John F. Silver
Chandlder Whitmer was named the starter by coach Paul Pasqualoni on the eve of fall camp as he wanted to eliminate the circus that the three-man quarterback rotation had a season ago. The JUCO transfer in his first season showed promise as a quarterback passing for 2,664 yards and completing 57.1 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns. Whitmer’s production was the most for a UConn quarterback since Dan Orlovsky threw for more than 3,000 yards in the 2004 season and the Huskies passing game was ranked middle of the pack in the country. Whitmer averaged 222 yards per game passing and showed an ability to get the ball deep at times. The Huskies averaged 7.1 per attempt and 12.6 per completion.
That was the good with Whitmer. The bad was a lot of turnovers as he struggled to mitigate risk. Whitmer threw 16 interceptions this season and also had trouble securing the ball with several catastrophic fumbles that led to game-changing turnovers including one returned for a touchdown against Western Michigan in a loss. Whitmer showed he has the toughness to play the position, he took a ton of hits with UConn’s shoddy offensive line and held up until the final two weeks of the season. Whitmer was injured against Louisville with a concussion, played the next week against Cincinnati and was hit again in the third quarter on an ill-advised trick play. That forced him out of the game for good as the Huskies dropped the season finale 34-17. Whitmer, at 6-1, 195-pounds.
Whitmer did give way at times to Scott McCummings as the Wildcat quarterback. The Wildcat under performed this season and rarely got into rhythm. The usage of the package was also forced and the Huskies didn’t get out of it this year than they had the previous year. McCummings finished 1 of 2 passing for two yards and had 132 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Backup Johnny McEntee came on for Whitmer against Louisville and helped engineer a triple overtime win. The former starter wasn’t as fortunate in the season finale as he came on for Whitmer against Cincinnati and threw a back-breaking interception deep in UConn territory that sealed the game, and the season. McEntee was 10 of 25 with two interceptions and a touchdown for 90 yards.
The goal for the passing game is attempt of over eight yards are more. The game was more vertical than it has been in the past, but the coaching staff still wants the ball to get down the field more going forward.
The Huskies head into next season with Whitmer as the starter and very little experience as a backup. The position remains much more talented than it was when Paul Pasqualoni took over however. The first decision that has to be made is to gauge McCummings and his usage in the future. The Wildcat package seems to be something the staff wants to have, but can McCummings also be a full-time quarterback? McCummings has the size, strength, smarts and arm that the coaching staff covets, but his accuracy has left a lot to be desired. He’s an athletic player and if he can’t move into at least a backup role it might be time for the staff to look if they can get him on the field in a different position. McCummings has a lot of athletic talent. Where he fits in the future will come down to how much he progresses as a classic quarterback. What do the Huskies have in McCummings? And, what’s the best way to use that athletic ability?
Also vying for the backup job or more should Whitmer falter is freshman Casey Cochran. Cochran sat out this past season as a redshirt and being a January student, will be taking part in his second spring practice next semester. He will have had more than 18 months at UConn, two springs, and plenty of film study before he even considers taking his first college snap next September. Patience is a virtue with quarterbacks. Cochran was limited this fall after wrist surgery, but has been in the gameplan meetings all year and prepared for the game like he’s playing. Cochran is an accurate quarterback, still on the small side at just above 6-feet, and is a classic pocket passer. The pressure won’t be on him to come in and play next year with Whitmer so entrenched. That’s a good thing for the freshman, who can continue to hone his skills in the college game.
The Huskies are also bringing in big-armed recruit Richard Lagow out of Plano, Texas. Lagow, who threw for 1,653 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, has created a lot of buzz with his camp performances this past summer and has had Big 12 schools sniffing around him, though he’s stayed committed to the Huskies. Lagow is a big quarterback at around 6-5 and just over 205-pounds and is said to have a strong arm. Opening up the Dallas metroplex was something Pasqualoni promised to do when he was hired and Lagow fits the bill. The Huskies need to start developing multiple quarterbacks in the system and with Cochran and Lagow coming in, look to finally have some depth with pro-style passers that the coaching staff is looking forward too.
The beauty of the position is that Whitmer appears to have a hold on the job and is proven competent. That takes the pressure off the staff and the other quarterback going forward. The Huskies have overturned the entire quarterback position with only McCummings a holdover from the previous regime.