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The Boneyard Roadshow: Previewing UCONN & BYU (podcast)

@MattSchonvisky

Special thanks to the Deseret News’ Dick Harmon (@Harmonwrites) and UCONN Assistant Head Coach and Quarterbacks Coach Don Patterson!

UConn Taking Its Talents To Ohio State, Arizona

With UConn stuck in a non-Big 5 conference, non-conference scheduling has become all the more important. Fortunately, the men’s basketball team is still in demand and UConn has taken advantage of that by adding a series with both Ohio State and Arizona, according to Don Amore of the Hartford Courant. The Huskies will welcome Ohio State in December of 2015 and will travel to Columbus’ Value City Arena in December of 2016. In 2017, Arizona will come to Connecticut and in 2018, UConn will make the trip to Tucson, AZ.

Ohio State played in the first ever NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game back in 1939, losing to the Oregon Webfoots (yes, that was their nickname back then). The Buckeyes then played in three championship games in a row from 1960-1962, winning the first one and losing the next two. Their other appearance in the NCAA Tournament final came under Thad Matta in 2007, but they were defeated by the Florida Gators. Matta has been at Ohio State for a decade and the team has finished first in the Big Ten for half of those years (outright three times and tied twice). In addition to the aforementioned appearance in the 2007 National Championship Game, the Buckeyes also reached the Final Four in 2012 and won the NIT in 2008. Last year, they went 25-10 and lost their opening game in the NCAA Tournament by a single point to intrastate rival Dayton.

Arizona has long been a successful basketball program. Lute Olsen coached the Wildcats to victory over Kentucky in the 1997 national championship game and he also led his program to the championship game in 2001, losing to Duke. The Wildcats’ current coach- Sean Miller- has been at Arizona for five seasons. His most successful seasons came in 2011 and 2014. In 2011, the Wildcats won their conference and reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament before being excused by Kemba and the kids. In 2014, the team also finished first in the Pac-12 and reached the Elite Eight, ultimately falling to Wisconsin by a point. Arizona was ranked 5th in last year’s postseason USA Today Coaches Poll. 

Amore also mentioned that UConn would like to extend its series with Florida, which is scheduled to come to a close after this year’s meeting in the Sunshine State. He also says that UConn would like to play some former Big East opponents, though nothing is set yet.

Diaco an Innovator, Not Just on the Field

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Diaco has quickly become a coaching innovator during his short time at UConn
[Credit - Kallie Elizabeth - THE BONEYARD BLOG]

@MattSchonvisky

Bob Diaco has turned over yet another new stone, as he continues to roll out the unique start to his head coaching career at UConn. Monday’s press conference, featuring all four scholarship quarterbacks, was the first time to my knowledge, a starter has been named, at any level, in that manner.

It gave full visibility into his thought process, while giving access to all scholarship players at that position; Casey Cochran (the starter), Chandler Whitmer (the backup who will play), Tim Boyle (who will ideally red-shirt) and Bryant Shirreffs (who is ineligible due to transfer rules).

All four were able to share their thoughts on the decision, what they think about their role and how they each value Bob Diaco as their head coach.

While neither had met with the media to this point in camp, Diaco wanted to sequester the four from all contact with the outside world. There was an important job to do and they all competed, with no distractions.

When the competition was over, at exactly the time Diaco said at AAC Media Day it would be, he opened up the doors for each to talk about the competition and what will be expected of them throughout the year.

Through this process, Diaco did not just pump up Cochran for winning the job or Whitmer for coming back to school. He gave the stage to all four, in front of the media, revealing a philosophy held by the new head coach, which has become clearer and clearer since he first showed up in Storrs.

Every job in the program is as important as the next. While a starting quarterback was named, in the grand scheme of things, he possesses no more value than the backup, the look team quarterback or even the student manager.

Every single person associated with the program is equal, each has an effect on the team becoming successful. That is why fans and media are seeing one voice, one look and one heartbeat every time a member of the program is in the limelight. It is a buy-in that these parts and all of college football, haven’t seen for quite some time, if not, ever.

You do see it in the National Football League. There were some comparisons made yesterday insinuating Bob Diaco is Bill Belichick in terms of media availability. Belichick goes about his business as he sees fit. He does what will make his organization successful. His players halt their use of social media the second they cross into Massachusetts state lines. It’s a buy in that no one person is greater than the team. The second that is not the case, you’re gone.

Belichick is an unbelievable defensive mind and someone who at one time was so far ahead of every other coach in football, that it wasn’t even a conversation who the favorite was heading into each season. As the game has changed, others have caught up, but one thing has always remained the same.

His voice, how he handles the media and how his players respond to him, has never wavered.

While Diaco and Belichick are connected from both being in the Bill Parcells’ coaching tree, Diaco is far from the tight lipped Belichick when it comes to answering a question. You are sure to receive a detailed response, with a large amount of imagery and a certain point of motivation, that makes you want to run through a wall by the time Diaco is done.

The real story here, resides with Diaco himself. He is an innovator, he is a leader and he knows how to get through to players at the college level. Some did not know how to handle a situation on Monday they had never seen before. The players handled it flawlessly. They are all on board, his staff is one cohesive unit and that is really the only thing that matters.

Casey’s the Man! Well, Sort of…

187430338 (1)187430338 (1)So Casey Cochran was named the starting QB yesterday by Diaco during a unique press conference (which I’ll get to in a minute).  I think the majority of fans knew it’d be Cochran, wanted it to be Cochran, and felt after the way Casey played at the end of last season, he deserved a chance to keep that momentum going.  I’m glad it didn’t get dragged out until right before the opener.  It’s set, and we can put this discussion to rest.

But can we?

Diaco maintained Whitmer will play, and will play a good deal.  He mentioned that Whitmer’s share of the snaps will be closer to 51-49 rather than 85-15.  I personally think the way the time gets split will be based on matchups.  I feel like Whitmer will be viewed as the “relief pitcher” if the game situation calls for one.  I don’t think Whitmer will be used in only Wildcat situations, because his strength is his arm and he’s not a running QB.  Nothing frustrated me more than that over the past 3 years when we actually had a drive that was going somewhere, only to be stalled by two straight negative, predictable Wildcat plays.  Those days are over Husky fans – at least I hope, for Diaco’s sake, and for the blood pressure levels of our fanbase’s sake.  I really don’t see Diaco interchanging these guys in the middle of drives.   I think if Casey has things rolling, Casey will play.  If Diaco feels like we need a spark, need some leadership, need a big play, I think that’s when we’ll see Whitmer.  I could be dead wrong, but that’s my prediction on how things will play out.

As for Tim Boyle, this is completely the right move.  He was thrown in a situation last season that nobody could have had success in.  This is an opportunity for Tim to properly adjust to college football, and I think the program will reap the benefits down the road.  He is the future of UConn Football, not the present, so give him this year to develop himelf and make him that much better for when he can hit the field in 2015.

Now, to the press conference.  A lot has been said in the media and on twitter about the way Diaco made the announcement sitting alongside the 4 QB’s.  At first, I’ll admit, I didn’t get it.  Why the 4 QB’s?  Why not the captains? Why have any of the players at all?  And then, it clicked.  It was a message.  It was a message to fans. It was a message to the media.  It was a message to the AAC.  From the top guys all the way down to the last walk on, these players are all in.  Doesn’t matter who we start, we’re going to get behind our teammate and smash anyone who is in our way to get to where we want to be as a team.  Gone are the days of Pasqualoni, where he had clearly lost the team.  These players have bought in to Coach Diaco and what he’s selling.  The players are united, and I believe they’re heading into the season with great expectations, and they truly believe they can and will achieve those expectations.  This is UConn football now.  A new era begins in 10 days.

@UConn813

Splitting QB Reps Nothing New for Diaco, Not Unique to UCONN in 2014

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Casey Cochran and Chandler Whitmer will play, but all quarterbacks on the roster will contribute to the success of the Huskies offense in 2014
[Credit - Kallie Elizabeth - THE BONEYARD BLOG]

@MattSchonvisky

UCONN head coach Bob Diaco stated yesterday evening that both Casey Cochran and Chandler Whitmer will play, despite Cochran being named the starter.

As rare as it may seem, all of the staffs Diaco has been a part of since he was at Virginia in 2006, have had more than one quarterback play meaningful time, some of which, was caused by injuries and inconsistent play. During Diaco’s first year at Notre Dame, Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees both played significant time for the Irish. Rees again, split duties with Everett Gholson early on during Notre Dame’s run to the BCS title game in 2012.

At Cincinnati, in 2009, a team that UCONN fans remember well, the staff played five quarterbacks en route to a 12-0 regular season and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl.

The move makes sense for a number of reasons, but none better than the following.

“Defenses will have to defend Chandler different than they do Casey,” a spokesman for the program said this morning. “Every second they prepare to defend Chandler is a second they are not preparing for Casey and vice versa. They each do different things that cannot be defended. When they are in the games, they will be asked to do those jobs that make them uniquely exceptional. The combination of those pluses are going to outweigh the single sum of either of them by a great deal.”

Diaco expanded on just that during yesterday’s meeting with the media.

“The staff, led by me, feels strongly that they both have pluses in their game. The dynamic of starting Casey, with Chandler coming into play, utilizes both of them as a plus for our sum total to add up to more. Rather than putting a plus on the shelf, the intangible piece for Casey and just adding one plus to the element, we feel that the sum total would have been less in that dynamic.” 

The stigma surrounding two quarterbacks is always one of skepticism, but ask Urban Meyer how his 2006 BCS Championship Ring is shining; he played both Chris Leak and Tim Tebow in their run to the title.

This season, UCONN is not alone in airing that they will play two quarterbacks. Nick Saban (Alabama), Les Miles (LSU) and Bill Snyder (Kansas State) are all considering running out of the tunnel opening weekend by playing two QB’s.

Last season, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald told ESPN the following on this same subject.

“The bottom line is we want to win and we’re going to do what’s best for the team first. Fans want to say this and that, keep talking all you want, but the bottom line is we won the game. It’s one of those situations where you want to play to guys’ strengths, but you also don’t want to be predictable. That’s where the balancing act is.”

Bill Snyder responded to the common belief fans have when their team plays two quarterbacks with the following, as reported by ‘The Wichita Eagle.’

“It has worked reasonably well for us. Both guys work hard, are good players and deserve the opportunity to play. That’s what has happened. A lot of people say when you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one. I don’t think that is the case for us. We legitimately have two good quarterbacks.”

The fact of the matter is this, Bob Diaco really has three, if not four guys on the roster that can step in and win games, so much so, that in an ideal scenario, they will red-shirt Tim Boyle to give him another year of eligibility, while creating separation among him and Cochran.

“We feel like this is the best combination,” Diaco said yesterday. “We’re going to put the games together to utilize everyone’s assets. There’s not a player, coach or support staff in our organization that wasn’t made for success. Not anyone here was created for failure. Everyone here was created for success, at something. We don’t mind finding out what that is and asking the people to do those things, when they arise.”

“That’s what we do at all positions, it’s no different than at defensive end, it’s not different than at outside linebacker and it’s no different than at quarterback. The mis-perception in the country is that you declare a starting quarterback and he’s a key starter. Well that’s not the case, it won’t be the case for us this fall. And football is a fluid situation, so they know what we have to do to win and they are going to work towards that.”

Below are the passing statistics for the teams Diaco has been on the staff of since 2006, keeping in mind Diaco’s responsibilities resided solely with the defense at each stop, minus 2013:

PASSING STATISTICS – Virginia 2006
NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT
Jameel Sewell 143 247 1342 57.9 5.43 5 6 105.4
Christian Olsen 35 64 280 54.7 4.38 0 2 85.2
Kevin McCabe 23 32 222 71.9 6.94 1 3 121.7
Emmanuel Byers 2 2 43 100.0 21.50 2 0 610.6
Totals 203 345 1887 58.8 5.47 8 11 106.1
PASSING STATISTICS – Virginia 2007
NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT
Jameel Sewell 214 364 2176 58.8 5.98 12 9 114.9
Peter Lalich 35 61 321 57.4 5.26 2 1 109.1
Vic Hall 1 1 35 100.0 35.00 0 0 394.0
Totals 250 428 2532 58.4 5.92 14 10 114.2
PASSING STATISTICS – Virginia 2008
NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT
Marc Verica 226 354 2037 63.8 5.75 8 16 110.6
Peter Lalich 39 74 359 52.7 4.85 0 3 85.3
Scott Deke 4 9 42 44.4 4.67 1 1 98.1
Totals 269 439 2438 61.3 5.55 9 20 105.6
PASSING STATISTICS – Cincinnati 2009
NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT
Tony Pike 211 338 2520 62.4 7.46 29 6 149.8
Zach Collaros 93 124 1434 75.0 11.57 10 2 195.5
Chazz Anderson 5 6 33 83.3 5.50 0 0 129.5
Brendon Kay 2 2 27 100.0 13.50 0 0 213.4
Totals 311 472 4014 65.9 8.50 39 8 161.2
PASSING STATISTICS – Notre Dame 2010
NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT
Dayne Crist 174 294 2033 59.2 6.92 15 7 129.3
Thomas Rees 100 164 1106 61.0 6.74 12 8 132.0
Nate Montana 9 18 116 50.0 6.44 0 1 93.0
John Goodman 1 2 32 50.0 16.00 1 0 349.4
Armando Allen Jr. 1 1 3 100.0 3.00 0 0 125.2
Totals 285 481 3290 59.3 6.84 28 16 129.3
PASSING STATISTICS – Notre Dame 2011
NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT
Thomas Rees 269 411 2871 65.5 6.99 20 14 133.4
Andrew Hendrix 18 37 249 48.6 6.73 1 2 103.3
Dayne Crist 15 24 164 62.5 6.83 0 1 111.6
Totals 302 473 3284 63.8 6.94 21 17 129.6
PASSING STATISTICS – Notre Dame 2012
NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT
Everett Golson 187 318 2405 58.8 7.56 12 6 131.0
Thomas Rees 34 59 436 57.6 7.39 2 2 124.1
Andrew Hendrix 5 7 55 71.4 7.86 0 0 137.4
John Goodman 0 1 0 0.0 0.00 0 0 0.0
Totals 226 388 2896 58.2 7.46 14 8 128.7
PASSING STATISTICS – Notre Dame 2013 (w/expelled Golson)
NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT
Thomas Rees 224 414 3257 54.1 7.87 27 13 135.4
Andrew Hendrix 2 14 56 14.3 4.00 0 0 47.9
Totals 226 429 3313 52.7 7.72 27 13 132.3

Chandler Whitmer’s Rocky Story

@MattSchonvisky

Diaco on Whitmer: 

Whitmer on Coming Back to UCONN: 

Tim Boyle’s Ideal Situation

@MattSchonvisky

Diaco on Boyle: 

Boyle on the Decision (Part I): 

Boyle on the Decision (Part II): 

Starting QB Has Been Announced; Casey Cochran Wins the Job, but Chandler Whitmer Will Play

@MattSchonvisky

The Official Announcement (Part I): 

The Official Announcement (Part II): 

Practice4[1]Casey Cochran has won the starting job. The leader of the 10th longest active winning streak in the nation, Cochran quarterbacked wins over Temple, Rutgers and Memphis to close out 2013. In the process, he set the Huskies all-time single-game passing record with 461 yards against the Tigers. He also threw for 4 TD’s.

“It’s great news and I think it felt even better to hear it around these guys,” Cochran said after practice this evening. “We’ve all been working as hard as we can for so long. I’m glad Chandler’s going to play as hard as he can and we are going to work together as hard as we can to put points on the board and win some games this year.”

The competition was close throughout all of camp. Head coach Bob Diaco said both him and Chandler Whitmer were given 280 reps each against real, live defense. Both completed around 64% of their passes, factoring in drops.

All scholarship quarterbacks, Cochran, Whitmer, Tim Boyle and Bryant Sherriff, met with the media following practice this evening inside the Burton Family Football Complex. Diaco noted he would like to redshirt Boyle at all costs, while Sherriff must sit out a year due to transfer rules. He will serve as the ‘look team’ quarterback during practice.

Despite Cochran receiving the starting nod, Whitmer will also see time as Diaco said it would be closer to ’51-49 than 85-15.’ Chandler is a positive story, one of second chances, while turning his life around.

“Chandler Whitmer, it’s been well-documented, last Fall, unjustly and unnecessarily and I’m sure Chandler would take accountability for his own actions, but the fact of the matter is it played out on a public stage, as it relates to performance and commitment and all that business,” Diaco said. “Last Fall was a hard year. We talked on the field and we laid out a role for Chandler. I said Chandler, if you’re interested in coming back, picture yourself in a red cap and signaling to the other quarterbacks in the game. If that role would be good for you, then come back. If it’s not, then don’t come back. You’re going to have a chance to compete for more than that, but at a minimum be ready to play whatever role we declare. He called me back and said ‘I’m all in.’ And every day since, he’s repaired, rebuilt and gained back the respect of his teammates and he didn’t have to regain our respect, he just got it. He got it through his actions, he got it through his behaviors, he got it through his work.”

Diaco touched on why he will plan to have multiple quarterbacks play this season.

“We’re going to put the games together to utilize everyone’s assets,” he said. “There’s not a player on our team and coach or support staff in our organization that wasn’t made for success. Not anyone here was created for failure. Everyone on our team and in our family was created for success, at something. We don’t mind finding out what that is and asking people to do those things, when they arise. That’s what we do at all positions, it’s no different than at defensive end, at outside linebacker and at quarterback. The missed perception in the country is you declare a starting quarterback and he’s a key starter. That’s not the case and it won’t be the case for us this Fall. And football is a fluid situation and they know what we need to do to win and they are going to work towards that.”

Cochran has lost 30-pounds since last season, reducing his body fat by 20%.

“It’s unbelievable, with the help of Coach Balis,” Cochran said. “I did a little bit on my own in terms of how much I’ve worked in transforming my body. I have a different lifestyle now and it’s working out. Misconception is if you work as hard as you can in the weight room or running, you’re going to have a good body, but I brought in the eating aspect of it, the diet and sleep and you bring it all together you have a healthy body and mind. It just took that little extra that the staff brings.”

Cochran enjoyed the competition, which showcased not only the competition on the field, but the camaraderie the unit has.

“As hard as the competition was and as long as it was going on for, we were always helping each other,” Cochran said. “We’ve always done that, been here together for almost three years. One of the first nights we were here, we were in the QB room, just watching film together. It’s kind of been that way since we both got here, very cooperative and we’ve gone that way for awhile now. It’s going to keep going that way.”

Diaco reinforced this isn’t a two-platoon, two headed monster.

“They just do different things better than the other guy, so when we are going to do those things in the game, why wouldn’t we ask them to do those things, it just doesn’t make sense to me. Hopefully it works out, if it doesn’t you guys will chase me down the street with flaming torches and pitchforks.”

QB Situation to be Decided by Monday

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I’m not quite sure what to make of the QB battle between Cochran, Whitmer, & Boyle.  We’re two weeks away, and we don’t have a starter.  There’s been talk of using multiple guys during the game (which i HATE).  We’re supposed to have a starter named by Monday.  There’s really two ways of looking at this entire thing.

Optimistic Husky Fan:

Cochran, Boyle & Whitmer are all looking great during preseason camp.  They are all excelling at different things, it’s making it tough on the coaches to pick just one guy.  That’s why they plan to use multiple guys throughout each game, because they all do different things so well.  Each guy’s skillset will be used differently to match up against the different defenses UConn will face throughout the year, giving us an advantage on offense, and forcing the opposition to prepare for 3 different QB’s.  We’re going to really need all 6-7 of those receivers Diaco mentioned will get playing time because our 3 guys are going to be slinging it around all game.

Pessimistic Husky Fan:

Cochran, Whitmer, and Boyle are battling it out for the job, but none of them are setting themselves apart from the group.  All 3 have their strengths, but all 3 have their weaknessess.  Casey won the final 3 games, Whitmer has the senior leadership, and Boyle has the measureables.  All 3 guys can do a decent job, and the offense has to be better than last year, right?  But, our running game and O-Line will be what carries this team, while our QB will just have to manage the game and not turn the ball over.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

 

Now, I tend to be leaning toward the pessimistic side of things.  Many husky fans I’ve spoken to about this seem to feel the same way.  Why wouldn’t we be? We haven’t seen a UConn QB lead an exciting offense since Danny O.  The fact nobody has been named yet has fans a bit worried.  You know the old saying, if you have more than 1 QB, you have none.

I really hope I’m wrong, and the final three games of last season gave me hope, even if they were against weaker defenses.  I truly believe we will be much better, and I truly believe whoever is named the starter, the team can win with.  I also believe that Diaco & the staff know what they’re doing, and my full faith is in his judgement.  Maybe he already knows and has known who will be starting all along, and he just wanted to keep competition up during camp.  Bottom line is, the fanbase won’t be comfortable until we have an answer.  We’ll find out on Monday.

14 days!

@UConn813

Weight Lifted off UCONN Football Program

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Bob Diaco has assembled a staff that has transformed the culture surrounding the UCONN football program
[Credit - Kallie Elizabeth - THE BONEYARD BLOG]

@MattSchonvisky

It’s hard to understate what the new coaching staff has meant to the UCONN football program in such a short period of time. Increased marketing, exposure and a new culture surrounds the team, one of energy, excitement and passion.

Talking with players, it’s hard not to get a smile, an actual breath of fresh air and a cloud-nine mentality. A hypothetical two-ton brick has been lifted off everyone’s shoulders and you can see it.

“The intensity they bring is great, the passion is great,” said safety Andrew Adams following practice on Monday. “The coaching staff loves us and we love them back. They are doing everything in their power to get us to a bowl game this year.”

Everywhere you turn, there’s only good things being said.

“I definitely feel like we have a great team relationship,” linebacker Marquise Vann added. “We have a fellowship right now because of them, it’s awesome.”

Wide receiver Dhameer Bradley echoes those same sentiments.

“They are definitely a breath of fresh air. The coaches are building us as a family this year. Last season was a break-up of offense and defense. This year they’ve got us as a brotherhood. We’re all one.”

Running back Max DeLorenzo agrees.

“It’s been great, starting with Diaco, going down to the other coaches. They’re all for us, not for themselves. Obviously we all want to win, but they want us to feel good, want us to show up in practice, want us to have fun and want us to grow a fellowship with each other. I really enjoy it personally and I know all my teammates do too.”

LB Graham Stewart clearly spelled out what the coaching staff has done for the players.

“The history that these guys have, it would take you years and years to gather the high quality information, they are just football geniuses. The one thing that I will say and emphasize; every single guy on the team, especially myself, is just excited, wakes up in the morning and is excited to grab their lunch pail, hard hat and go to work.”

If anyone has any doubt that this season will be anything but a change from the days of old, this is it. Buy-in has occurred. Change is evident. Now it’s time to see it on game day, on the field, against an opponent who has been to nine consecutive bowl games, two weeks from today.