Thursday, August 21, 2014

UConn QB coach dishes on Cochran, Whitmer

There's been plenty written about the quarterback position at UConn since Casey Cochran was named the Huskies' starter in a Monday press conference.

UConn coach Bob Diaco, Cochran, No. 2 quarterback Chandler Whitmer (who is expected to see time in games as well), Tim Boyle and Bryant Shirreffs answered questions from the media and obviously the state of the UConn QBs was the story line in every article the following day. One perspective that was missing was that of quarterbacks coach Don Patterson. Well, that changed on Thursday as the UConn assistant coaches were made available to the media. There's some good souls on this UConn coaching staff but Patterson is easily my favorite to chat with. I could have easily spent all the allotted time we had with the assistants talking to him but I did manage to make it around to a few of the other assistants as well.

When we met the coaches shortly after the staff was announced, most of my time was spent documenting Patterson's incredible story.

Patterson did not let me down in the 10 or so minutes I spoke with him on Thursday.

Here we go.

"The players will tell you that they have great confidence in both of those guys," Patterson said. "I think Chandler and Casey,  it has been a very good competition, it has been a very smooth competition. I think they understand, because we talk about it, but we as a group of quarterbacks we are a team within a team and our job to make sure that this team has great quarterback play regardless of injury which means they all have to be able to play and all have to fulfill their role. If you happen to be third team then your mentality has to be that you are two plays away and stranger things have happened. You have to get ready for the game, that is the hard thing to do if you are a second or third team quarterback, because there is a lot of preparation and yet you may not get on the field.

"I think it is not secret because I know Bob mentioned that Chandler is going to play against BYU so thee is no doubt about it. How much, we don't know, it depends on game situations. We obviously had a lot of confidence in him and even more important than what we think, I think the players have a lot of confidence in him. I know there are fans who wonder if he deserves (to play) but he has to be able to take snaps to be able to play better than he played for us in the past and I am confident in saying 'yes, I am confident that he will play better than he played in the past.'"

With the decision to use both Cochran and Whitmer in games I was curious what Patterson felt were the biggest differences between the two.

"They are similar in a lot of ways," Patterson said. "To be able to play effectively in our offense you have to be a really smart guy and they both have really high football intelligence. They understand the game really well. Their decision making is right on most of the time, their goal is to be right on most of the time. It is impossible to play a perfect game at quarterback but that is what they are trying to do and if they approach that they will be playing as well or better than anybody in the country because it is such a difficult job. They are both really into football, they are the basketball equivalent of a gym rat, they really like the game, they like the strategy of the game, they are both in so many ways extroverted. They are good leaders, they are decisive decision makers, they embrace the expectations that they can handle all the stuff at once It is like being an air traffic controller, you have all these things at one time and you have to make snap decisions."

Diaco has made it clear that last year's UConn season is not something he or his staff is focusing on as they wanted to make their own evaluations. As a result Patterson wasn't fully aware of just how bad things got a season ago. He was a little stunned when I informed him that UConn opponents scored 39 offensive touchdowns in 12 games and 13 of those drives started in UConn territory and absolutely incredulous that the Huskies gave up five defensive touchdowns.

"You have to make them play on a long field," Patterson said. "Statistically it has been proven that the closer you are to the goal line when you take the field the better your chances are to score. Opponents scored five defensive touchdowns last year? That is something I didn't want to know about. They shot themselves in the foot too many times. The first thing you have to do is prevent losing and that all starts with not beating yourselves, having a high football IQ, not having unforced errors.

"The first thing you have to do is not beat yourself. It sounds simple but the University of Alabama always has a quarterback that doesn't get Alabama beat and that is the first thing we have to do is not beat ourselves. Every ball we ever throw in practice is charted, they can tell you but they have thrown 15 picks out of 852 passes here in camp, that is pretty good. One interception every 60 snaps."

Speaking of stats, Patterson posed a trivia question to a couple of us and that was how many wins did the top 11 teams at the FBS level in turnover margin average. The answer was 11. 

"If you protect the ball and you have an edge in turnovers when the game is winding down, you have a chance to win. If you are plus 2 or plus 3, you have a significantly better chance to win but it all starts with not beating yourself. We have room for improvement, we are not quite ready to tee it up and that is OK because the game doesn't start until on the 29th."

Most of the recent news regarding the roster has involved players leaving the program but today UConn announced that current students at the school can attempt to make the team as walk-ons. The deadline to apply is Aug. 28 with the tryout set for Sept. 1.

The unfortunate situation when Linval Joseph was shot in the leg while standing inside a Minneapolis night club has forced the defensive tackle to the sidelines during training camp. In his place former UConn star Shamar Stephen has received plenty of work with the first and second team defense. Stephen is tied for second on the Vikings with eight total tackles in the first two preseason games. Minnesota defensive coordinator George Edwards was asked about Stephen's work in training camp in a question and answer session posted on the team's official site.

Q: How valuable has the time Linval Joseph has missed for Shamar Stephen?

A: Again, we want competition at every position for that reason. That when somebody is down, the next guy is up and he’s got to come in, we don’t want a drop off in performance. From that aspect of it, there’s a young guy, a prime example, that has come in here and worked his butt off all through the offseason, all through training camp and now it’s starting to show in his play. Each week we go out and perform, from that aspect of it, that’s what we’re trying to create at each position.

Q: Do you see Shamar Stephen as a guy that will definitely make the roster?

A: We still have got two more weeks of evaluations, so, everybody is still competing, from that aspect of it. We haven’t said, “Okay, here is our 53-man roster.” We still want that competition going all of the way throughout training camp and now that we’re done with training camp, through these preseason games. It’s a continuous evaluation as we keep going through it.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home