Everyone's excited to see what first-year coach Bob Diaco can do with a UConn team that managed just three wins last season (after an 0-9 start) and before that went 5-7 in both 2011 and 2012. Then again, there was some excitement about the direction of the program when Paul Pasqualoni was hired, though he arrived on campus after the 2010 season amid concerns from some fans that he wasn't the right man for the job.
Turns out, those concerns were justified but that, as the old saying goes, is water under the bridge. Now the question becomes: Can Diaco turn things around quickly? (We say "quickly" because the expectation isn't that at some point in the yet-to-be determined future Diaco will field a winner, but that it will happen ... well, almost immediately.)
Athletic Director Warde Manuel, who hired Diaco, isn't willing to put a number on it, but he obviously wants to see improvement from a group that underachieved during the Pasqualoni era.
“Nobody around me says success is winning four games instead of three,” Manuel said, via the Associated Press. “I’m not going to sit here and say that to you. But I know I have the right man for the job.”
The quarterback situation is obviously critical to any program's success and Diaco has to decide between Chandler Whitmer, Casey Cochran and Tim Boyle. Cochran led the team to its only three wins last season and he looked to be the most polished of the bunch. But that was under a different regime with different expectations .
Whomever ends up under center will have the benefit of throwing to Geremy Davis, one of the most underrated wide receivers in the American Athletic Conference. But for that to happen -- no matter who's throwing the pass -- will mean that the offensive line is much improved from a season ago. Diaco, who was previously an assistant at Notre Dame, didn't try to sugarcoat this fact.
"There’s just not a whole bunch of dudes there that are going to be able to play competitive, winning football for 12 games this season,” he said, before adding that the unit is improving.
By how much is the question.
The coach also spoke about the importance of playing in front of a jam-packed stadium. Rentschler Field, which holds 40,000 people, regularly saw fewer than 31,000 show up for Huskies' games last season. And while there are no plans for permanent expansion, UConn is considering the idea because, ultimately, they'd love to make the leap to one of the Big-5 conferences, which we all found out recently, has everything to do with the success of the football program.
“I want to get to a point where we fill it up and then, yes we know some of the things are necessary for expansion and at the appropriate time we will expand if necessary,” Diaco said. “What am I going to do, add 10,000 seats and not sell out the seats we already have? That’s not good business.”