High Priority Situation

NEWPORT, R.I. – Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni said Tuesday he would like to be settled on a starting quarterback by Aug. 23, one week before the season opener against UMass Aug. 30 at Rentchsler Field. That gives the Huskies' quarterback pool roughly three weeks to impress him.

The Huskies report to camp Thursday and begin practice Friday in Storrs with five candidates for the starting spot.

Johnny McEntee returns for his senior season after starting all 12 games last season. Scott McCummings, used in the "wildcat" offensive package, played in all 12 games. Sophomore Michael Nebrich returns and freshman Casey Cochran will be under the microscope. Observers of the spring game in April were impressed with transfer Chandler Whitmer but the coaching staff did not name him starter heading into summer workouts.

The UConn players and coaches clearly do not want the situation to drag on the way it did last season when the Huskies had a three-headed monster most weeks. Pasqualoni knows everyone wants to avoid that but he does like the competitive situation it creates at the start of camp.

"I don't know if I'm patient enough [for that], but if I don't feel it's right, I'd be disciplined enough to get it right," Pasqualoni said Tuesday at Big East media day. "But like [the media] and any coach in the country, if I can make the decision – the sooner the decision is, the better I think it is for everybody.

"I'm all on board with that. Whenever it's clear, it's clear."

Cochran, the two-time Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year, has essentially removed himself from the initial evaluation period when he broke his left wrist in a bicycle accident in July. Cochran has had surgery and his healing process of six weeks takes him up to that Aug. 23 date.

Pasqualoni said red-shirting Cochran remains an option. That might have been the case even if he hadn't been injured. Despite missing time in the upcoming preseason camp, Cochran will not be as far behind as most incoming freshman because he graduated from high school early, enrolled at UConn in January and went through spring drills.

"He's not the typical freshman," Pasqualoni said.

Pasqualoni definitely plans on keeping the "wildcat" package in UConn's offense, which could signal playing time for McCummings – regardless of who starts.

Lyle McCombs ready for another big year (Ken Davis)

Tailback Lyle McCombs said there's no controversy where he is concerned and he can work with any of the quarterbacks. Tight end Ryan Griffin sees the benefit of naming a starter, but didn't have a recommendation.

"I think you like to have somebody the whole year," Griffin said. "If someone's not performing or they're all performing at the same level, then you have to drag it out. It's an unnecessary evil. Hopefully we're not doing the two quarterbacks like we did last year. You would like to know [the starter]. I think it makes it easier seeing the same face."

HUSKIES PICKED SIXTH

The Huskies found themselves in a familiar spot Tuesday. The Big East released its preseason media poll and Louisville was the overwhelming favorite to finish first. UConn received 77 points and came in sixth place, ahead of Syracuse (70 points) and newcomer Temple (41).

Louisville, with 17 starters back from a team that tied for first place in the Big East last season, picked up 219 points and 24 of 28 first place votes. South Florida was second and got the remaining four first-place votes.

"For some reason people think we've got a good team," said Louisville coach Charlie Strong, who is 14-12 in two seasons as head coach of the Cardinals. "What it does is, it just shows the steps we've taken in our program and just how far it has come in a short period of time. I told our kids you can't get caught up in where you've been picked. It's where you're going to finish. Last year we were picked seventh and ended up getting a piece of the title."

Rutgers (155 points), Cincinnati (139) and Pittsburgh (131) followed Louisville and USF in the poll and were ahead of the Huskies.

"We're used to it," UConn cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson said of being ranked in the bottom portion of the preseason poll. "When we came in as freshmen, we were ranked at the bottom. The Fiesta Bowl year, we were ranked at the bottom. Last year we were at the bottom and again this year.

"It's gotten to the point where the outside world isn't going to dictate what we're going to do. We realize what our expectations are and how we're going to play ourselves."

McNEAL MAY LAND IN LOUISVILLE

Sources said Clemson transfer Bryce McNeal was not admitted to graduate school at UConn and the wide receiver will not be on the football roster. Louisville is interested in McNeal and he may be headed to the Cardinals, although details are being worked out. . . . Griffin, Wreh-Wilson, McCombs, and defensive end Trevardo Williams were the players who represented the Huskies at Monday's clambake and Tuesday's media day. All four had a good time Monday night at Fort Adams State Park. It was the consensus opinion of all four players that Griffin emerged as the lobster-eating champion for UConn, consuming four crustaceans. "I tried to have more but these guys from Syracuse ate them all," Griffin said. "I'm a slow eater, especially with lobsters. It's hard to get all the meat out." . . . Pasqualoni is excited about giving defensive end Trevardo Williams time at outside linebacker this season. And Williams, looking buff with an extra 30 pounds, couldn't be happier. "I enjoy the fact that he wants to try me at different positions because without him I won't be able to try different things," Williams said. "I want to try linebacker and I want to learn. I'm in this sport to learn. I want to show my athleticism. I feel I have the skills." And a few NFL teams might find it interesting since Williams will likely play linebacker in the pros. . . . As UConnPlaybook.com reported Monday, the Big East wants to have a new commissioner hired by the end of August. Interim commissioner Joe Bailey confirmed that and said the search process has been cut from over-200 candidates to five. Bailey would not name names or discuss the backgrounds of the remaining candidates. It is believed current Big East associate commissioner Nick Carparelli remains in the running. Carparelli has been senior associate commissioner for football marketing since 2009. . . . Carparelli confirmed the league is in discussions to find a new bowl game for its champion, likely somewhere in Florida, beginning in 2014. At least 13 bowls were represented at media day events. . . . Negotiations begin Sept. 1 on the new television/media right deal for the conference. Representatives from ESPN, FOX Sports NBC Sports were in Newport this week. . . . Odd fact: Only two teams brought their quarterbacks to the interview session Tuesday. B.J. Daniels was there from South Florida and Chris Coyer was on hand from Temple. . . . . Syracuse opens camp Aug. 6 and will work out at Fort Drum in Watertown, N.Y., from Aug. 12-18. Coach Dong Marrone said the Orange will learn leadership drills and salute the U.S. troops in the process. "We have a great appreciation for what the military does," Marrone said. . . . Central Florida, set to join the Big East in 2013, received a one-year ban from bowl games and the men's NCAA basketball tournament Tuesday from the NCAA's committee on infractions. The penalties were based on recruiting violations involving third-parties or runners.


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