Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Boyle content to use 2014 as developmental year at UConn

The major news to come out of a Monday press conference that ranges somewhere from the bizarre to the surreal was that Casey Cochran, who led UConn to all of its three wins a season ago, has been named the Huskies' starting quarterback while former starter Chandler Whitmer will be featured in the offensive game plan on a weekly basis.

However, it would be a mistake to downplay the importance of Tim Boyle's role in the quarterback derby at UConn. With all due respect to Cochran and Whitmer, Boyle is the most physically gifted of the trio. It was Boyle who ascended to become UConn's starting quarterback in game No. 5 after Whitmer and the Huskies began the season with four straight losses. When Boyle was pulled in favor of Cochran after he started four games, all UConn losses, I remember hearing rumblings from a pretty reliable source that Boyle was at least pondering his future with the Huskies. A call to his former high school coach (Xavier's Sean Marinan) quelled those rumors.

I've gone on a couple of radio shows to discuss the prospects of the 2014 Huskies and naturally the quarterback situation was a popular topic of conversation. I predicted that either Cochran or Boyle would win the starting job. It wasn't due to any insight I gained from watching practice because I did not see one 11 on 11 or 7 on 7 drill due to the limited amount of practice time the media was allowed to watch but simply that if the quarterback competition was going to as close as I expected it to be, why would Bob Diaco and his staff use this year to develop a senior like Whitmer when they could build the offense around a player with two more seasons of eligibility after this year? The other concern I mentioned was whether one of the sophomores would exit stage right if the other one was named the No. 1 quarterback.

Well, Boyle certainly said all the right things during the press conference.

"I am extremely happy," Boyle said. "I appreciate Coach Diaco and the coaches doing what they are doing with me but my role this year is to help Chandler and Casey prepare for games, continue to push them to improve their games so they can perform on Saturdays. I have my role this year and I am 100 percent willing to do it. I have learned that getting mental reps is a huge part of the development in a football player. I think seeing things in practice and from the sideline and hearing the play call in the headphones, seeing that the defense does to prepare for it is going to help me prepare for it mentally. Like Coach said I am going to be ready to play games this year, it is not like I am going to take a year off. I am going to be studying BYU film in a couple of hours with the quarterbacks and I am going to be ready to go but my job this year is going to be to push these guys to their best levels."

If that proves to be the case, the quarterback situation played out perfectly as UConn will be able to bring back both Cochran and Boyle next season with Boyle having three more seasons of eligibility and Cochran would have two years left. Also, North Carolina State transfer Bryant Shirreffs, who has to sit out this season due to NCAA regulations, would have three seasons remaining while highly-touted high school quarterback Tyler Davis will be in the mix as well.

Here is what Diaco said about Boyle's role.

"With some nagging injuries here and there through this fall camp, it has slowed his competitive portion and with that, he is going to prepare for the games and help the team prepare to win games. We would expect him to go in and perform at a winning level - and we have no doubt he would do that. But, all in all, if we can, we are going to protect him. He is a four-to-play-three (in terms of eligibility), so that will give us an opportunity to create separation in terms of years between he and other guys. If is possible, I say that with great clarity, we will make every effort to do that. If it's not possible, we will not hesitate and he's going to be ready and be diligent in his preparation to get that done."

Some other thoughts and items from yesterday's practice that I didn't get into previous blogs.

First, while it is impressive to hear that both Cochran and Whitmer completed nearly 65 percent of their passes during this competition, I have to wonder what that says about the quality of the pass defense since those numbers occurred in drills against the defense. I have no idea how many of these completions were against the first, second or third team defenses but for every pass completed by the UConn offense, that is one pass not broken up by the defense.

For the second straight practice I was able to attend, true freshmen Ryan Crozier and Trey Rutherford continue to work with the second team offensive line at guard.  Redshirt freshman Thomas Hopkins continued to be the second-string left tackle. Redshirt freshmen Tommy Myers at tight end and Thomas Lucas at receiver continue to look like they will play significant roles while I would be surprised if redshirt freshman Josh Marriner is not the Huskies' leading rusher this season while I have long said that of the true freshmen, I predict tight end Alec Bloom would have the biggest impact early on. Of course Arkeel Newsome, who is the all-time leading rusher in Connecticut high school football history, is a true freshman with an exciting future while every time I looked over to see the offensive drills yesterday I saw fellow true freshman Ron Johnson with the ball tucked under his arm. On the defensive side of the ball, redshirt freshman Foley Fatukasi has been with the second unit at defensive tackle at every practice I have seen while redshirt freshmen Cam Stapleton, Cole Ormsby and Junior Joseph were working with the second team defense at linebacker. It has been reported multiple times that true freshman Jamar Summers is pushing for a major role at cornerback. In other words, there will be plenty of youth on display during the 2014 season.

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