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The Collaros to Pike transformation is almost complete

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Tony Pike is the starting quarterback for the Bearcats. That much is clear. But for those thinking that Pike and backup Zach Collaros - who has been so good during Pike's arm injury absence - would split snaps or switch off offensive series, think again.

 

It sounds like Brian Kelly has no interest in platooning two of the top quarterbacks in the Big East when UC faces Illinois on Friday at noon. It'll be a main course of Tony Pike with maybe a little side helping of Collaros.

 

"I would say honestly that Zach looks to be more situational more so than saying, 'He's coming in this quarter,'" Kelly said. "He's more situational, because he can do a little more in the running game. If we don't need to call on him, beautiful."

 

Pike will wear a brace on his non-throwing arm that Kelly compared to Kevlar. Which means it's heavy, and Pike's left arm slips low when he's trying to throw, meaning he can't get the same torque on his passes as usual. During practices Sunday and Monday, the coaching staff has tried to make sure he keeps that arm elevated when he's throwing.  

 

Pike also is struggling with direct snaps - not a major part of the Bearcats offense, but a part nonetheless - so look for even more shotgun formations Friday.

 

"The biggest thing was getting Tony Pike back under center and getting him some contuinity," Kelly said. You're transitioning out from Zach who's been leading our first team and all of the things that go with communications, cadence, the way he checks. I know you guys don't think about these things every day, but I spend most of my days thinking about this stuff. That's been a good transition. Yesterday was the first day where there was a smooth contunity with Tony back out here. You could see the little things coming back out to where he was before he was injured."

 

With so much talk about how Collaros makes defensive coordinators have to work that much harder, I asked Mardy Gilyard why Pike should even be starting.*

 

*For the record, I think Pike should get back his job, though I can understand why some think Collaros is more dangerous.

 

"He's the general," Gilyard said. "He laid the ground work for us. Everybody knows that. Zach respects that."

 

--And this wouldn't be a late November news conference at UC without some Brian-Kelly-to-insert-job-opening-here talk.

 

Kelly's gag today was that he couldn't take a job unless Skyline Chili and Graeter's were prevalent in that city. Which means he could take over the South Florida and Louisville jobs and maybe that's about it.

 

But seriously ...

 

"I can only be honest with (the team)," Kelly said. "This is the silly season. This is not new ground for our players. The truth is this happens every year. Nobody thinks Cincinnati is a destination job."

 

C. Trent, of course, brought up the fact he's interviewed for other jobs since he's been here, as reported in Bearcats Rising.**

 

"The process is: after the season, after you're done," Kelly said. "It's always about looking at what's the best opportunity for you, your family and your program. It comes back to the same thing. Cincinnati is."

 

**Next book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Westchester. Put it on your calendar now.

 

Mardy Gilyard believes his coach.

 

"Bossman ain't going nowhere," he said. "He loves the city, and the city loves him. He's put a foundation down. Coach is the kind of guy who's going to straight-talk it to you. He shot it straight to me when he didn't even know me."

 

Yeah, but Mark Dantonio also told his team he wasn't leaving before he, you know, left for Michigan State.

 

"This is the second or third time this has come up (for Kelly)," Gilyard said. "When it came up with Coach Dantonio the first time, he dipped. He looked us in the face and lied to us and was out of here. Coach Kelly, when it came up, I went to him, just like I did coach Dantonio, and I said, 'What's the deal?' He said not to worry about anything, that he wasn't going anywhere. It's just one of those gut feelings."

 

--Ran into Haruki Nakamura today after the presser, shaved head and with a cast covering his right leg. The latter was due to the broken ankle he suffered two Sundays ago with the Baltimore Ravens. The former was because he was tired of his hair.

 

He'll be at UC for the time being, rehabbing his leg. In doing so, he's living in the basement of trainer Bob Mangine's house.

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