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Sunday, April 22 University of Connecticut

Cochran named UConn starting quarterback

STORRS -- According to the coach, one has leadership moxie and guts. The other has an accurate arm and "sees" the game. The other has the whole physical package. He can run, he can pass, but he's inexperienced.

So, which one got the UConn starting quarterback job?

The man with the moxie: redshirt sophomore Casey Cochran, a former Masuk star.

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What the QBs said said
Casey Cochran on his thoughts on being named the starter: "It's been an unbelievable eight months since coach Diaco's been here. We've all put in so much work and we've all improved, especially over the last few weeks. I think every guy on the field knows his position and knows his what he's doing and we're going to go out and with a solid set of guys. Me, Chandler, Tim and Bryant, we all have a lot of experience and within the competition, we were all helping each other along and we still will."
Cochran on when he found out: "Just earlier today. It's great news. It's just great to be around these guys. We all want to play as hard as we can and work together."
Chandler Whitmer on his role: "I'll do whatever they need me to do. Obviously, Casey is going to be the first one in there, but we're both going to be playing, we're both going to be making plays for the offense and coach will dictate that from week to week. Like he said, it's a fluid situation so we'll see how that goes. I'll be ready."
Whitmer on why he came back: "I wanted to change my attitude. I grew as a man and I credit that to coach Diaco. He had me come back and just the way he's changed this culture, the environment, he's increased the love. It's made it easier for me to be a better teammate. I've told these guys, 'Whatever we have to do collectively as a group to move this offense, be successful and get to a bowl game, I'm all in.' I say that from the bottom of my heart."
Tim Boyle on plans to redshirt him: "I'm extremely happy with the decision. I appreciate coach Diaco and what they're doing with me. My job this year is to help Casey and Chandler prepare for games and continue to push them to improve their games so they can perform on Saturdays. I have a new role this year I'm going to do it to the best of my ability."
Boyle on getting a season to basically absorb the playbook and improve: "It's going to be huge for me and my game. I think I've learned that getting mental reps is a key part of the development of a football player, so I think seeing things in practice, hearing the play call in the headphones and seeing what the defense does to it will help me prepare mentally. I'm not taking the year off, I'm still preparing to play but my job this year is to work them and make them perform at their best level."
Bryant Shirreffs on getting a chance to learn the playbook and look forward to next season; "I've really embraced the guys in the room. Coach Patterson identifies us as a 'team within a team' us as quarterbacks and just being around the guys I can't even tell you how much I've learned about the playbook, the team in general and the dynamic. Personally, it's made me a lot better person and football player. I'm excited about this year, doing what I can do and I'm excited about the future."

"Casey Cochran will be the starter for the 2104 season," Diaco said in a news conference with all four quarterbacks -- North Carolina State transfer Bryant Shirreffs is sitting out this season -- Monday night in the Burton Family Football Complex. "I collected as much information as possible. I reviewed a lot of the statistical information that we brought together. I read notes to try and analyze the intangible components. I tried to gauge the pulse of the team. I talked to all the coaches and I made the decision."

Starting the last four games of the 2013 season, Cochran completed 111 of 175 passes with four interceptions and 11 touchdowns for 1,293 yards. More importantly, he drove the Huskies to all of their three wins, over Temple, Rutgers and Memphis. It was that "intangible" that won him the job for 2014.

"He's always been a Level 1 leader since I've known him," Diaco said. "It's in his DNA. I suspect if I had met him when he was 12, he wouldn't have looked much different. Son of a coach and a winner on the field at every level."

Chandler Whitmer started the initial four games last season and, as the team did, struggled with his consistency. He completed 71 of 129 passes for 896 yards with six interceptions. He didn't play in the final eight games and contemplated leaving the team but returned after speaking with Diaco.

"For me, I was just happy with whatever I could get," Whitmer said. "I wanted to come back and set the record straight and not leave UConn the way it was and the way things ended last year."

So Whitmer returned, changed his attitude, and matured and will now work with Cochran to try and make the Huskies a winning program once again.

"It's like a `Rocky' story," Diaco said. "(Chandler's) turned himself into a leader. He was basically out the door and to come back and set the record straight about who he was as a person ¦ unbelievable. All he wants to do is help UConn win."

For the past two-plus weeks, Diaco gave all three players who started at that position last season ample opportunity to win the job as UConn prepares for its 2014 season opener against BYU on Aug. 29 at Rentschler Field. But with Tim Boyle limited in the fall by nagging injuries and looking to be "protected" by Diaco (meaning redshirt), Cochran and Whitmer each got around "280 passes" in various situations against the defense in full-speed action against the defense and both were almost equal in their success.

"It was awesome," Whitmer said of the competition. "It was very negligible of how close it was. It actually was decided by the play on the field and not won on a low performance level either, it was a high performance. We were both very competitive but also cooperative as well. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it."

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So did Cochran.

"As hard as the competition was, we were always helping each other," he said. "We've always done that. We've been together for almost three years. I remember one of the first nights we were here, we were watching film together and it's kind of been that way ever since. It's awesome to have Chandler and Bryant and Tim with us. It's very co-operative."

According to Diaco, Cochran improved his physical traits to almost match Whitmer, who worked hard to try and improve his leadership abilities.

"We can play winning football with either one," Diaco said.

Another potential key for Cochran was getting back into quarterback shape.

"He's probably lost 30 pounds," Diaco said. "I think he weighs 217 right now. When we started he was like, between 243, 247 ¦ now he in the teens. He dropped his body fat probably 15 percent, 20 percent."

"It's unbelievable," said Cochran, who is listed on the roster as 6-foot1. "With (strength) coach (Matt) Balis coming in, I worked on my own, but I have a different life now, a different lifestyle."

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