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On Zach, Chazz and the QB's knees

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UPDATE: Zach Collaros was on the field for the first 14 periods of practice on Tuesday, but didn't fully participate in any drills. Butch Jones is still likely to wait until Thursday to make a decision.

 

CINCINNATI -- Junior Zach Collaros will practice this afternoon. He walked around the Bearcats hallways on Tuesday afternoon, both with and without precautionary crutches, while wearing a large protective brace around his left knee.

 

The official injury is a knee bruise.  

 

Collaros wants to play. He always wants to play. He's one of the most ferocious competitors on the UC team. It may take a team of UC trainers and some duct tape to keep him off the field Saturday against Syracuse.

 

"He is a tough individual, he is extremely competitive," Butch Jones said. "I know he is going to do his due diligence in the training room to be ready to play because it's important to him."

 

No doubt, it should be important to Jones and his staff, as well.

 

Collaros leads the Big East in passing efficiency (159.16), total offense (285.4), total passing yards, (1,918) and passing yards per game (274).

 

During UC's resurgence during the last four games, he's averaged 314.75 yards passing per game with 14 touchdowns to four interceptions. He also owns a completion of at least 48 yards in all of the last four contests.

 

Yet, with five Big East conference games remaining, including a trip to West Virginia and rivalry contest against Pittsburgh to close, putting Collaros' season at risk should somebody fall on it would be a mistake.

 

Perhaps most importantly, with a bye week following Syracuse and a knee bruise being an injury three weeks of rest would almost surely cure, would it be better on all accounts to allow Collaros to come back 100 percent at WVU?

 

All of these factors will play into the decision Jones says he will likely make a call on by Thursday.

 

At the end of the day, however, if trainer Bob Mangine and his staff say Collaros can't go -- he won't go.

 

"What they say is golden," Jones said.

 

That could mean a golden opportunity for Chazz Anderson. Once the backup over Collaros, Anderson saw the roles reversed last season before Tony Pike injured his arm at South Florida. What happened next, as they say, is history.

 

Being passed over and watching the backup who took his spot blossom into one of the top quarterbacks in the country hasn't phased Anderson.

 

"It's tough, but the relationship me and Zach have right now, I wish him nothing but the best," said the junior who started two games in 2008. "It's been really cool to see him progress because I know it must have been a weird feeling three years ago when I was playing and he wasn't. It was cool to see him get his opportunity and take advantage of that."

 

Anderson's training for his opportunity and Jones said every week the backup takes the same number of snaps in practice. The third-stringer takes half of that number. It means, as far as practice reps go, this week shouldn't be much different for Anderson.

 

On Saturday, though, there won't be much that would be the same should he draw the start.

 

"The difference is the experience," Jones said "Just like everyone talks about Zach started four games in his career going into this year. As a starting quarterback that is not very many. People all of a sudden think he's been a starter. It's a progression. It's game situation, it's the speed of the game, it's the relevance of every play."

 

Anderson feels prepared. He'll at the very least own more notice than last week. He was thrust into the situation of two minutes of warmup then being asked to drive UC the length of the field for a game-tying TD and two-point conversion. He almost did it, too.

 

"Almost," he said, "but almost doesn't count."

 

The opportunity wasn't a complete failure in Anderson's eyes.

 

"For me, it was an unbelievable compliment," he said. "I say that because the guys had a lot of faith in me. That means the world to me, more than playing or scoring a touchdown. I just want to help the guys win a football game. It was awesome."

 

We'll see how awesome this Saturday will be for Anderson depending on what happens underneath the most watched knee brace in Cincinnati.

 

Regardless, Jones doesn't plan to change the offense and Anderson doesn't plan to change his mentality. He said he prepares to be the starter every week and, for him, playing winning football won't be as difficult as one might assume.

 

"When you have phenomenal athletes around you it is kind of easier to transition and run with the 1's as opposed to the 2's," Anderson said. "From a quarterback's standpoint, just stick with your progressions. You do that on any level on any team you are going to be successful."

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