Collaros, the favorite but not yet the starter

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Sometimes, junior quarterback Zach Collaros feels like the first-team quarterback. Like when he's taking those first-team snaps or when he's thinking back to his performance last season when he replaced an injured Tony Pike or when he's thinking ahead to the possibilities of next season.


But, in a flash, those thoughts filter away. Unlike Pike, who was entered last spring knowing he'd be the starting quarterback for the 2009 season, Collaros isn't assured of anything. Yes, his name is at the top of the depth chart right now. But that doesn't mean it will stay that way.


"We've talked about building our intensity each and every day," coach Butch Jones said. "Competition is great. Every day, they're going to have to compete. We compete in everything we do - in the classroom, in the community and on the field. The quarterback situation isn't any different.


"We probably won't know who the starter is until a week before our first game. Does (Collaros) have an advantage? Yeah, he has an advantage because he's played and he's done some things. But Fresno State doesn't care who made the plays last year. I like the quarterbacks' mentality. I see a great competition, but I also see them helping each other."


Going by last year's performances, Collaros would be the easiest pick to replace Pike. After all, he took over for Pike in the middle of the South Florida game and ran for a 75-yard touchdown and finished the game with 194 total yards while leading the Bearcats to the victory.


Overall, he started four games, completing 75 percent of his passes for 1,434 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also finished third on the team in rushing with 344 yards on 57 attempts (a 6.0 yards per carry average) and four touchdowns. He showed just how dangerous he can be in a spread formation.


Meanwhile, Chazz Anderson - who's No. 2 on the depth chart - played in just four games last season and threw only six passes. You might remember he quarterbacked the Rutgers win two years ago in place of Pike, but then again, that was two years ago. After Anderson, you've got redshirt sophomore Brendon Kay and some incoming recruits who would like to take a crack at the starting job (Travis Kelce, you might remember, has moved to tight end).


"I always try to approach practice the same way, being as prepared as I can be and working as hard as I can," Collaros said. "It's a little different getting the first snaps. It's exciting. You feel like you're the guy. But Chazz is a great quarterback, and we're going to be back out there battling for it."


Collaros knows he's built a small portfolio of work. But in a new system with new coaches watching, he also knows this: he's not going to be handed the quarterback job just because he had some success last year.


"It's kind of the same system with a little bit different terminology," Collaros said. "I'm anxious to get out there and show (the coaches) what I can do. They've seen some film, but I need to come out and perform. I never was the starter, so I'll just come out here and work as hard as I can."

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