It's Whitmer's job to lose at UConn

Quarterback Chandler Whitmer throws during UConn's first day of practice Friday at Storrs. Coach Paul Pasqualoni said  Thursday that Whitmer is No. 1 on the team's depth chart.
Quarterback Chandler Whitmer throws during UConn's first day of practice Friday at Storrs. Coach Paul Pasqualoni said Thursday that Whitmer is No. 1 on the team's depth chart. Jessica Hill/AP Photo

Storrs In the end, Paul Pasqualoni decided to make a "gut call."

And so, after an off-season's worth of speculation about which quarterback would be worthy of leading the UConn football team in 2012, Pasqualoni waited until the day before the start of training camp to inform junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer that he would be that man.

"My thought process," Pasqualoni said Friday following the first day of practice, "was I wanted to give the starter coming into camp more of an opportunity with the reps to work with the first-team guys in an effort to develop the communication aspect, the chemistry aspect and the feel for each other aspect.

"I just thought we'd go this way. It's a judgment call on my part. Sometimes you try to gather all the important information you can to make a gut call, and I just think right now it's going to help Chandler in regards to being a starter."

The 6-foot-1 Whitmer, who has three years of eligibility remaining after transferring from Butler Community College (Kan.) in January, won the job in a five-way battle with last year's starter Johnny McEntee redshirt sophomore Scott McCummings, sophomore Michael Nebrich and freshman Casey Cochran.

McCummings was excused by Pasqualoni to miss the start of camp for "personal reasons," although he is due back soon, while Cochran is recovering from a recent surgery on his left wrist following a July bicycling accident. The former New London and Masuk High star is due back before the season opener on Aug. 30 against UMass, but Pasqualoni hinted Friday that me may redshirt Cochran.

As for Whitmer, he's just thrilled to get started.

"It's important for everybody to get in a rhythm on offense and get clicking," he said. "It's good (to be named the starter), but the work's not done. We've got to win the games right here, right now. We're just going out and working. We're all a collective group. We're all for each other and to get each other better every day."

The Huskies are coming off a 5-7 season and are picked to finish sixth in the Big East. But they return a 1,000-yard rusher in tailback Lyle McCombs and have an improved receiving corps with the return of senior Michael Smith and the addition of sophomore Shakim Phillips, a transfer from Boston College.

Senior Nick Williams is a dangerous slot receiver and sophomores Kamal Abrams, Tebucky Jones Jr. and Geremy Davis provide Whitmer with a deep group of targets, not to mention tight end Ryan Griffin, a second-team All-Big East pick in 2011.

"There's a lot of potential," said Smith, who missed last season due to academic issues. "This is the most potential we've had as a receiving corps since I've been here. There's a lot of competition going on."

"I know last year it was difficult for all the receivers with all the flipping of quarterbacks. Even the quarterbacks didn't know who was going to be the quarterback. I think the coaches did a great job selecting a quarterback. I respect Chandler's work ethic, so it's going to be a good year. The guy works hard and puts in a lot of time. It's a good pick and I'm happy for him."

Whitmer, meanwhile, took a rather modest approach to his new role, calling his strength, "hopefully just leadership and getting the ball to playmakers. I don't want to do too much. I just want to do what I'm asked and let the guys that work with the ball do that."

c.banning@theday.com

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni watches players durings Friday's practice in Storrs.
UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni watches players durings Friday's practice in Storrs. Jessica Hill/AP Photo
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