UConn football is officially in the midst of another lost season.
Unless they were to pull a giant, hairy rabbit out of their hat over the last half of the year and win five out of their last six, the Huskies will fail to qualify for a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season, suffer their fourth straight losing season and will most likely struggle to eclipse last year's depressing win total of three.
We are not even at Halloween and yet fans of Husky Nation are forced to once again utter the dreaded phrase made famous by the faithful baseball fans on the North side of Chicago-"wait 'til next year."
Yet, there are still questions to be answered this season, and the biggest, in my opinion, surrounds the quarterback position.
Simply put, UConn should commit to sophomore Tim Boyle as the starter for the duration of the season.
If you want to keep him on the sidelines against East Carolina since it's likely that game is going to be ugly from both a score and performance standpoint, fine. But after that, Boyle should be starting against UCF and every single game thereafter.
Whether or not Boyle should start under center has been a debate amongst UConn fans going back to last year. Those like myself advocated the Husky coaching staff inserting Boyle half way through the season, even though it would negate his redshirt freshmen status and the possibility of one extra year of eligibility. Others argued that starting Boyle was the wrong move because, in addition to wasting that year of eligibility, it forced an inexperienced quarterback into a losing season to play behind a bad offensive line.
The coaching staff decided to play Boyle and his four-game stint was mostly forgettable.
I thought Boyle showed some really good flashes of talent, but his wide receivers and offensive line really let him down in those first few games, and then, as the competition grew stiffer, Boyle's performance eroded. By the end, it was hard to argue with the freshman being pulled in favor of, at the time, redshirt freshman QB Casey Cochran.
Beginning this year, it appeared quite obvious that Cochran would be the starter. Boyle would be relegated to third string and probably not see the field. Senior Chandler Whitmer looked to be the perfect backup quarterback, providing some experience at the position in case Cochran struggled.
The coaching staff threw a bit of a monkey wrench into the works by deciding the two-QB approach to start the year, with Cochran taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 51 percent of the snaps and Whitmer 49, with the plan being to "protect" Boyle, according to Diaco.
Once Cochran retired, however, everyone moved up on the depth chart. Whitmer became the every-down starter, and Boyle the backup.
So far, Boyle has seen time in four straight games, going 7-15, no touchdowns, two interceptions. Hardly much of a sample size from which to draw any conclusions and yet certainly not a performance that screams "put me in, coach!"
However, this isn't about Boyle's performance, per se. It's about the future. This whole season has been about building towards the future except, it seems, at the most important position on the field. We need to find out what we have in a young and talented quarterback and get him some experience which he can build on for next season.
If there was one benefit to last years debacle, it was the emergence of Cochran. By winning his last three games and looking competent under center, UConn and its fans entered this season believing they had a QB that could at least help them win some games. What Cochran would ultimately become when faced with a full season and better competition remained to be seen, but his late-year performance at least offered the promise of a brighter future.
No one could have expected Cochran, at such a young age, to be forced into retirement. It was a heartbreaking scenario for all involved and it has clearly aided the decline of this season. But if they could enter 2015 with a similar amount of confidence in their quarterback position, then at least 2014 won't have been a complete waste.
Look, even if Whitmer weren't a senior graduating at the end of this year, he'd still be a known commodity. I give him a lot of credit. He's clearly a fighter, a gamer, and someone who competes every time he steps on the field. From an effort standpoint, it's doubtful the coaching staff or fans could expect anything more from him.
But Whitmer is what he is. He's a mistake-prone quarterback who doesn't make a lot of big plays down the field. Is a large part of that due to the woeful offensive line play he's had to deal with this year and in the past? No doubt. But even when Whitmer has had time in the pocket, even when his line has provided him with protection, he is still prone to making mistakes. That's an unfortunate trait to have when your talent level is already limiting your ceiling.
Boyle, however, is an unknown. Could he be good? Sure. He's already shown a strong arm- having someone who can get the ball down the field always opens things up for an offense. But potential has never won anything on the field. He hasn't overly impressed in the opportunities he's been given thus far in a career, albeit very short, that includes no touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
The point is UConn should spend the rest of this season getting a larger sample size to help figure this one out. Whether they win two, three, or four games means very little. How they improve under center definitely does.
I don't blame Bob Diaco and company for not starting Boyle to this point. He was banged up and not capable of practicing at the level that would have prepared him to play. Now, however, it appears Boyle is healthy. He's not going to learn much by watching Whitmer. He's not going to get necessary experience by standing on the sidelines with a clipboard as his teammates take the field.
Is Boyle the quarterback for 2015 and beyond? Why not use the rest of this season-- a season that's pretty much been all about the future anyway-- to try to answer that question.