Wednesday, November 26, 2014

UConn's Whitmer, Cruz dealing with reserve roles

The season began with such promise for seniors Chandler Whitmer and Gus Cruz.

Whitmer, although he had already graduated, opted to return for one last season with the hopes to quarterbacking the Huskies to a bowl game. Meanwhile Cruz overcame a potentially career-ending cardiac issue to return to the starting lineup.

Now there is not only no bowl game for the two seniors to prepare for, but their respective roles on the team have been diminished.

It was a closely guarded secret until the first-team offense took the field against Cincinnati last week but both Whitmer and Cruz remained on the sidelines as sophomore Tim Boyle made his first start of the season at quarterback and freshman Ryan Crozier earned his first career start at left guard.

Whitmer, who started 16 straight games before losing his job to Boyle after UConn got off to an 0-4 start during the 2013 season, seems to be handling the demotion in stride.
"I have been through this a few times," Whitmer said. "I am just trying to be the best teammate I can be. I am not worried about being a starter, I know what the situation is. Tim has to get ready for next year, that is kind of the boat we are in. I have said it all along, that is my role here. My career is coming to a close but it doesn't mean I can't help out the younger guys and especially Tim to get ready for the future."
While there were signs that Boyle's role may increase in the final few games, the move of Crozier from reserve right guard to starting left guard was a bit of a shocker.
Things could have been awkward if Cruz, who started the first nine games of the season and 19 games over the last three seasons, chose to make it so. However, Crozier said nothing could be further from the truth.
"He handled it great, he understood everything," Crozier said. "Me and Gus have a good relationship and we still do,"

Crozier figures to be one of two true freshmen in the starting lineup when UConn plays at American Athletic Conference leading Memphis on Saturday as Ron Johnson has emerged as the featured back in recent weeks.

It hasn't been an easy transition for Johnson or fellow true freshman Arkeel Newsome, who have received larger work loads as the season has wore on. So what has been the biggest adjustment to the college game?

"I would say my pass protection," Johnson said. "It takes a lot of preparation, you are going against 240 pound (defensive players). In high school you get the ball on a consistent basis, I didn't block as much but in college it is a lot different."


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