Monday, August 18, 2014

Cochran heading into season as UConn's No. 1 QB

It was a rather interesting day at UConn to say the least.

The initial impression I got was that no players would be available even though this was the day we were expecting Bob Diaco to announce who is going to be the starting quarterback.

Then came the process of removing the podium from the defensive meeting room inside the Burton Family Football Complex and replacing it with a table. Five chairs were then brought in which made the media wonder if this was going to be the day when the team captains were named. Instead, the chairs were for all four scholarship quarterbacks and Diaco. I've covered my share of competitive quarterback battles but have never seen a coach bring in every scholarship quarterback to announce the starter. It was original, that is for sure.

It didn't take long for Diaco to cut to the chase and announce that redshirt sophomore Casey Cochran was going to be the No. 1 quarterback, senior Chandler Whitmer was going to see time in games and Tim Boyle would likely be redshirted.

Diaco told the quarterbacks of his intentions earlier on Monday before announcing the news to the media early in the evening.

"It is great news and it feels even better to hear it around these guys," Cochran said. "We are working as hard as we can. I am glad that Chandler is going to come in and play as hard as he can, we are going to work together in terms of being able to putting points on the board and winning games this year. I have a different life now, a different lifestyle and it feels amazing."

As Cochran mentioned, the plan is for both Cochran and Whitmer to see action in games. Diaco didn't have a preset scenario where Whitmer, who started 16 games over the previous two seasons, would get a certain amount of plays or get onto the field in particular situations.

In practice Diaco said the repetitions with the starting offense will likely be closer to a 51/49 percent breakdown than the maximum 85/15 allotment of snaps.

Whitmer, who was benched after starting the first four games of the season, has admitted that he lost some of the joy he used to get from playing football and with his degree in hand, he could have walked away from the sport. Instead, one phone conversation with Diaco changed it all. Diaco told Whitmer if he could handle being in a situation where he worked with the scout team and didn't get a snap during games he was welcome to come back. If he was only thinking on returning to be the Huskies' starting quarterback, there would be no need to return.

Whitmer vowed that "I did not come back to be the starting quarterback at UConn."

Diaco raved about Whitmer's maturity.
"Every day since he has repaired, rebuilt and gained back the respect of his teammates," Diaco said. "He didn't have to gain back our respect, he got it through his actions, through his behaviors and through his work."

Whitmer sat at a table with fellow quarterbacks Cochran, Tim Boyle and Bryant Shirreffs and said he is ready for whatever role Diaco, offensive coordinator Mike Cummings and quarterbacks coach Don Patterson has in store for him.

"I wanted to come back, set the record straight and not leave UConn the way things ended last year," Whitmer said. "I wanted to change my attitude. I grew as a man and I credit Coach Diaco for having me come back and just the way he changed this whole group, this environment. He has increased the love and it has made it easy for me to be a better teammate."

Diaco said it was nearly a dead heat between Cochran and Whitmer (Boyle was slowed by what appeared to be a lower body injury as he started today's practice riding a stationary bike.

Cochran led UConn to a season-ending three game winning streak culminating when also threw for a single-game program record 461 yards in the regular-season finale against Memphis.

However, with a new head coach in Diaco, new offensive coordinator in Mike Cummings and new quarterbacks coach in Don Patterson Cochran had to earn the job all over again.

The first step was doing the work in the weight room. Diaco said Cochran weighed in at 247 pounds at one point which predictably did not go over well with the new regime. He worked diligently to get down to under 220 pounds and showed enough during the preseason camp that he was named the team's starting quarterback on Monday.

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