AAC football poll: UConn to finish near bottom
Updated 8:18 pm, Tuesday, July 29, 2014
NEWPORT, R.I. -- Let the competition begin.
Forget the fact that the UConn Huskies football program has struggled to three straight losing seasons -- which they have -- and were picked near the bottom of the 2014 American Athletic Conference preseason football poll -- which they were. The big story coming from AAC media day was the quarterback competition between Masuk graduate Casey Cochran, Chandler Whitmer and Tim Boyle that will start on Saturday with the first day of fall camp.
"They're all going to work with all the offensive players and they're all going to get a taste with different players and different groups," head coach Bob Diaco said in his first AAC media day. "They're all going to be forced out into leadership moments and opportunities. But it isn't going to be a decision that includes one and excludes three (redshirt freshman Bryant Shirreffs, who's sitting out a season after transferring from N.C. State, is also in the mix). There's going to be roles and everyone is going to know what that role is. Those four players are going to have vital, critical roles to winning and create a winning team."
While much of the conversation with Diaco revolved around the quarterback situation, there were questions and reaction to the AAC preseason poll, which left the Huskies tied for ninth with Tulane among the 11 teams.
More InformationAAC media day poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
1. Cincinnati (17) 311
2. UCF (7) 296
3. Houston (6) 268
4. East Carolina 262
5. SMU 158
6. USF 157
7. Memphis 133
8. Temple 105
9. UConn 98
11. Tulsa 94
"It will not be brought up at all," Diaco said. "I'm not going to say that the players won't talk about it, but it has no bearing, it will not be brought up. It bears no weight or concern for the team in 2014."
Cincinnati was picked to win the AAC with Central Florida second.
And while not much talk centered on where the league thought the Huskies would finish, a lot did center on the eventual selection process to see who will lead UConn on the field. Last season, Whitmer, Boyle and Cochran all got their chance -- each one starting four games. While Cochran won three of the four he started at the end of the season, the past will have exactly zero bearing on who might get the job this time, according to Diaco.
However, the spring practices did have some bearing on just who might have an upper hand in eventually grabbing the starting job.
"It was a great, spirited (competition)," Diaco said. "Chandler is incredibly talented. He's got an incredibly strong arm. He throws great on the move. He sees the game in pictures, like you're supposed to. But he has to work on leading.
"Casey is your quintessential leader. He's the moxie, he's the swagger, guts guy that's going to will the group down the field. But he's got to work on his foot speed and arm strength.
"And Tim, he's a young guy. He's finding his way from leadership standpoint, from a communication standpoint and finding his way in terms of piecing together all the moving parts of an offense attacking a defense. But he possesses the total package in terms of tangible skills."
And whoever wins the starting role, don't expect him to get all the game reps. The other two guys will likely see playing time as well.
"We're going to have a starting quarterback," Diaco said. "But we're going to have more than one quarterback playing the game because each one does something totally different well. Things we're going to need done."
Coming off three straight losing seasons, the Huskies are going to need a lot of things done if they want to surprise the preseason poll voters and finish in the top half of the AAC standings. And all that starts on Saturday morning with that first practice.
"I can't wait," Diaco said. "I was asked if I was excited about the season ¦ I'm not even thinking about the season. You're asking about Friday (player check-in), I'm so jacked. I've never walked up those stairs. If you've been back behind the Burton Family Football Complex and those stairs leading to the practice field, I've never walked up those stairs with the players to go to practice. I'm excited about that.
"Camp ¦ if you've ever been to any kind of camp, going to camp to intensely focus on a task with a collection of people that are there to intensely focus on a task, are some of the most special moments you can ever have in your life. That's why I just can't wait to sequester ourselves with the coaches and the team for the duration of that time."