UConn goes with three at QB

Michael Nebrich (left), Scott McCummings and Johnny McEntee will all see playing time in UConn's quarterback-by-committee approach. AP Photo/Jessica Hill

The scenario is unconventional. Generally when there is indecision at quarterback, two players have separated themselves and duke it out for the chance to be a starter.

Connecticut has three.

The Huskies played Johnny McEntee, Michael Nebrich and Scott McCummings in their opener against Fordham last week. The plan is to do the same at Vanderbilt on Saturday. Multiple-quarterback systems rarely work. But coach Paul Pasqualoni is not worried about whether the changes at quarterback disrupt his offensive rhythm. He remains committed to playing each quarterback until one emerges as the clear-cut starter.

"As it's clear we will go in that direction," Pasqualoni said. "There is nothing like playing in games to develop the skills that you need at the quarterback position. They can improve in practice and improve in a game, and hopefully we will go another step in that direction."

Four players began camp in the race to win the starting job. Michael Box decided to transfer before the season started, having seen McEntee, Nebrich and McCummings separate themselves. Box was actually the only of the four who had taken any snaps for UConn in a game.

McEntee, a walk-on, started the Fordham game, and went 8-of-12 for 113 yards playing most of the first and third quarters. Nebrich and McCummings are more dual-threat passers. A true freshman, Nebrich was 3-of-8 for 60 yards with an interception, and two runs for 11 yards.

McCummings actually came in more as a Wildcat quarterback, running for 23 yards on seven carries. His lone pass was a 55-yard touchdown throw to Ryan Griffin. The running role is one that McCummings has spent extended time practicing. After some early struggles during camp with his passing, coaches decided to tailor his role to be more of a running quarterback.

"I’m content with where it is," McCummings said in a phone interview. "Everyone obviously wants to be out there starting, but I understand how everything is going, and I'm happy to have the opportunity to play."

The coaching staff told the three players they would all play in the week leading up to the game. That did not come as much of a shock to them because of the way the reps had been split in practice. Asked how they felt to be sharing time, all three said they were just glad they had a chance to prove themselves.

"It’s kind of fun," McCummings said. "Everyone feels a lot more involved in the game. But at the same time, I’m sure the team would appreciate having a designated starter. We can’t do anything until somebody emerges."

What will it take for that to happen? Pasqualoni says it is all about consistency and production. But certainly there is a dilemma. McEntee is more of your typical drop-back passer, while McCummings and Nebrich add a different dimension. So what type of identity will this team take if the quarterbacks have different styles?

"We just have to keep enhancing what our strengths are," McEntee said. "We’re always going to have a running quarterback and passing quarterback and keep rotating it because it puts a lot of pressure on the defense. Everybody needs to keep working toward their strengths, and they’ll make the decision then."

This weekend will prove to be a much more difficult test. None of the quarterbacks have played on the road before. Vanderbilt might not be Alabama, but the team is a big step above Fordham.

"I think it’s going to be an eye-opening experience for some of the guys who haven’t traveled before, going to SEC country," Nebrich said. "Vanderbilt is a good team this year. It's going to be a fun experience for us, and hopefully we'll see how the team’s going to do this year."