STORRS, Conn. -- Bryant Shirreffs was a bit of an emergency add at quarterback last summer.
The Huskies, when then quarterback Kivon Taylor was dismissed for the team, needed a quarterback to help get through practice and provide competition going forward. If Taylor was on the team, Shirreffs wouldn't have had an opening after transferring from N.C. State. Shirreffs was headed somewhere else to play, likely the Ivy league when he decided to leave N.C. State.
Then Taylor was dismissed and the Huskies quickly found his replacement. It happened in only a couple of weeks time.
From then to now, Shirreffs has come a long way. He could very well be the answer the Huskies are looking for at quarterback.
With the end of spring Blue and White game on tap for Saturday at Rentschler Field the sophomore transfer has nudged ahead of Tim Boyle in the race for the starting quarterback job.
Shirreffs is No. 1 and Boyle closely behind. Predictably, true freshman Tyler Davis is No. 3. The Huskies will add players in the summer, namely JUCO transfer Garrett Anderson and walk-on freshman Brandon Bisack from Fairfield this summer, and will find their quarterback from that group.
Right now, it is Shirreffs in the lead.
"Bryant Shirreffs has separated from Timmy Boyle, who (both) have separated from Tyler," head coach Bob Diaco said Thursday. "Competition is still ongoing as it relates to Bryant and Tim. They've separated significantly from Tyler."
Diaco also said this isn't the naming of a starting quarterback. That won't happen to camp when all the players in the mix are here. there is a pecking order coming out of the spring and heading into the summer, and the running and throwing combination of the 6-1, 216-pound Shirreffs has been more consistent than junior Boyle, who has started in parts of two years.
" It won't be settled," Diaco said. "Won't be declared a starter until end of fall camp. We have two functional and exciting players in June that will be eligible to compete (Anderson, Bisack)...neither would be a camp arm. These guys are legitimate guys that will come in and compete. They are going to get a legit chance to compete."
The separation is slight.
"There's more production on day-to-day basis," Diaco said of Shirreffs. " Tim (Boyle) is playing the best football he has played since we met him.
"Bryant has a higher ability to keep plays alive and be productive with his legs and do better positive when something positive is not happening, create opportunities for the offense. They are both good strong passers."
Boyle, who has thrown for 936 and 11 interceptions with one touchdown in 14 games, is healthy for the first time in over a year and is improving his decision-making and touch. Shirreffs, who played in nine games as a true freshman at N.C. State, is the kind of mobile quarterback that Diaco likes to use. Shirreffs can make plays with his feet and move outside the pocket if need be.
That's been the main battle this spring, but Diaco also noted other battles this spring:
* At left guard, Tommy Hopkins has moved into the left guard slot and Trey Rutherford, a sophomore, is headed to right tackle as a backup to Andreas Knappe. Hopkins played a little guard last season and the staff liked his athleticism and smarts for the job. Rutherford's athleticism and footwork make him a much better tackle prospect, which the Huskies will do. The rise of Brandon Vechery at guard has really helped the depth of the position.
* A riser at corner is rising junior Jhavon Hadley, who is in the mix to start at corner. Hadley has impressed Diaco with his ability and commitment off the field. The corner position is competitive at UConn, Jhavon Williams and Jamar Summers are the incumbents with John Green and Hadley the next two.
* The Huskies will play a real game on Saturday in the spring game with real scoring and two separate teams. It will be a dry run for game day. game-time is 3 p.m. and parking and admission is free.
* There are almost no injuries. Jacob Basilica, a guard, won't play due to a minor injury, but every other player on the roster is healthy. The QBs will have redshirts on Saturday as will safety Obi Melinfonwu. But, there have been no significant injuries in camp. Diaco credits not only luck, but the strength, nutrition and physical therapy operation for keeping the players healthy.