Cochran Right at Home

Cochran enrolled Jan. 17 (KEN DAVIS)

STORRS, Conn. – Casey Cochran is on his own now. The greatest passer in Connecticut high school history has put those glory days behind him, graduated early, and is already enrolled as a freshman at UConn.

Of course, he's not truly alone. His home in Monroe isn't far from the UConn campus. His parents and Masuk High School coach John Murphy will always be there for him. UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni, the coaching staff and the Huskies' support staff have Cochran's best interests at heart.

He also has a whole new group of brothers on the UConn football team. That's a large and important extended family.

And there are thousands of UConn football fans pledging their allegiance to Cochran now too. He is the local boy they want to make good, so they will be hanging on the footwork of every drop back in the pocket, every pass attempt, every touchdown, every interception, and every mistake.

Yes, there will be mistakes. Cochran isn't perfect – even though those fans will hold that expectation. That attention comes with the territory. Cochran isn't just the two-time Gatorade Player of the year from Connecticut, he's a shining light for the future of UConn football and the top prospect in Pasqualoni's first full recruiting class with the Huskies.

National signing day is Wednesday and the Huskies are expected to bring in a solid class of at least 25 recruits, based on commitments. It is a class that is ranked No. 63 in the nation by Scout.com. There is the potential of a higher ranking, should Wayne Morgan, a four-star defensive back from Brooklyn, N.Y., pick the Huskies over Syracuse. Morgan will announce his decision Wednesday afternoon.

Cochran is already signed. After beginning classes at UConn on Jan. 17, Cochran is just feeling very independent – and showing a lot of maturity.

"I feel grown up already," Cochran said last week during an interview in the lobby of the Burton Family Football Complex. "I've been on my own the last couple of weeks. It's a cool feeling, just to be out and managing yourself, not having your parents there for anything.

"It's cool that they're in Connecticut, under an hour away. If I do need anything major, then they're right there. But I am mostly on my own. It's cool making your own decisions and being responsible that way."

Spoken like a typical freshman, right? But the typical part really ends there. How many freshmen do you know who will be in the running for the starting quarterback job at old State U. – just two months into their college career?

Come March, Cochran will be digging deep into UConn's enormous and intimidating playbook, competing for the starting QB job along with four other quarterbacks. Last year's starter, Johnny McEntee, won't give up his spot easily. Chandler Whitmer, a junior college transfer with an impressive resume, didn't come here to stand on the sideline.

Cochran is in for a classic battle. And that's exactly what he wants. It's all part of his competitive makeup.

"It's a lot of fun, being able to go out there every day and try to work as hard as you can and try to beat that other guy," Cochran said. "It's a lot of competition, which is very, very intriguing to me. Just to be able to go out there and compete with someone every day is fantastic."

That has to be music to the ears of the UConn coaches, especially Pasqualoni and offensive coordinator George DeLeone, who don't want to go through the same process at quarterback that existed last season - when no one ever took total command of the starting job.

But the coaches are well aware of what they are getting in Cochran. The 6-foot, 216-pound quarterback has been groomed for this day. He was heavily influenced by his father, Jack, perhaps the most successful high school football coach in Connecticut with eight state titles during his time at Bloomfield, New Britain and New London.

Cochran, the son, understands what he is getting into and he embraces it.

"Definitely, I mean, it's a lot of pressure just being a starting quarterback, being able to learn a playbook. Everything that comes around a quarterback is very stressful," Casey said. "In high stress situations, I think I do very well. In football, when it comes down to it, in those last two minutes, or other pressure situations, I think I can really thrive in it."

That work ethic comes from his father. Casey says his mother, Shannon Russell, worked hard to keep him grounded. The result is a very serious and mature young man who is driven by goals. And he was more than prepared to walk away from high school early to get a start on his college career.

"That was always the plan," Cochran said.

He started mapping out that strategy during his freshman year of high school. He took extra classes every year and now he is enrolled in 16 hours at UConn. That's the National Honor Society side of Cochran, the 3.94 GPA side, and the side that almost led him to the Ivy League or Boston College.

About 18 months ago, he was focusing on his SAT score and keeping his options open for Princeton and Yale. Then Randy Edsall left for Maryland, Pasqualoni came to UConn and things started shifting in the direction of the Huskies. By August, he had given his oral commitment to the Huskies and on Dec. 29, he signed his letter of intent.

"It's exactly the way I thought it was going to be," Cochran said. "It's very professional all the time. Coach Pasqualoni and Coach DeLeone, they take care of this team. As a team, they know we're going to work hard, and they know we're getting ready to have a winning season next year.

"I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work, but that's the only way you can get to become a great team. Getting to learn the playbook and getting to play spring ball is going to be a huge advantage. Once summer comes around, it's going to be that much easier. Through workouts, I'm going to be stronger and better conditioned. And classes are so much different from high school. I'm getting all of that under my belt."

When he committed, Cochran thought it would be a good fit. Nothing has changed his mind. With so much to absorb, he's trying to take everything one day at a time. Even so, there's one moment that can't come soon enough.

"Stepping out on the field that first day, the first day of spring [practice]," he said. "I'm very excited about putting the pads on and getting going."

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