STORRS — If there’s one thing that we know Chandler Whitmer has, it is confidence. He’s also got guts and a passion for playing quarterback.
What we don’t know yet know is if Whitmer, a UConn junior, is a winner. We know he tries like the dickens. Last season’s Western Michigan and Syracuse games, in which he was battered and beaten and still got up off the turf to play, provided all the evidence anyone needed to know about his heart.
That was damaging for a passing offense that was ranked in the top half of Division I-A at 230 yards a game, a big jump from the 195 yards a game the Huskies had in 2011.
“Chandler came in a year ago, had to learn the whole thing. It was his first year,” coach Paul Pasqualoni said of the junior college transfer. “He’s had the same quarterback coach for two years now, same system. We haven’t changed things on him, so he knows what to do.”
During the first couple of open practices this summer, it seemed as if the interceptions might still be an issue with all quarterbacks in camp.
“That’s something we’re focusing on and trying to iron out on offense,” said Whitmer, who threw for 25 TDs with 14 interceptions at Butler CC in Kansas in 2011. “Bad plays are going to happen, but you have to keep them to a minimum and focus on positive plays, especially with the young guys.”
Pasqualoni said the quarterbacks have been seeing multiple defenses in practice. Everything has been thrown at them. But it’s clear how far Whitmer has come in terms of limiting his high-risk play.
Casey Cochran, a redshirt freshman from Masuk High Monroe, pretty much held his No. 2 status throughout preseason camp. The coaches brought in three tall pro-style quarterbacks. One left the program earlier in August when 6-foot-6 Richard Lagow transferred. Tim Boyle, 6-4, from Xavier-Middletown, appeared to grasp the intricacies of the offense and was in contention for the No. 2 spot. Kivon Taylor, 6-4, from Grady High in Atlanta, is also a true freshman.
“The advantage they have is that they have strong arms and they’re tall and they can see things,” Pasqualoni said. “And they can move around a little bit and they can slide around in there. They’re all pretty athletic.”
But it took awhile.
“I had a really tough time when we first started,” said Boyle. “Things were going kind of fast and I had a tough time adjusting, but things are slowing down now, and I’ve been feeling more comfortable.”
Cochran has picked things up quickly.
“The biggest thing this year was having a year under my belt and knowing a lot of the offense already,” said Cochran, a two-time Gatorade state player of the year and the Connecticut high school career leader in passing yards (10,758) and touchdowns (109). “Some of the young guys who came in have worked their butts off trying to learn this offense, and they’ve done a great job of doing that. They’ve only been here a couple of months, and they’ve gone out and pushed hard.”