The 2013 UConn football season had one predominant storyline coming in—the ultimate fate of Paul Pasqualoni. Everything else was a distant second.
Now the book has been shut on Coach PP and his sidekick George “Third and Long” DeLeone. We need never hear mention of them again.
We are left with a whole new set of story lines in which to ponder, not the least of which is who, exactly, will take over as the next head coach of the Husky football program.
That's a question to be answered many months from now. We'll be battling holiday traffic to and from the mall before there is even a hint of who will take over the football program in the coming months.
Yet, the next eight games have suddenly taken on a whole new meaning. That's because Interim Head Coach TJ Weist has decided to sit junior QB Chandler Whitmer and replace him with Tim Boyle.
There's a part of me that feels bad for Whitmer. He's played behind a very bad offensive mind and for (until this year) a putrid offensive coordinator who seemed hell bent on returning football to a time when leather helmets were the norm. I'm not sure anyone could have had a lot of success under those circumstances.
Yet, Whitmer has cleared made his own mess as well. No, the quality of the offensive line hasn't improved dramatically (at all, really) this year, but Whitmer's play hasn't risen at all. He makes bad, bad, bad decisions with the football. He throws costly interceptions at the most inopportune times (see Michigan), and he holds the ball far longer than he should, leading to terrible sacks that set the offense back. Maybe, given a great O-line, he would be much better at this whole QB thing, but right now the performance just doesn't justify more playing time.
Here's what I know about him:
He's a big boy at 6'4” and 216 lbs. He was ranked 25th among QB recruits by Rivals.com and has three stars next to his name.
He put up big numbers at Xavier, and he's more suited for a pro-style offense rather than a spread (the biggest reason why he de-committed from BC, evidently).
That's it. That's all I know. I haven't seen him play or practice, so I'm not going to try and shit my way through some bogus scouting report where I tell you why Boyle is destined to be the next Dan Marino—or at least Dan Orlovsky.
What I do know, however, is that it was time for a change at the position and, if you're going to make the change, why not put in the best player possible?
Evidently, everyone on the staff, including the guy who just got canned, thought that was Boyle. Whether a coaching change was made or not, it appears Boyle was getting his shot against USF.
I know this move is somewhat controversial since a good number of fans believe an extra year of eligibility for Boyle shouldn't be sacrificed now, when the youngster will be playing behind a crappy offensive line and for an interim head coach that most likely will not be here next season.
It's a sound argument, but I still believe this is the right move, for several reasons.
First, as I stated before, Whitmer hasn't earned more playing time. A change is necessary, simple as that. Second, while I don't know this for sure, I have to believe that, had Casey Cochran outplayed Boyle in practice, he would be getting the job. Why go with Boyle if he hasn't earned it? Why waste that year of eligibility if he doesn't offer the best chance to win?
Third, it allows UConn to better evaluate Boyle. Practice is, after all, just practice. There's only so much you can learn about a guy when he's playing on the practice field. You need to see him under the lights, in front of a big crowd, with an angry opponent standing opposite him. That's when you begin to take the measure of a player—live-game action.
Sure, he's going to make some mistakes. Of course he's going to look like a freshman. What you want to see are glimpses. What you want to see is improvement. Is he a better player in game 8 this year than he will be in game 1 against USF?
And that leads into the final reason why this is a good move for UConn: It will let Boyle work through some of those initial first-season jitters/mistakes.
Why not give him the chance to get the kinks out of the way and get better? Why not give him the chance to start off next season ahead of the game?
Look, I'm a firm believer that good players are going to end up being good, barring injury. It doesn't matter if you make them practice for three years or throw them out there for game one. Good players adapt. Maybe, because he'll be playing so early in his career, we'll see more of the warts than we would if he started as a junior, but I don't believe for a second that starting him these last 8 games will somehow ruin him for the rest of his college career. If he ends up being mediocre, it's because he's mediocre, pure and simple.
It's a time of change for UConn, and it's only appropriate that Boyle be a part of it. He gets a somewhat soft landing in USF (if any game/team can be considered a soft landing at this point) for his first start and eight full games in a season no one expects to turn out very well to iron out those freshman issues. Yes, he loses a year of eligibility, but why worry about four years from now? Worry about next year and the two after that. If playing Boyle now helps, I say do it.
He can only make this year more interesting and next year potentially more promising.