Published April 21. 2013 4:00AM
East Hartford - The frame of reference for UConn football now is that there's really not a now, other than the idea that Michigan is coming. It's all about the future: whether there is one for the Pasqualoni regime. Whether the kid from Texas, otherwise known as quarterback prospect Richard Lagow, can play. Whether Kivon Taylor, the athletic quarterback from Georgia, can play. And whether Tim Boyle, the whiz kid from Xavier, is the savior.
There's such intrigue. We have seen Boyle, the strapping, strong-armed state kid, about whom Pasqualoni all but gushed, as much as he gushes, on signing day. Lagow hails from Texas. We hyperventilate here when we hear Texas, as if every player from there is a five-star from Odessa Permian.
Here is what we know about how they adjust to college life and college football: nothing.
And so while the hope and wonder surrounding them is an exclamation point, the more practical punctuation for their projections is a question mark.
They don't know what Chandler Whitmer, the incumbent quarterback, and Casey Cochran, his backup, already do. That's the reality of UConn football's now. Whitmer and Cochran are miles ahead, at least cognitively, which pretty much makes the fall of 2013 their responsibility.
Neither would have given even the most ardent UConn fan cause to bet the over much this season Saturday at Rentschler Field during the annual spring game. It wasn't even a game, really. It was, because of injuries, a controlled scrimmage.
This much we know: drawing many conclusions - or any conclusions - from what was mostly a waste of time comes at your own risk. The players and coaches admitted they revealed next to nothing about new offensive coordinator T.J. Weist's scheme. And so to conclude, based on the offense's aggregate two field goal output, that Whitmer, Cochran and Scott McCummings are offering more of the same might be tempting, but ultimately unfair.
Because how do we know?
Based on a few conversations, the essential difference between Weist's offense of 2013 and George DeLeone's of 2012 is this: The responsibility shifts to the quarterbacks. DeLeone's system required the offensive linemen to make most of the calls. Now it's on the quarterbacks.
"It's a lot of passes, that's the biggest thing," Cochran said. "There's a lot more on us this year as quarterbacks in general. For sure. As quarterbacks, we have more responsibility this year with protections, the run game and we maybe don't have to rely on other guys. We've put in a lot of extra hours with coach Pasqualoni, (quarterback) coach (Shane) Day and coach Weist this spring. A lot more on our own. This spring has been a lot more work off the field."
Whitmer was reluctant, playfully so, to reveal too much. When pressed by reporters, he cracked, "I'll have to stay strong here."
But later he added this: "(Weist) likes energy, up-tempo, being fast, flying around," he said. "It's something we needed to bring. We were a little lethargic last year. We didn't have enough energy. That's the biggest thing he's brought in, rather than playbook wise, it's just the mentality. Toughness."
Weist's new offense doesn't appear as esoteric as DeLeone's. People around the program say once it is learned, it will be much easier to run. Key part to last sentence: Once it is learned. There is no denying Boyle, Lagow and Taylor will be given every chance to get on the field. Once again, though, with feeling: They don't know what the incumbents do.
"We know (the freshmen) are talented, competitive and smart," Weist said. "We're taking the approach they're going to come this summer and learn the whole offense and compete with every guy we have. Force our younger guys to compete and make our older guys better. It's not unrealistic."
To be fair: Cochran and Whitmer bear the pressure to apply what they've learned. That means be efficient and throw the ball to the guy wearing the same color uniform. They believe, however, knowledge is power.
"It's going to be tough for them," Cochran said, alluding to the freshmen. "It was tough when I got here. It's tough wrapping your head around a college playbook because the college playbook is so big. Even bigger than that is wrapping your head around college life because college life is different from high school.
"I've been here for a year and a half now," he said. "Those guys are going to have to come in and work hard. We'll be here to help them out."
Whitmer: "It's not easy. I was there at one point as a freshman, a little overwhelmed. But you come in and dive into it and start grinding. You're going to make mistakes. You learn from those."
All of which makes this perhaps the most important summer in the history of the program. We wait, we wonder, we hope. And we learned nothing Saturday.
"I'm not putting everything into today. I'm going to focus on the good plays, the effort and the spring as a whole," Weist said. "It could have been more exciting today, but I'm not going to pay attention to that. It doesn't matter what anybody thinks. We know we have talent, we have playmakers. It's our job to put it together."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.