Will UC Need A Steelers Fan To Lead It To Victory?

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After his brilliant second half performance against USF on Thursday, I'm guessing that Zach Collaros is extremely popular in Bearcat nation.


So popular in fact, that you'll probably cut him some slack for being a Steelers fan.


I learned of Zach's love for the "Black and Gold" when I saw him head to practice at Nippert Stadium a few weeks ago wearing a Steelers "terrible towel" on his waist.  You'll be happy to know that the UC coaching staff told him to remove it immediately. 


"I'm a Pittsburgh fan at heart," Zach told me with a grin.  "My dad is a big Pittsburgh fan - Steubenville is about 45 minutes from Pittsburgh so I grew up liking the Steelers."


OK, so the kid is not perfect, but his record as a starting quarterback nearly is.  In three years as the starter at Steubenville High School, Collaros led the team to a 41-1 record and didn't lose a game after his sophomore year.


With a medical update on Tony Pike expected on Monday, we'll soon know if Collaros will make his first college start this Saturday against Louisville.


"It's never a good thing to see your starting quarterback go down and Tony's one of my best friends on the team," Collaros said.  "We have a great training staff here so he'll be back.  I just have to do what I can to help the team win and get him back in the same situation that he left."


Collaros did most of his damage against USF on the ground, rushing for 132 yards on 10 carries including his game-changing 75 yard touchdown run in the third quarter.  But he's a much more confident passer than he was last year as a freshman - thanks in part to watching Tony Pike.


"I think last year I relied on my athleticism a lot and if the play broke down I was quick to scramble," Zach said.  "But his year, working with Tony, I've learned the check downs and how to get the ball out in certain situations where you have to get it out fast.  His pocket presence is really good - he can tell when the pocket is going to collapse.  He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he has a great feel in the pocket.  He helps me out with my reads and knowing where to go on certain plays and I take in a lot by watching him."


Collaros has only thrown 22 passes in his college career, but from what I've seen at practice this year; Zach seems to have much more zip on his throws.


"I think I've picked up some arm strength, but what helps out a lot is just having more confidence," Collaros told me.  "Knowing that you're going to get the reps every day, you know where to go with the ball and you can put more zip on it."


This year, Collaros is 10-for-18 for 201 yards with 2 TD passes and 1 INT.  Admittedly, that's a small sample size, but it computes to an NFL quarterback rating of 108.8.  Zach modestly credits the offensive system of head coach Brian Kelly.


"It's great," Zach told me.  "You're going to get the opportunity to throw the ball 40 times a game and you can put up numbers to win the Heisman.  He gives you so many options when you're on the field.  He gives us full control and it's a great feeling to know that he trusts you like that."


We'll soon know if he's being trusted to lead the 5th-ranked Bearcats to their 7th straight win this weekend.


I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.


And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

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