April 23, 2012

Whitmer the One to Beat?

The entire UConn coaching staff desperately wanted a leader to emerge at the quarterback position coming out of the spring game. They might have found just that. Sophomore Chandler Whitmer went 18-of-27 for 187 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an interception in the red zone, which was one of his few bad plays all day.

Of all of the quarterbacks, Whitmer seemed the most comfortable and had the best command on the field. It was very rare that Whitmer ever held onto the ball for more than 3 seconds after the snap, which is what you want to see from your quarterback.

Even though he was the fourth quarterback into the game, Whitmer was the first to complete a 1st down pass. On a 3rd-and-short, the quarterback hit Tebucky Jones in stride on a drag route over the middle. Jones ran another ten yards after the catch to pick up a 16 yard gain. Just moments later, Whitmer kept the offense moving when he hit Michael Osiecki in the flat which ended up going for a 20 yard gain.

Late in the 1st half, Whitmer threw his first of two touchdown passes when he connected with John Delahunt from 14 yards away. Whitmer got the ball up high so his tight end could get it over the shorter safety. There wasn't a lot of separation between the two players so it was a pretty impressive pass. The touchdown capped a 7-play, 48-yard drive.

The downside of Whitmer's performance was that he threw an interception in the end zone, and it was an ugly one. Wide receiver Nick Williams was 1-on-1 in the end zone with a defender, and Whitmer decided to throw a jump ball for him near the middle of the end zone. If Whitmer had simply led Williams with a lofty pass into the right corner of the end zone it would've been a touchdown, because there were no help defenders in that area and Williams would've beat his man to the ball. It was a really poor decision by Whitmer.

Whitmer learned from that mistake, and later in the scrimmage led McQuillan with a pass in the end zone on an 8 yard touchdown pass. MQuillan ran a short post pattern into the right corner of the end zone and Whitmer led him with a nice back shoulder throw.

Michael Nebrich played with Whitmer on the white team, but wasn't as successful, throwing 5-of-9 for 48 yards and two interceptions. It was hard to fully evaluate Nebrich because it seemed like he was pressured in less than three seconds on almost every one of his throws. On the few throws that Nebrich did have time he delivered the ball with strong velocity and was accurate.

On the stat sheet it will show that Nebrich made a lot of mistakes with two interceptions and a sack taken in the end zone for a safety. However, all three turnovers weren't fully his fault. On the first interception, a defensive lineman tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage, and cornerback David Stevenson came in to catch the deflected pass. On Nebrich's second interception, he actually made a spectacular and difficult pass 20 yards down the field in-between three defenders and the ball was caught by tight end Sean McQuillan for a for a split second. Brendan Donegan made a great play and ripped the ball out of McQuillan's hands for the pick. On Nebrich's sack in the end zone, he had less than two seconds before he was touched for a safety.

Perhaps the most disappointing performance came from returning starter Johnny McEntee, who finished 4-of-15 for 46 yards and an interception. Many of McEntee's passes were off target and the offense didn't move much when he was in the game. McEntee missed out on a 29 yard touchdown pass when Ryan Griffin dropped a lofty pass down the right sideline.

Casey Cochran played on the white team with McEntee and went 4-of-15 for 46 yard. Cochran had a few nice passes, but he really looked like a freshman on the field.

Considering that none of the quarterbacks stood out much in the prior scrimmages, you'd have to consider Whitmer the leader going into the clubhouse. He looked to be the quarterback that is capable of connecting on the most explosive plays. Whitmer's back shoulder passes that he connected on many times with Shakim Phillips were impressive considering that type of pass is a high degree of difficulty. Also, his use of using his check down options instead of staring down the primary receiver was exceptional as well.


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