Deja Vu All Over Again?

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By now we should be used to this.


When it comes to starting quarterbacks, UC might as well stand for "Unanticipated Change."


Over the last three years, the Bearcats are an incredible 10-0 when forced to start a backup quarterback (details at end of column).


In 2007, Ben Mauk missed a pair of starts due to a bum shoulder and Dustin Grutza led the 'Cats to wins over Miami and Marshall.


In 2008, Grutza broke his leg in week two, and Tony Pike took over.  Pike started victories over Miami and Akron before breaking his arm against the Zips (with Zach Collaros coming off the bench to lead the team to a game-winning field goal).  The "Next Man In" was Chazz Anderson who directed the 'Cats to wins over Marshall and Rutgers before Pike reclaimed the starting job for the rest of the season.  When Tony got knocked woozy in a couple of late-season games, Grutza got rid of his cast and crutches and rallied UC to second half comebacks at Louisville and Hawaii.


Last year, Pike was gaining momentum as a Heisman candidate when he broke his arm again, and the team didn't miss a beat in the four games that Collaros started.


In other words, if Chazz Anderson has to start against Syracuse on Saturday, there's no reason to think that the Bearcats are doomed.


Zach Collaros is officially listed as questionable due his bruised knee, but did take some limited practiced reps on Thursday.


"Well, he's gone through practice all week long and it will be a game time decision," Butch Jones told me at his radio show on Thursday night.  "Right now it's too early to say because of the amount of time left - every hour is part of the healing process.  The great thing is that Chazz has split reps throughout the whole year.  Our philosophy is to get our number two quarterback ready the same way that we get our starting quarterback ready.  We'll have another practice on Friday and we'll put him through some things on game day and see where we're at.  We always take player safety first.  I know that he's chomping at the bit - I have three text messages from him on my phone already saying, 'I'm ready to go.'  We'll see come game time."


If Collaros is unable to play, don't look for major changes on offense.


"We may alter things a little bit," Jones said.  "We have to play to the strengths of our guy under center.  It all stems from the quarterback spot.  So we may alter a few things in the game plan to play to his strengths if Chazz is the guy.  But the great thing is that there are a lot of similarities between the two guys.  Chazz is probably a little bit faster, and we have an offensive system that we can build around the quarterback. 


"Whoever starts at quarterback, we're just going to need to step up and make plays around him - and not just offensively.  On defense, we have to get off of the field.  And in this game, special teams will be critical - we have to make some plays on special teams on Saturday."    


Collaros is not the only Bearcat looking to make a rapid recovery from a knee injury.  Wide receiver Vidal Hazelton, who tore his ACL in the season opener at Fresno State, sent out the following tweet to his 1,138 twitter followers on Thursday:


Ran routes today like full speed I'm like proud of how far along I've come.  I still got work to do though. Surprise coming soon for the Bearcat fans


Last week, Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer Bill Koch wrote that Hazelton hoped to be back for the regular season finale against Pitt, but the next-to-last game against UConn is apparently not out of the question.


"There may be a chance," Coach Jones said.  "We would never do anything to jeopardize him, but he's out there running around and practicing.  It's great to see him in uniform and I think that has really uplifted our kids.  It's a great illustration that if you have a great mentality and work ethic, you can do anything.


"In all of my years of coaching, and I think (athletic trainer) Bob Mangine would say the same thing, the progression that he's made coming back from this knee injury has been unbelievable.  He's rehabbing 8 to 10 hours a day - basically every free moment, whether he's in the training room or at home." 


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Here's how I calculated the 10-0 stat for backup QBs:


2007:  Grutza 2-0 starting in place of Mauk.


2008:  Pike 2-0 starting in place of Gruzta.  Anderson 2-0 starting in place of Pike.  At that point Pike returned and started the final 8 games (even when Grutza was able to play), so I'm no longer counting him as a backup.


2009:  Collaros 4-0 starting in place of Pike.


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Enjoy this week's photo of the handsome lad.


Sam on rock path.jpg

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