Saturday, February 28, 2015

UConn spring preview: Quarterbacks

UConn will open spring practice a week from today so I figured it would be a good time to take a look at what the Huskies have to work with going into spring practice. I will take a position or sometimes double up on some positional groups.

I will start with the quarterbacks. It's a group that the Husky faithful can only hope makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity.

Junior Tim Boyle is the only one of the three to have thrown a pass in a game for the Huskies. He appeared in nine of the 12 games a season ago but a 52.4 completion percentage and one touchdown versus three interceptions won't wow anybody. Boyle was thrown into the fire as a true freshman after the Huskies got off to an 0-4 start and I'm not sure he was ready for what was coming. This is a huge year for him to prove he can be the type of quarterback an offense can be built around. The 6-foot-3 Boyle has the size and arm strength to make all the throws. He hasn't always handled pressure from the opposing pass rush as well as he needs to. He should have an edge over Bryant Shirreffs and Tyler Davis since he has been with the program the longest.

Shirreffs is an intriguing prospect. He played in eight games as a freshman at North Carolina State, running for 158 yards and a touchdown and completing 4 of 5 passes for 17 yards and another touchdown. His numbers as a high school senior were rather impressive as he had more than 3,700 yards of total offense. Although Boyle can make plays with the legs, Shirreffs is definitely more adept of thriving as a dual threat quarterback.

Davis graduated from Mepham (N.Y.) High School early so he is currently enrolled at UConn and can take part in spring practice. Casey Cochran's ability to go through spring drills after wrapping up a record-breaking career at Masuk was invaluable in allowing him to get onto the field as a redshirt freshman. Davis is a prospect that was at the top of the wish list of the current staff and like Shirreffs, he has shown a real ability to make big plays in the run game. Davis had six games with more than 150 rushing yards including 378 in one of the contests. After throwing five interceptions in his first three games as a senior, he had just one for the rest of the season so that is a good sign.

Obviously quarterback is the most high-profile position on any team so it will generate plenty of attention. However, the quality of the quarterback play has held the Huskies back in recent years and it will be interesting to see not only who emerges as the No. 1 guy but also if they have what it takes to be more than just a game manager.

A year ago Don Patterson was in charge of coaching the quarterbacks but when the dust cleared after a revamping of offensive staff coaching duties, former receivers coach Wayne Lineburg was moved to work with the QBs.

"It is important that we raise our level but every position we have to be better," Lineburg said. "Obviously quarterback is a focal point, you get too much blame when you lose, too much credit when you win. It is a big position and we have to do a great job of finding a guy that is going to lead the team, move the team and score points. Who is that guy who is going to protect the bal and do those things. If we can do those things, it will help us out and lead us to better production."

Since we didn't get to see Shirreffs in action a season ago, I was curious about Lineburg's thoughts on his potential.

"I have seen him some but mostly he was on the scout team so I haven't been able to watch him a ton so it will be interesting to see how he does." Lineburg said. "He has a good skill set and he is an intelligent guy and he has shown some leadership skills. We will have to see how he does and I'll be able to tell you more at the end of spring of where he is."
Coached quarterbacks for several years at Richmond so it was a natural position for me having played it. I love receiver play but I love quarterback play as well so I am looking forward to working with those guys.

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