Heard it From Hoard: Column 54
Cincinnati quarterbacks are beginning to resemble "Spinal Tap" drummers.
OK, none of the Bearcat QBs have spontaneously combusted, but Ben Mauk was shot down by the NCAA, Dustin Grutza broke his leg, and Tony Pike broke his arm.
Can next week's starter borrow Robert Downey's suit of armor from "Iron Man?"
Brian Kelly's been here before. He made it to a Division II national championship game with a third-string quarterback (see column 52), and I have little doubt that he'll put Zach Collaros (or Chazz Anderson, or Demetrius Jones) in a position to succeed on Friday night at Marshall.
Here's what you need to know about the next quarterbacks in line.
Collaros was a legend at Steubenville High, winning his last 30 starts in leading the Big Red to consecutive Division III state titles in 2005 and 2006. In his final game, he passed for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns, and ran for 44 yards and 2 TDs.
Zach was one of eight finalists for Ohio's Mr. Football award, and was the recipient of the Art Teynor Award, which also goes to the outstanding player in the state (previous winners include Mauk, Ted Ginn Jr., Ben Roethlisberger, and Richard Hall).
While Collaros was the Division III player of the year in 2006, Chazz Anderson received the same honor in Division II. In three years as the starting quarterback at Pickerington High, Chazz threw for more than 6000 yards and 50 touchdowns, and ran for more than 1000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Then there's Demetrius Jones, who transferred from Notre Dame in September, and is arguably the most highly-touted prospect in Bearcat history. As a senior at Morgan Park H.S. in Chicago, Jones was named a Parade All-American and ranked 33rd on a list of the top 100 high school players in the country by USA Today. At Notre Dame, he was given the uniform #3, previously worn by Joe Montana, Rick Mirer, and Ron Powlus.
Normally, the prospect of starting your fourth option at quarterback (if you include Mauk) is terrifying. With that trio of candidates and Coach Kelly's track record with quarterbacks, I'm optimistic that the 'Cats can keep winning.
Now time for the Game 4 record card.
Quarterbacks - A-minus
Tony Pike missed a few open receivers in the first half, but still threw for 320 yards and 2 touchdowns before being carted off the field with about 10 minutes to go. In two starts his passing efficiency rating is 183.8 and if you used the NFL formula, his quarterback rating would be 132.9!
I don't know about you, but I've gone from "let's hope Pike can do a solid job while Grutza's out," to "thank God he's only a junior!"
Running backs - C
I thought the backs were OK, but looked a little tentative. For those of you bothered by the fact that true freshman Isaiah Pead lost his redshirt year for one carry, the game was too tight to give him his first meaningful playing time in the second half. I guarantee that his workload with increase.
Wide receivers - C
The "Big 3" finished with great stats as Mardy Gilyard had 7 catches for a career-high 146 yards, Dominick Goodman finished with 6 for 91 yards, and Marcus Barnett had 6 for 66 yards. But Gilyard and Bennett had costly fumbles in the second half, and Gilyard dropped a pass from Collaros that would have meant a big first down late in the game.
Offensive Line - C
The pass protection was fine, but the line didn't get enough push in the running game against a team that had been giving up about 240 yards a game on the ground. It didn't help that left guard Jason Kelce injured his ankle on the first play from scrimmage and missed the rest of the game.
Defensive line - B
Akron didn't do much on the ground and UC did come up with three sacks. Still, there wasn't consistent pressure on the quarterback.
Linebackers - B
I thought they were caught out of position more than usual, but when the defense desperately needed to make plays at the end of the game the linebackers came through.
Defensive backs - B
They were a bit shaky on third down, but didn't allow any deep balls and Brad Jones interception clinched the win.
Special teams - A-plus
I saw Jake Rogers make a 57-yard field goal at practice on Thursday, so I knew distance shouldn't be a problem on his game-winning attempt. Still, a 48-yarder under pressure, moments after the starting quarterback broke his arm showed some serious guts.
Here's a quick basketball note. For those of you wondering about John Riek, the 7'2" center who committed to Cincinnati in August, he's not in Clifton yet. He's currently attending IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida where he is rehabbing his knee after having surgery in June, and taking college prep courses in order to pass the SAT or ACT.
"He's got to get NCAA eligible and get admitted to our university, and it's my hope that he'll be able to do both," head coach Mike Cronin told me recently. "If he can do both and he's here in December, we'll have the holiday break with a lot more practice time - two a days and things of that nature - to get him ready to play in January. That's the best-case scenario and I know that's what John wants. John wants to play. He's a very mature, hard-working kid."
I'll have more on Riek in the next issue of Bearcat Sports Digest.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy this week's photo of the handsome lad.