Zach Collaros looks, sounds ready to play

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The moment I walked into the Sheakley Athletic Complex bubble on Monday, I saw Zach Collaros drop back, shuffle left, shuffle right and unleash a rope down the middle of the field.

It hit the striding receiver about 50 yards away right in the hands in perfect position.

Welcome back.

Collaros was wearing his No. 18 practice jersey instead of the standard 12 and I had to think for a second if that was him. It sure didn't look like a player who fractured his ankle Nov. 12.

As practice continued, Collaros took off running on a designed draw. He rolled out of the pocket and threw a pass into the flat. Collaros did, well, what Collaros does. And that news couldn't have been any better
for Butch Jones and the Bearcats.Thumbnail image for ZachCollaros2.jpg

After more than an hour of looking like a guy who plans on playing Dec. 31 in the Liberty Bowl, Collaros sounded like on as well.

When asked if he feels like he could start if the game was tomorrow he didn't hold back.

"Yeah," he said. "In my mind. I don't know about them."

With a quick smile coming over his face, he was referring to the coaches and training staff. Though, Butch Jones sounded like he had been won over after the latest chapter in this remarkable recovery.

"He made it through the entire practice and we really pushed him," Jones said. "It was very encouraging and now he is about a month ahead of schedule."

Obviously, returning to see his career end with a different image than that of being carted off serves as a motivating factor through every step of his comeback. But it's become a reality now.

His ankle is still far from 100 percent, though. On some plays he would hobble a bit getting started or show a small limp. To the untrained eye, it might look normal, but to the coaches and onlookers who are analyzing every stride, his limitations are noticeable.

It still hurts sometimes when I push off in go in a certain direction, so I definitely feel some hesitancy," Collaros said. "I didn't realize I was going to be able to heal this fast. Still got along way to go. Still have 12 days to the game, so I still have time for it to heal. So, I think I am definitely ahead of schedule. I'm excited about it."

The concept of bringing back the second-highest rated QB in the Big East and undeniable offensive and emotional leader of the team certainly brightens Jones' spirits as well.

"Obviously, his knowledge base and all of that puts him ahead of Munchie (Legaux) a little bit," Jones said. "
One of his biggest strengths is to keep plays alive with his legs. So, can he extend plays and play like Zach Collaros plays? If he is able to do that then we will play him; if not then we're very fortunate to have the amount of reps we've gotten with Munchie. We want Zach to be Zach. We are going to error on precaution, everything is safety first, but I am very encouraged by what I saw today."

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