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UConn Football: Quarterback battle has a leader, competition will continue

Bob Diaco has declared a leader in the quarterback race. But two new players will join the roster in June and the competition will continue into fall camp.

Bryant Shirreffs has separated himself from the pack using his ability to make plays with his legs.
Bryant Shirreffs has separated himself from the pack using his ability to make plays with his legs.
Bob Stowell

UConn Football wrapped up their spring session with yesterday's Blue-White game. In the days leading up to it, Bob Diaco had stated that Bryant Shirreffs was ahead in the competition for the starting quarterback job. Diaco maintained Shirreff's hold on the lead after the game, ahead of Tim Boyle, with freshman Tyler Davis in third.

Shirreffs has a decent arm, but has gained separation from the pack thanks to his ability to extend plays with his legs. The NC State transfer looked rusty at the start of yesterday's action, and understandably so, but ultimately Diaco was pleased with his performance, "(early on) you could see he hadn't played on an actual football field in a stadium for a few years. After maybe five minutes, six minutes in he seemed to settle into some form."

Even though Shirreffs missed on a couple of his throws and had a few passes batted down at the line, he remains the leading candidate for the starting quarterback job. Diaco seems to favor a quarterback who can run and it shows with the players he has brought in thus far, including Shirreffs, freshman Tyler Davis, and two new faces who will join the team in June.

Both newcomers, one a junior college transfer and the other a preferred walk-on, will be in the fold according to Diaco, who repeatedly insists these two are not just "camp arms" brought in to take practice reps.

Garrett Anderson, a quarterback from Laney Junior College in Oakland, California is the most likely of the two new guys to be a factor in this competition. Standing at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, Anderson will be eligible to play right away. He also had an offer from Houston, and was scheduled to visit Colorado State, but cancelled the trip and committed to UConn after visiting the first spring practice.

Anderson, who runs a 4.6 40-yard dash according to Hudl, can make plays with his feet. At the beginning of his highlight reel, you see him evade the rush, roll to his left, and whip the ball 35 yards downfield to an open receiver. You see more of the same across the rest of tape. He earned the starting job as a freshman at Laney, but actually lost it in his sophomore year to UNLV-bound Kurt Palendech.

Joining Anderson as a newcomer in the quarterback ranks will be freshman Brandon Bisack, a preferred walk-on from Connecticut's Fairfield Warde High School. Bisack is a mobile, 6-foot-6 passer who I have to imagine is best suited for a redshirt in his first year in Storrs.

While Garrett Anderson could make a splash in the competition, I believe Tim Boyle has the best chance of supplanting Shirreffs from the top spot. Diaco mentioned that Boyle had nagging issues in two key areas which affected his lower-body mechanics last year but is now fully healthy. It really showed in Boyle's performance yesterday, with Diaco describing his improvement as "profound."

"[Boyle] played well, he's getting better," Diaco said after the spring game, "If you go back and watch a few tapes of it, you'll see a little bit more bend in his ankles and knees and waist because he feels better. So he's finally healthy for the first time. His drops are so much cleaner. His balance and weight distribution when he throws is so much better."

Even though Boyle doesn't fully fit the mold for the type of quarterback Diaco prefers, the junior still has room to grow and the opportunity to capitalize on the potential of his strong arm and ideal frame. This is his first chance to experience continuity in the coaching staff and he also still needs time to wash off the post-traumatic stress of being thrown into the fire as a freshman behind a wet paper bag o-line.

Regardless of how this all shakes out, at least the team has options. Last year, injuries to an already depleted quarterbacking unit forced UConn to abort an attempt at redshirting Tim Boyle. The same lack of options forced TJ Weist to burn Boyle's redshirt the year before.

Now there are enough scholarship players for UConn to have some semblance of a long-term plan at the most important position on the field-- one of many basic improvements Bob Diaco has had to make to this team since taking over.