Last season, I wrote a semi-serious blog entry about Zach Collaros being an outside candidate for the Heisman Trophy this year (you can read it here).
So sue me - sometimes the Bearcat fan in me gets a little carried away.
But I fully expect Collaros to have a spectacular senior season after being named First Team All-Big East last year in his first full-season as UC's starting quarterback.
"Anytime that you have experience, you're going to be better at something," Collaros told me. "I've been working hard at what I have to do to lead a team and score touchdowns. I've put in a lot of time with my receivers and running backs and I think that it's going to pay off."
"The teams that are successful usually have a great trigger man and I'm excited about Zach," said head coach Butch Jones. "He's our leader, and his work ethic speaks volumes. I love him and I wish we had him for about eight more years."
Collaros has no shortage of weapons to get the ball to. Isaiah Pead is the leading returning rusher in the Big East (1,029 yards in 2010), WR D.J. Woods earned Second Team All-Big East honors last year, and WR Kenbrell Thompkins was the top-rated Junior College wide receiver in the country two years ago.
"I have some great targets," Collaros said. "Isaiah is a stud and he's proven it for two years. D.J., Kenbrell, and Anthony McClung can all break a big one at any time and senior O.J. Woodard has had a great summer and we're looking for some good things out of him. There are some young guys that have come in that might be able to contribute right away - Shaq Washington, Akise Teague - guys like that. I think we have three capable tight ends that can play. They all have their strengths."
The big question mark is the offensive line which lost three starters including NFL draft pick Jason Kelce.
"I think the offensive linemen have had a great summer," Collaros said. "The strength and conditioning guys have done a great job with them. They're all above 400 pounds on the bench press and their squats are through the roof. I think it's going to translate to the field. They've studied film this summer, they've worked on their technique, and Alex Hoffman has done a great job of leading that group. We've got three seniors on the offensive line so we have leadership and I think we have the ability to be good up front. Heading into camp, I guess it's a question mark, but I have no doubt that those guys can get it done."
"I like the way their bodies look, and most of them have had personal bests in the weight room," said Coach Jones. "The big thing is going to be depth.
Moving the ball last year wasn't a problem - holding on to it was. The Bearcats committed a league-high 29 turnovers and ranked next-to-last in the country in turnover margin at -15.
"We were number one in the league in scoring, passing offense, and total offense, but we finished where we finished because we turned the ball over," said Coach Jones.
The Bearcats finished 4-8 last year, including 4-7 in games started by Collaros. After going 30-0 as a starting QB at
"It's do or die," Collaros said. "It's been the fastest year of my life leading up to my senior year and I'm excited to get started, but at the same time, it's bittersweet because I don't want it to end. The only thing on my mind is winning games."
The Heisman Trophy might be a little far-fetched, but a great senior season is a very realistic possibility.
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