The guy who might be the answer to Connecticut's offensive problems spent most of the past month throwing passes to a 325-pound offensive lineman.
Cody Endres incurred a month-long suspension for violating a team rule in August, and the quarterback wasn't allowed to participate in any team activities. So he lifted five days a week and threw to Erik Kuraczea, a backup guard, who was also serving a suspension. Kuraczea would only simulate the end of a route.
"I wouldn't let him run the full thing, because that might have thrown my timing off a little bit," Endres said.
Timing, clearly, was not a problem. After returning to practice for a week, Endres stepped in for ineffective starter Zach Frazer just before halftime of Saturday's Buffalo game. He completed 7 of 11 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns as UConn's passing game finally showed some life. And just like that, Endres is the Huskies' starting quarterback. Again.
"We were just really kind of stagnant; we weren't doing much offensively," head coach Randy Edsall said. "Cody came in and gave us a spark. He was putting the ball on the money, getting the ball out of his hand and we were scoring points."
UConn had scored only 26 points combined in losses to Michigan and Temple as Frazer completed exactly 50 percent of his passes with no touchdowns in those games. Endres and Frazer have flip-flopped the starter's job for much of the past two years. But after Endres injured his shoulder midway through last year, Frazer seemed to take control. He was No. 1 on the depth chart all through the offseason even though Endres had a much better completion percentage (63.6 percent) than Frazer when he was healthy.
"It was difficult for me," Endres said of falling behind on the depth chart. "I think I did some good things before I got injured last year. But I stayed positive, hoping I'd get another chance."
But he almost eliminated that chance by running afoul of team rules last month. Endres said he was down at first but then recalled how former teammate Andre Dixon worked himself from the doghouse to star last season.
Still, Endres was banned from practicing or attending team meetings. He could eat with the team and sometimes stopped by the locker room, but that was about the extent of his involvement.
"Give him credit," Edsall said. "He went and worked hard on his own and did the things he needed to do to stay in shape."
It still didn't look too likely that Endres would play right after returning from suspension. He was third on the depth chart in practice last week, getting only one rep with the first-team offense per drill. But on Wednesday, Mike Box took a sack in a two-minute drill. Edsall didn't like that and promoted Endres to second string on Thursday. Then Endres stepped in Saturday and acted like he'd never been gone, throwing a 56-yard touchdown pass to Mike Smith early in the third quarter.
"We definitely had the same confidence in him as we did before," receiver Kashif Moore said. "He's poised and comfortable back there. He has a lot of confidence and brings a lot of energy."
Frazer, who transferred in from Notre Dame, has the bigger arm. But Endres is more accurate and does a better job hitting receivers in stride. Frazer has now been demoted to third string behind Box.
Endres had a nice debut against Buffalo. Things will step up a notch this week against Vanderbilt, with Big East play looming after that. The UConn offense needs to return to the level at which it was playing at the end of last season.
"We never had a problem in the running game," Moore said. "It was the passing game that's kind of lacking right now. We're going to keep making improvements and build off of last week."
Endres hopes to lead that charge. But he's learned through his ups and downs not to take anything for granted.
"It's never wrapped up at quarterback," he said.