throw for 300 yards and rush for 200 in the same game.

 

Cal reportedly hires former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter to head defense

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 03: Head coach Tim DeRuyter of the Fresno State Bulldogs watches action against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Fresno State 43-10.  (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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California will hire former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter to serve as its defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports out Monday.

DeRuyter, of course, was the Bulldogs’ head coach through mid-October, where he was let go after starting with a 1-7 record. Prior to that, he led Fresno State to the 2013 Mountain West championship and shares of the MW West Division crown in 2012 and ’14. (And then Derek Carr graduated.)

A longtime defensive coordinator, DeRuyter previously served in that same post at Ohio, Navy, Nevada, Air Force and Texas A&M.

Gorley writes DeRuyter will be asked to transition the Bears from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment, a task he’s successfully completed in the past. He would take over a defense that finished last season ranking 122nd in yards per play allowed and second-to-last in scoring.

 

Michigan football going to Rome this spring

ROME, ITALY - APRIL 06:  A view of the Colosseum and Roman Forum during the Way Of The Cross procession held by Pope Benedict XVI on Good Friday April 6, 2012 in Rome, Italy.  The traditional Catholic procession on Good Friday recalls the crucifixion of Jesus Christ ahead of Sunday's Easter holiday. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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The NCAA is going to shut down the ability to take a football team off campus during spring break starting in August, so Jim Harbaugh is making sure his program gets one more trip squeezed in. This one is going to require a passport.

This April, Harbaugh is taking the Wolverines to Rome for a “week of education and spring drills.” This is a direct response to criticisms Michigan faced when moving spring football practices to Bradenton, Florida last spring, nestled right in ACC and SEC recruiting grounds. The practices at the home of AS Roma, an Italian soccer club. What’s different about this one is the trip will come at the end of the semester instead of over spring break. Harbaugh just found a loophole.

“We were looking to provide our student-athletes with a great educational, cultural and international football experience,” Harbaugh said in a released statement. “I am excited that our student-athletes will be able to take advantage of this amazing educational opportunity, be exposed to another culture, and be ambassadors for the United States and the University of Michigan during our visit to Rome.”

Last week, the NCAA’s Division 1 Council voted to ban off-campus trips over scheduled off days from the academic calendar. But because this trip is not taking place over a spring break, the trip can, in theory, be used every year.

Just think, if Michigan had just gone to Rome last year instead of Florida, perhaps the feathers from the ACC and SEC would not have been so ruffled.

Harbaugh in Rome. This should be fun to follow.