Monday, August 18, 2014

A look at the quarterback position at UConn

There's a chance that today is the day when one of the biggest questions surrounding the 2014 UConn football team is answered and the starting quarterback is announced.

It certainly fits the time frame of when UConn coach Bob Diaco said he wanted to have a No. 1 quarterback named but since it is looking as if there will be no players made available to the media after today's practice, we will have to see if the wait will go on for a few more days before the quarterback pecking order is announced.

Just looking at the numbers and you would think that Casey Cochran would be the guy. He threw for more yards, was the only one with more touchdowns than interceptions and had the most completions, attempts and highest quarterback rating. However, it didn't sound like new football coach Bob Diaco, who places a premium of physical fitness, was too pleased when Cochran reportedly was pushing 250 pounds at one point.

Chandler Whitmer has the most experience of the three quarterbacks after starting all 12 games during the 2012 season. He also had the best numbers at the spring game as he completed 19 of 26 passes for a game-high 163 yards and had the only touchdown pass. He was also on the receiving end of three of the four sacks in the game which has been an issue in the past as well.

Tim Boyle is probably the most physically gifted of the three. Unlike Cochran and Whitmer, he has prototypical size (he's listed at 6-foot-3, 216 pounds on UConn's official roster). But he completed just 44.4 percent of his passes a season ago and threw eight interceptions versus no touchdown passes.

Let's look at what each of them brings to the table.

Boyle can make all the throws and while he is not known for his running ability, he does have more of an ability to make plays with his legs than his other two competitors. He had an issue feeling the pass rush during his four-game stint as UConn's starter and the forgettable touchdown to interception ratio was already mentioned. He is also the only one of the three not to have used up his redshirt season meaning that if the UConn coaching staff thinks he has a bright future, which is something Diaco has said in the past, they could use this season as a developmental year. If they believe Boyle is not going to have wandering eyes and look to leave that could be a good move.

Cochran is an outstanding student-athlete as he was a member of the American Athletic Conference All-Academic team a season ago and he studies football at a high level as well. He led UConn to three straight wins to end the season including a dominating performance in the season finale when he passed for a program single-game record of 461 yards. The problem is Diaco has said many times that nothing that happened last year - good or bad - will determine playing time this season as his current staff is making evaluations based solely on what they see.

Whitmer provides experience which is something this team doesn't have very much of on the offensive side of the ball. He finished in the top 10 on UConn's single season list in passing yards, attempts and completions during the 2012 season and it is easy to forget that he threw for 349 yards in the loss to Maryland a season ago. He has also shown incredible toughness as he hung in the pocket as long as he could before delivering the ball. He tends to be the biggest risk taker among the three quarterbacks which has led to some big plays but also some costly turnovers. Diaco said he values ball security over any other attribute in his quarterback so if Whitmer gets the call, he must have excelled in that area during camp and Diaco certainly seems to like what Whitmer brings to the table based on what he has said to us. The question I would have is if the quarterback competition is as close as Diaco said it has been, wouldn't it make more sense to go with a younger quarterback like Boyle or Cochran so UConn can benefit from this season's experience rather than hand the keys of the offense to a player on his final season of eligibility? Of course, Diaco has said on multiple occasions that he is planning to use more than one quarterback this season so perhaps that is his way of developing one of the younger quarterbacks while letting Whitmer get the bulk of the work.

In my opinion, I think UConn's ability to win or lose games won't fluctuate regardless of who takes the bulk of snaps and that is why I haven't done a heck of a lot with the quarterback position in my coverage of preseason camp but it is going to be interesting to see how this all shakes out and not just during the season opening BYU game but over the course of the season.

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