Casey Cochran at Monday's practice.
Aug. 18, 2014Monday Practice Photo Gallery
STORRS, Conn. - University of Connecticut head football coach Bob Diaco announced on Monday that redshirt sophomore Casey Cochran (Monroe, Conn.) will be the starting quarterback for the Husky football team when it opens the season on Friday, Aug. 29 against BYU at Rentschler Field.
Redshirt senior Chandler Whitmer (Newnan, Ga.) will serve as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.
Cochran played in eight games 2013, starting the final four and posting a 3-1 record. He finished the year 111-for-175 in the air with 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns against four interceptions, adding a rushing touchdown as well. He set the UConn single-game record for passing yards with 461 against Memphis (Dec. 7). Cochran was 36-of-54 with four touchdowns in that game, finishing with the second-most completions and third-most attempts in a game in UConn history.
Whitmer started all 12 games for UConn in 2012 and started the first four games of the 2013 season. He has thrown for 3,560 career yards as a Husky and 14 touchdowns.
"This was a long hard choice," said Diaco. "It was an incredible and fierce battle dating all the way back to winter conditioning. Winter conditioning went into the process of the evaluation. Spring football went into the process of the evaluation, summer conditioning and then camp. Nothing was left out.
"Casey Cochran will be the starter for the fall 2014 and I say that specifically because I have said this before in the past in here. We have key starters, starters, key backups, backups and squad men. Those are our evaluation levels. We do not have a key starter at the quarterback position. We have a starter and a key backup.
"By the staff's estimate, and it was negligible in all categories, Casey has improved his physical traits to try to catch up the physical traits of Chandler Whitmer. Chandler is still better in those areas. In terms of just being a player and what that means, you would have to give the edge to Chandler Whitmer. In the intangible area, leading, communicating, mobilizing energy, creating unit power and team power over the course of time, Casey Cochran has edged out Chandler in that area. It is an exceptional trait that Casey has, and through the work in Chandler's life, in his maturity and his growth it has made that an intangible difference.
"I have coached as a coordinator on defense for the last half-dozen years and maybe have had only had a total five key starters of all those players. We will probably have three key starters on offense and three or four key starters on defense...that's it. Everyone else is going to have a preset job, and we try to do our business on Thursday, where we pre-set their rotation patterns and explain through their position coach exactly what the game ifs going to look like."
UConn's other quarterbacks are sophomore Tim Boyle (Middlefield, Conn.), who started four games last year, and redshirt freshman Bryant Shirreffs (Jefferson City, Ga.). Shirreffs is a transfer from North Carolina State, who will sit out this season due to NCAA rules.
"There was nothing that was going to prevent him from performance," said Diaco of Boyle, "But with some nagging injuries here and there through this fall camp, it has slowed his competitive portion and with that, he is going to prepare for the games and help the team prepare to win games. We would expect him to go in and perform at a winning level - and we have no doubt he would do that. But, all in all, if we can, we are going to protect him. He is a four-to-play-three, so that will give us an opportunity to create separation in terms of years between he and other guys. If is possible, I say that with great clarity, we will make every effort to do that. If it's not possible, we will not hesitate and he's going to be ready and be diligent in his preparation to get that done."
Diaco was proud to tell the story of all his quarterbacks on Monday.
"Just a quick story about Chandler -- it's been well documented last fall and really unjustly and unnecessarily," said Diaco. "I am sure Chandler would tell you and take accountability for his own actions. That fact of that matter is it played out on a public stage and the dirty laundry was played out into the world as it related to performance and commitment and all that business. Last fall was a hard year for him.
"We talked on the phone and laid out a role for Chandler. I said, `Chandler, if you are interested in coming back, picture being the scout team quarterback, wearing a red hat and signaling to other quarterbacks in the game. If that role would be okay for you, then come back. If that role is not okay, don't come back. You are going to have a chance to compete to get more than that, but at a minimum be ready to play whatever role we declare.' He called me back and said I am all in and every day since he's repaired and rebuilt and gained back the respect of his teammates. He didn't have to regain our respect, he just got it through his actions and behavior. He got it through his work.
"Casey on the other hand, when we found him, I don't think I am talking out of school, he was pushing almost 245 pounds, upwards of 20 percent body fat, and now he's worked on that component of his game. So as one has worked on his tangible traits and the other has worked on his intangible traits, the differences were negligible. We feel like this is the best combination. The misinterpretation in the country is that you declare a starting quarterback and he is a key starter and that's not the case - it won't be the case for us this fall. Football is a fluid situation."
"It's been an unbelievable nine months since Coach got here," said Cochran. "We have put in so much work as a team -- especially in these last two weeks. We have a solid set of guys in the quarterback room. We have a lot of experience in the room and within the competition. We were all with each other and we stood together and we will help each other along and continue to do that. "I transformed my body and I have a different life now and different lifestyle. The misconception is work as hard as you can in the weight room and running, then you are going to have a good body. I brought in the eating aspect, sleep and when you bring it all together you have a healthy body and mind."
Said Whitmer, "I was happy with whatever I could get. I wanted to come back and set the record straight and not leave UConn the way it was and the way it ended last year. I wanted to change my attitude. I grew as a man and I credit that to Coach Diaco having me come back. He has changed this culture and this environment and he has increased the love and made it easier for me to be a better teammate. I told him and the rest of these guys in private, whatever we have to do collectively to move this offense and be successful and get to a bowl game, I am all in. I am not just speaking cliché, I truly mean that from the bottom of my heart. I am excited for both of us and the quarterback situation is going to be set for a while here at UConn and I am excited about that."
Boyle added, "I appreciate what the coaches are doing in trying to protect me. I am here to help Chandler and Casey prepare for games, and help them improve their game so they can perform on Saturday. I have my role this year and I am 100 percent ready to do it. I respect these guys and will push them from week to week."