Friday, September 05, 2014

Whitmer ready for any role in final season at UConn

When Chandler Whitmer made his way to meet with the media on Tuesday afternoon he was fully expecting to have a similar role to the one he filled in the season-opening loss to Brigham Young.

Cochran was expected to start for the second straight game but he was dinged up against BYU and on his weekly radio show which aired on WTIC, UConn coach Bob Diaco revealed that Cochran would miss Saturday's game against Stony Brook due to what Diaco termed an "upper-body injury."

Whitmer could have opted to walk away from UConn at the end of the 2013-14 academic year since he fulfilled his graduation requirements. A heart-to-heart phone conversation with Diaco when the first-year head coach told Whitmer that if he couldn't deal with being the fourth-string scout-team quarterback then don't come back. Diaco wasn't saying that was the role Whitmer would fill but the last thing he needed was a former starter feeling slighted if he didn't earn the starting job.

Whitmer discussed his frame of mind on Tuesday.

"Deep down I just want this program to do well," Whitmer said, "I am excited about everything that this team is doing. To me, being a senior on this team, if we rebuild that is pretty of satisfaction of itself. We want to get to a bowl game, win some games and play well and not focus on so many of the goals but just be focused on the little things."

Whitmer also addressed the two-quarterback system that would have been utilized again if Cochran were able to play.

"It is a little different, it takes some getting used to but knowing your role helps you prepare for what you are going to experience and knowing specifically I am going in for the red zone and putting a little more focus on their red-zone defense and that helps me focus on what I need to do well and what they doing," Whitmer said.

"We did some good things, we went down and scored on the first one. We want to be better in the red zone, that is clear but when you go back and watch the film, it was a few little things that we missed. It is part of it and when you are playing from behind you go for it on fourth down. We saw a lot of things we can take advantage of in the future and that is the biggest thing for this game."

UConn went into camp last season with what looked like a surplus of quarterbacks with Cochran and Whitmer joined by Scott McCummings and incoming freshmen Boyle, Richard Lagow and Kivon Taylor as well as walk-on Michael Ecke. McCummings didn't return, Lagow and Taylor both transferred and Ecke is also no longer a member of the team. Mike DiMauro of The Day of New London reported that Cochran suffered a concussion and that is the third one since arriving at UConn. If he is sidelined for multiple weeks that could put UConn in a precarious situation if something where to happen to either Whitmer or Boyle. That's a lot of ifs to be sure but you do have to wonder if Diaco and his staff would get an emergency quarterback like receiver Kamal Abrams, who was a productive quarterback in high school, prepared just to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

Whitmer also addressed one of the most impressive of the eight completions he had as true freshman tight end Alec Bloom went down to the ground to pluck a Whitmer pass that was maybe an inch or two from hitting the ground. The play was close enough that the officials took an extra look at it after confirming it as a good catch.

"That was a big play, third down we needed a play," Whitmer said, "I scrambled out and he made a nice catch, went down and got it. That was a big conversion and for your first college catch, that is not a bad one to have."

I'm going to admit that Bloom is one of the true freshmen I have been touting for some time. He towers over the other tight ends and seems to have the size, speed and hands to develop into a Ryan Griffin like player. Whitmer threw passes to Griffin, now in his second season with the NFL's Houston Texans, and I asked him if Bloom has the potential to become that type of player.

"If he puts on some weight, works hard in the weight room with Coach (Matt) Balis, I think he can be a legitimate big-time tight end," Whitmer said. "We have seen the potential. I think he has a good head on his shoulder and he works hard. If he can put all of that together, he is going to be a good player/"

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