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Pasqualoni takes it all in

By Chuck Banning

Publication: The Day

Published April 22. 2012 4:00AM
Tim Cook/The Day
Shakim Phillips, left, playing for the UConn White team, stretches for every last inch as he's tackled by David Stevenson during the second quarter of Saturday's Blue-White spring football game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. Phillips, a transfer from Boston College, caught five passes for 55 yards as the White team finished with a 14-5 victory.

East Hartford - The numbers, not to mention the eye test, suggest that Chandler Whitmer distanced himself from the other four quarterbacks in the race to become UConn's starting QB this fall.

The only eyes that matter, however, belong to head coach Paul Pasqualoni, and he isn't even close to anointing the junior college transfer as the Huskies' new offensive leader.

But Whitmer, who arrived from Butler Community College in Kansas three months ago, was the most productive quarterback on Saturday, throwing for a pair of touchdowns to lead the White team to a 14-5 victory in the annual Blue-White spring game before 5,500 at sunny, windy Rentschler Field.

"I think that probably from a media standpoint Chandler had a productive day," Pasqualoni said. "He really did. He made some good decisions. ... He made one in particular, though, that I know he'd like to have back."

Pasqualoni was referring to Whitmer's ill-advised throw with 3:05 left in the first half, when he forced a pass that was picked off in the end zone by David Stevenson, the first of his two interceptions.

But Whitmer quickly redeemed himself, zipping a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Delahunt on the final play of the first half to give the Blue team a 7-5 lead, then completing the scoring by connecting with another tight end - redshirt freshman Sean McQuillan, from 8 yards out with 8:34 to play.

Whitmer, who has three years of eligibility remaining, was 18-of-27 for 187 yards, while the other three quarterbacks (Scott McCummings missed the game with an injury) combined to complete only 14 of 38 passes for 132 yards and three interceptions.

Casey Cochran, who graduated from Masuk High School in December, completed only 4 of 15 passes for 46 yards and one interception (he was also sacked three times). But a couple of his passes were dropped by receivers and he did show good poise in the pocket.

"I was very excited," said Cochran, who was a popular choice with the autograph seekers after the game. "I haven't played since December in a real game situation. There's a lot of things I've got to improve on over the summer, but I made some good throws and some good decisions, so it was a good day."

It was tough day for both offenses (starting linemen Jimmy Bennett and Adam Masters missed the game with injuries), especially in the run game, where the two teams combined to rush for a net minus-32 yards on 46 attempts. There were nine sacks, including 4.5 by defensive tackle Ryan Wirth, who sacked Mike Nebrich for a safety in the first quarter.

But there were some definite bright spots in the passing game. Nick Williams, who was singled out by Pasqualoni for having an impressive second half of camp, caught six passes for 87 yards, Boston College transfer Shakim Phillips had five receptions for 55 yards and fullback Mike Osiecki, a converted linebacker, had four catches for 33 yards.

Phillips, by the way, is rooming with Whitmer and you can see the two developing some chemistry.

"We connect well," Phillips said. "We always throw together, whether it's six in the morning or nine at night. ... we're just going to keep working together."

Pasqualoni and his staff will spend the rest of the semester evaluating the 15 spring practice sessions, but don't expect any personnel decisions - especially at quarterback - to be made until training camp starts in August.

"We'll start up," Pasqualoni said. "The quarterback competition will start all over again and once we get into preseason camp and it's clear, then we'll make a decision.

"We won't make a decision right now."


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