Cochran earns starting QB job at UConn

Casey Cochran, who had a 3-1 record in four starts last season, has named UConn's starting quarterback on Monday by first-year coach Bob Diaco.
Casey Cochran, who had a 3-1 record in four starts last season, has named UConn's starting quarterback on Monday by first-year coach Bob Diaco. Fred Beckham/AP Photo

Storrs - UConn football coach Bob Diaco entered Monday's press conference with his four quarterbacks, adding to the suspense.

After a long and hard evaluation period that started during winter conditioning, Diaco announced that Casey Cochran, a former high school star at New London and Masuk, earned the starting quarterback job for the 2014 season.

Cochran was informed of Diaco's decision on Monday morning.

"It's great news," Cochran said.

A 6-foot-1 redshirt sophomore, Cochran will start UConn's season opener against Brigham Young on Aug. 29 at Rentschler Field (7 p.m., ESPN). He was one of three quarterbacks to play last season, appearing in eight games and going 3-1 as a starter. He completed 111 of 175 passes for 1,293 yards with a team-high 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Diaco will stick with his plan to play two quarterbacks this fall, as redshirt senior Chandler Whitmer will be utilized in a backup role. Sophomore Tim Boyle will play a supporting role on the scout team and is a candidate to redshirt, according to Diaco, while redshirt freshman Bryant Shirreffs, a North Carolina State transfer, will sit out this season.

"We think this is the best combination," said Diaco, who was hired last December. "We can play winning football with either one."

It was a hard choice and fierce battle for the starting job, according to Diaco.

While Chandler had the edge in physical traits, Diaco said, Cochran led in the intangible department.

"He's always been a level one leader since I met him," Diaco said of Cochran. "He's identified as an Iron Husky. There was only a few of them identified through the strength and conditioning staff in that area. He's worked on his foot action and worked on his arm strength. He's worked on his overall speed and conditioning. He can play harder longer. His overall maturity in meetings, it's all improving.

"There's too many (intangibles) to mention. It's in his DNA. I suspect if I met him when he was 12, he wouldn't have looked much different. (He's the) son of a coach, a winner on the field at every level."

During the offseason, Cochran transformed his body, shedding 30 pounds to drop his weight to 217. He worked with strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis and changed his diet and sleeping habits.

"It's unbelievable," Cochran said. "I have a different lifestyle now. And it feels amazing.

"The misconception is if you work as hard as you can in the weight room or running, you're going to have a good body. I bought into the eating aspect to it and the diet and sleep. When you bring it all together, you have a healthy body and mind and I think that's what it took."

Diaco also raved about Whitmer's attitude. Whitmer started the first four games last season, going winless before being replaced by Boyle, who also went 0-4.

Whitmer strongly considered leaving the program after losing his starting job last season. Now he's fully embracing his backup role.

"Whatever they need me to do, honestly," Whitmer said. "Obviously, Casey is going to be the first one in there. But we're both going to be playing and we're both going to be making plays for the offense. Coach is going to designate that from week to week. Like he said, it's fluid."

Diaco stressed that there will no quarterback controversy this season. He wants all of his players, including all four quarterbacks, to be prepared to make a contribution, on or off the field.

"All four guys are going to have a very fulfilling year," Diaco said. "They're all going to play their role. They're all going to be respected in their role and they're going to have great value in their role.

"… And football is a fluid situation. … That's not to imply that the competition is still open. We're not going to roll like that. It's not to imply that we're two-platoon, two quarterback headed-monster. We're not. Casey is the starting quarterback for the Huskies. Chandler is coming in off the sideline to play his role."

g.keefe@theday.com

Twitter: @gavinkeefe

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