Still Searching for Starting QB

STORRS, Conn. – The Connecticut football team opened spring practice on March 20 with five quarterbacks on the roster and not one near the lead for the starting spot. Saturday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, the Huskies will wrap things up with the spring game. And everyone involved says there is absolutely no way next fall's starter will be determined by the end of the game.

No way. No how.

"I have no idea what's in the coaches' minds or what they plan to do," sophomore Michael Nebrich, one of the five candidates, said with a smile. "They don't tell us much. We've just got to keep working as if we're all starters. That's really all we can do."

First-year quarterback coach Shane Day said from the first practice that he wanted someone to emerge. But he does not view it as a setback that the competition continues between Johnny McEntee, Scott McCummings, Chandler Whitmer, Casey Cochran and Nebrich.

"In our situation, I think it's a positive," Day said after practice on Tuesday. "It's not like certain guys have dropped back and certain guys have moved up. They've all improved. You've got to suspend judgment and just let it run its course."

The only problem is UConn went through this last season with McEntee starting all 12 games – and always looking over his shoulder. Head coach Paul Pasqualoni vowed that wouldn't happen again.

"Any way?" Pasqualoni said when asked if a starter could emerge. He then let loose with a big grin and said maybe "if somebody goes 20-for-20 and makes all his reads. I haven't seen that happen yet. So I would say probably not."

McEntee will likely take the stage first at the Blue-White Game (1 p.m., parking and admission free). This is the second spring for installation of Pasqualoni's offense and McEntee obviously has the most experience and greatest knowledge of the playbook. McEntee will not give up his spot without a fight and he has said so repeatedly.

McCummings saw game time when the Huskies ran their Wildcat package but a toe injury will likely keep him out of Saturday's game.

Nebrich has been getting a lot of reps in practice, mostly filling in when McCummings could not practice because of his toe. Nebrich looks more confident, more comfortable with his play calling, and his time in the weight room has paid off. He has some extra zip on his passes.

"Things have gone real well," Nebrich said. "I'm starting to get real comfortable with the offense and real comfortable with the guys around me. Everything is falling in place right now. I've got some things to work on but it has been going pretty good.

"Last year as a freshman I was kind of iffy on the playbook and coming out here I was kind of rattled sometimes. This spring I've done a great job at really settling things down, slowing things down, and making plays that I didn't make.

"Coach Day has said a couple of times that he's looking for somebody to step up and really take the lead. I think if somebody comes out [Saturday] and throws for 300 yards and five touchdowns, I'm sure that will help him out a little bit."

Whitmer and Cochran are the newcomers. Whitmer is a transfer from Butler County (Kan.) Junior College and certainly has potential. Cochran is the two-time Gatorade Player of the Year from Connecticut and certainly could be the future starter. But if things work out for the Huskies, it wouldn't be a bad thing if he picked up a redshirt season, watched and learned.

After Saturday, they all have time to work and get even better. Then they can resume their competition.

"There's a big window between now and when we start training camp that they have to improve themselves – especially fundamentally," Day said. "Not so much with game management. But they can get rock solid with fundamentals. It will be interesting to see who is able to do that over this period of time."

As for Saturday?

"I'd just like to see them all play well," Day said. "They've put in a lot of hard work over the last five weeks. I just want them to see the fruits of their labor. I'd love it if they all go 20-for-20. Then I'd feel good that whoever is the quarterback, we will be in good shape."


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