Introducing a semi-regular series in which the three proprietors of TheUConnBlog discuss hot-button UConn sports-related issues. Today, our weavers take aim at the quarterback controversy brewing in Storrs. Should incumbent Zach Frazer, the newly re-instated Cody Endres or hot-shot
J.D. McCoy Mike Box take the reins? Indulge:
ANDREW PORTER: Gentlemen, we have a problem, and its name is Zach Frazer. He is coming off an even-worse-than-it-sounds 16-for-31 performance against Temple, and has the support of a paltry 11 percent of the fan base. He has exactly two touchdown passes on the season, and while he hasn't thrown an interception, I suspect that a lot of that is because of the fact that opposing corners, like his receivers, are not 11-feet tall.
He has the nominal support of the coaching staff (more on this later) but absolutely no support from me. This whole exercise is a little ginned up because we've forced Justin to defend the indefensible and advocate for Frazer, but I want to hear about who you want to see under center on Saturday. Personally, I'm taking the recently unsuspended Cody Endres. But have at: Who ya got?
KEVIN MEACHAM: I like Endres, and I think he throws a much better ball, and often times in an area where a fellow who partakes in academics at the University of Connecticut resides.
His completion percentage was actually 63% last year (very good), and if you fetishize the "game manager" like Edsall does, Endres is -- and always has been -- a better option at quarterback than Frazer.
Let's be honest, though: we can't do much worse than Frazer. You could have put me at quarterback, and UConn would still be 1-2 this season.
So I agree with your "Bench Frazer" proposal. But this week, UConn plays Buffalo. This is an exceedingly winnable game; in fact, UConn should roll.
This is where Mike Box comes in.
The passing game is in shambles, and Endres hasn't practiced with the team in two months. So let's give a freshman a chance while Endres works his way back into the lineup.
You can always pull him and, unless UConn totally sucks (a proposition I'm not yet inclined to dismiss), any early mistakes he makes shouldn't put the game out of reach against friggin' Buffalo.
You never know when you can catch lightning in a bottle. If the kid can do anything, maybe he'll show it in live game action against a team that isn't the patsiest of patsies.
JUSTIN CREDIBLE: Although I've volunteered to bite the bullet in this exercise, I didn't do so with much reluctance.
Zach Frazer is a bad quarterback. This much we know.
But the real issue at hand is not who is at quarterback, but who is directing him.
Despite significant strides in the passing game in 2009-10 under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, the air attack has gone all Amrose-like to start the season. There appears to be more balance in terms of play-calling -- something Edsall was quick to point out when he first hired Moorhead and fans, for some reason, began expecting the former Akron OC to install the air raid or something -- and it certainly looks a bit fancier, with all them screens and motion and three- and four-wideout sets.
But in truth, the passing game continues to be as uninspired as it was in Rob Ambrose's "Inside Draw" offense. The only routes UConn employs are 2- and 3-yard outs, bubble screens and any other gimmicky plays with as little risk as possible, that most resemble running plays, and that eek out rather insignificant gains.
So it doesn't really matter who starts -- especially since the difference between Frazer and Endres appears insignificant. But if I had to make a choice ... sure, I'll take the guy with the most experience and pedigree over a guy coming off suspension and a redshirt freshman about whom no one knows a thing.
Plus, Frazer's mullet is luscious as fuck.
MEACHAM: I assume by "pedigree," you mean the brand of food that makes my dog's coat shine.
But I think last year's bout of competence shows that it's not just the playcalling. There are open guys to be had out there - occasionally even near and past the first-down sticks! - but Frazer isn't hitting them.
There are a lot of terribly-designed bubble screens and outs, but Frazer isn't even hitting THOSE passes, either. My kingdom for someone who can lead a wide receiver.
PORTER: And Kevin, that someone is Cody Endres. I think. He's looked good in the past, we know he has what it takes to be moderately successful (and with Todman and the state of the Big East, all we need is someone who looks like he at least understands the fundamentals of passing the ball). Plus, if you're going to start Endres, now is the time.
Did he just come off a suspension? Sure did. However, UConn is playing freakin' Buffalo. It is going to be a win no matter who is under center, and this game is followed by only-slightly-less bad Vandy, which means Endres would get two weeks to get back up to game speed. He's a proven asset. He probably won't be great, but he'll be good enough. Mike Box? I have no clue, but if you start him now and it doesn't work, what do you do in two weeks when UConn goes to Piscataway?
MEACHAM: What do you do if Box doesn't work out? You start Endres in the second half, and then again against Vanderbilt, which is better than you give them credit for.
You are seriously overrating Endres. And I say that as a relative Endres fan. His numbers look OK, but he's started eight career games. Eight. He is hardly a proven commodity.
In exactly three of those eight games, he threw for more than 200 yards. One of them was against Rhode Island. One was against Louisville. The completion numbers are nice but, again, coming off suspension, getting timing down with the receivers will be an issue.
Zach Frazer showed he had what it takes to be moderately successful last year, too, when he was - gasp! - moderately successful. How well has that translated to this year, exactly?
I want to see something different. I want to see if the freshman's got anything. UConn will be exactly where it is right now if Box isn't any good - deciding between the suite life of Zach and Cody once again.
PORTER: I actually agree with some of that. In an ideal world, I think Edsall gives both guys one half just to see how they do against live competition. If anything, this should be treated as an NFL pre-season game. UConn is all but guaranteed to win, so why not see which guy looks better. We already know what we're getting from Frazer anyway.
This seems like a nice time to introduce my crazy theory of the day. We all know how Edsall loves surprises. Do either of you have any reason to doubt that Frazer is actually No.1 on the depth chart? I know Buffalo isn't good enough to worry about "surprising" them, but since Edsall made some comments about QB being a competition at practice this week, I can't help but wonder who will actually be the starter come Saturday.
JUSTIN: Well, at this point, I wouldn't assume any game is a win. Especially against our most hated rival (at least, that's what NCAA Football told me Buffalo was until they realized UConn wasn't actually in the MAC).
But the problem with Endres is he's not really a proven asset. Far from it, actually.
He's just 4-4 as a starter, has a 6/7 touchdown/interception ratio, and before this week hadn't taken a snap since mid-August, as Edsall banished both he and offensive lineman Erik Kuraczea from even working out with the team during his three-game suspension after what some speculated was a drug-related offense. Now is not the time to put him anywhere near live action besides the bench.
As for Box ... for some reason the ever-growing love affair with the freshman really angers me. Not because I feel some allegiance to either of the other QBs. Far from it.
The thing is: No one has seen anything that would lead one to believe Box is either good or bad. But because Endres and Frazer are such unattractive options at this point, and because Edsall said a few decent things about him off-hand maybe once or twice, some think he's some kind of savior. Who's to say he's not just as bad, or even worse, as the other two?
I'm all for giving him some chances in mop-up duty, or when West Virginia is leading by 40. But for now, with a Big East title still attainable (sort of), it's not time to go with the Doomsday plan. You don't just toss away an entire season, especially one for which all of us were so hopeful, just to give a freshman QB who may or may not be good a chance to get comfortable.
MEACHAM: Is it really throwing away the entire season to start the freshman against the worst team left on the schedule? I'm not saying you need to commit to Box for the last 9 games, and force Endres and Frazer to transfer immediately or anything.
We know what we're going to get with those two. We don't know what we're getting with Box. That to me is enough to give him a chance.
I have literally no idea if Michael Box is a good quarterback or not.
But the non-conference season literally means nothing at this point. UConn's already embarrassed itself thoroughly. It needs to treat this next game (at least) as a tryout for Box.
Again, if it doesn't work out, we're right back where we are now, with a terrible passing game. You're not harming anything by changing it up, and Hell, maybe you'll actually catch some lightning in a bottle.
JUSTIN: This makes far too much sense for the coaching staff to ever try it.
But pulling guys in and out of the lineup and leaving such an important position up in the air also isn't something you want to do at any time, let alone this close to the start of conference play. Frazer and Endres are already bad. Can you imagine either playing with his confidence shaken?
Also, as meaningless as bowl games are, they matter to the coaching staff, and most importantly, the school and its wallet. Edsall will do everything he can to make it to the postseason, and to keep his job -- which, after talk of him possibly leaving for one of the elite programs after this season, doesn't seem so far-fetched (although still absolutely ridiculous).
Letting Box play dressup for one game doesn't help accomplish either.
PORTER: Justin, your commitment to the (admittedly horrible) position we forced on you is admirable. Here's the thing, neither Frazer or Endres will be great, I'm completely okay with that. And yes, Frazer is bad, but Endres has at least seemed remotely competent. And as we say in last year's second half, all UConn needs is someone who is remotely competent and they can succeed. Could Endres come out flat? Sure. Is there a chance Box is a dud? Definitely. But goddamnit, Zach Frazer is just so egregiously bad, and if he struggled against Temple, just imagine what will happen later this year. Robert Sands probably has the UConn game circled on his calendar so he can remember to grab eight interceptions.
I still have faith in this team. There are a lot of good players here. We all saw it last year and all talked it up way too much during the preseason. Call me naive, call me a homer, but I don't think the Big East is lost. This league is deeply terrible, and while I wouldn't put money on it, I wouldn't be shocked to see UConn win it, or at least contend to win it. However, they won't do that with Frazer. I need a change. I need to see some signs of life. This is the time to make that change.
MEACHAM: Endres is probably already shook, though I'm trying to confirm if it's because there ain't no such thing as halfway crook.
I think we're going to have to disagree to disagree, because you (sort of) want Zach Frazer to keep on pluggin' away with his leadership and soul-crushing tangibles, and I just want to see something different.
Because if Frazer continues impersonating Tyler Lorenzen circa 2008, as he has the last four games dating back to the bowl, all of those bad things you speculate about are going to happen anyway. And it will be even more on Edsall, because he was too stubborn to make a change that might have helped the team.
JUSTIN: I'm open to change. I just don't think it's going to accomplish anything with such terrible playcalling. And because UConn essentially has two near-identical quarterbacks and one young amorphous blob.
But only one has a fucking luscious mullet.
PORTER: In one sense, I agree with you, because the playcalling needs to change. But here is the thing, UConn is already sunk with Frazer. It can't be more sunk with someone else. I think it probably should be Endres, but I'm open to Box. There just needs to be a change.