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Boyle preparing for debut as UConn quarterback

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published October 09. 2013 4:00AM

He's a true freshman starting his first college game at quarterback for a winless team that recently fired its head coach and is in desperate need of a dramatic turnaround.

And he's a homegrown kid making his debut for his state's Division I football team.

Talk about a tough spot for Tim Boyle, the former Xavier High School all-state quarterback, to be in.

Boyle will lead UConn (0-4) in its American Athletic Conference opener against South Florida on Saturday at Rentschler Field (noon, SNY).

Xavier coach Sean Marinan, who helped Boyle develop into a Division I prospect, believes Boyle is ready to handle the challenging situation.

"I'm excited about it and a little nervous," Marinan said Tuesday. "It's a big step for him being a true freshman and everything.

"I think he's going to do fine. My concern is maybe he's a little hesitant. I don't think that's going to be the case. He grew an awful lot when we had him at Xavier and was really a kid who was in control of everything his senior year.

"I think he's ready for this."

Boyle threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior and powered Xavier to its third straight Class LL state championship. He gave Boston College a verbal commitment but opted for UConn after a coaching change at BC.

Marinan was impressed with Boyle's poise and leadership skills at Xavier. Both traits will serve Boyle well as he attempts to win over his UConn teammates and a disgruntled fan base.

"Everybody is going to look at him," Marinan said. "He's got a lot of self-confidence, not cockiness. That's huge in a quarterback.

"… But he also understands he has to prove himself in their eyes and the best way to do that is to be in control and in charge and make the plays that he has to make. He knows that."

Boyle, a 6-foot-4, 212-pound freshman from Middlefield, replaces mistake-prone junior Chandler Whitmer, who had more interceptions (six) than touchdown passes (five) in four starts.

Whitmer is certainly not entirely to blame for UConn's struggles. He played behind a porous offensive line that has allowed a whopping 20 sacks.

Without adequate protection and improved running game, Boyle could suffer a similar fate.

Interim head coach T.J. Weist has liked what he's seen out of Boyle during practice.

"He's responded well," Weist said. "He's shown a maturity that we saw in him since coming out of high school and have been seeing it with him since he stepped on campus. Every day he knows he's got to get better."

Patience is the key work when dealing with a rookie quarterback. Boyle will have some wiggle room to make mistakes, but the bottom line is the Huskies need to win games.

So the pressure will be on Boyle to overcome his inexperience and deliver.

Boyle performed well under similar circumstances at Xavier. But now he has to do it on the Division I level.

No one will be rooting harder for Boyle than Marinan, who has high expectations.

"He has all the physical attributes that a big-time quarterback needs," Marinan said. "It's just picking up the mental part of it, which he has a good handle on, and getting used to the speed of the game.

"... He may struggle at some point, but he's going to be a very good quarterback at that level. A lot of other people around the country think the same way because he was in a pretty high demand."

Boyle believes that he's prepared for his UConn debut.

"I just want to do the best I can do," Boyle said. "I don't have any specific standards for myself. I'm just going to go out there and play football, do what I know how to do and do what the coaches ask me to do."

"... I need to go out there and play to the best of my abilities. It's up to me now."

g.keefe@theday.com

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