With spring practice just around the corner, Coach Dantonio and staff have many questions to answer. But what's the biggest question being asked by Bearcat fans? "Who will be the next quarterback?" While many top performers are gone from last season's team. Only quarterback is receiving this type of attention from those who follow the football program.
And it's easy to see why. With record holder Gino Guidugli headed to the NFL, spring practice will see great competition and interest from fan's coaches and Bearcat players.
We start with quarterback David Wess of Whitehall Yearling High School. David saw a strange twist during his journey to UC. An original recruit for Minnesota, Wess was a very impressive quarterback in the deep QB class of 2004. For those who have forgot, the QB Class of 2004 saw eleven quarterback sign with Division One programs. Having followed David since his junior year, I know first hand what type of athlete and quarterback he is.
At this time David's working with the quarterbacks, but if coaches don't see him fitting into the rotation they could move him to the defensive side of the ball. David was an All-State performer at defensive back, but posted some great numbers during his senior year at quarterback. (1,898 yards, 18 TD's pass, 7 TD's run)
The spring could make or break him in the quarterback rotation. I spoke with David about UC and his goals for the spring.
BCI: David how are you fitting in at UC after signing with Minnesota?
DW: I'm fitting in well. I have to thank God for the chance to still be able to play football and showcase my talent. Now I feel I have a home and I get the chance to play football.
BCI: Will you be eligible to play this fall?
DW: Yes, I will be eligible this fall. I was a Prop 48, so I sat out last season and I'll be able to play this season.
BCI: What is your main goal this spring?
DW: My main goal this spring is just to be able to compete with everybody and just be able to play at the best of my ability.
BCI: What do you feel is your strength as a quarterback for the Bearcats?
DW: I feel my strength is to be able to make something out of nothing. When a play looks like its dead, I'm able to give us that extra play just to get the momentum of the crowd and team fired up.
BCI: What's your opinion of Coach Dantonio?
DW: Coach Dantoino is a good guy. I really respect him as a coach and I really believe in what he's doing with this program. And I really feel if everyone believes in what he's saying, this team has no other choice but to be successful. And I want to thank him for allowing me the chance to come to UC and prop.
BCI: What would you tell Bearcat fans about this team?
DW: I would tell Bearcat fans this. There's going to be a lot of rude awakenings when we defeat big teams they expect us to lose against. I feel there's going to be a lot of changes in how people feel and think about Bearcat football over the next couple of years.
BCI: What would you tell kids going through the recruiting process about UC and what you found here?
DW: I would tell them to consider what the program has to offer. Come in and talk with the coaches One-on-One, get a feel for what the program is really doing and what the coaches are about. College football is not just about facilities, it's about getting on the field and being prepared when you get there. It's about the people your being coached by and who you're playing with.
BCI: David we wish you the best this spring and next season.
DW: Thank you.
I want to thank David for taking his time and talking about how things are going for him. Don't be surprised to see David get a hard look this spring and into fall camp. He's a great athlete that I've been high on for the past two years.
But David wasn't the only quarterback that's working hard this winter for his chance. I also had a chance to speak with Dustin Grutza.
Could another Kentucky prep icon be Gino's replacement? If it's up to Dustin Grutza he will. Why do many feel Dustin has a chance to become "The Man"? Just looking at the numbers posted during his career at Mason County High and you will see.
The 6'3 200 lb. QB passed for over 8,000 yards during his prep career. His senior year alone, Dustin passed for over 4,000 yards and 52 touchdowns. In all, numbers at Mason County totaled 8,004 yards passing, 1,302 yards rushing, with 82 touchdowns while completing 63% of his passes. These totals are eighth best in Kentucky High School history.
And if you're looking for a winner, look no farther. Dustin was 35-6 during his prep career.
Now Dustin is looking to earn the starting job and knows it won't be easy. I spoke with Dustin about his goals and how things are going.
BCI: You're playing a position that everyone's eyes are on. How does that feel?
DG: Yea, there's a lot of pressure after Gino. He did a great job here, set a bunch of records and was a great leader. So were going to have to have someone step up at the position and put themselves in a position to lead this team into the Big East.
BCI: What are your goals this spring?
DG: My goals this spring are to get better, be a leader for the team and try to get the team better because were going to have a young team this season. I want this team to make a bang when we play in the Big East this year/
BCI: What's it like playing for Coach Dantonio?
DG: Coach Dantonio is a great guy. He has high morals and he pushes us to the limits in everything. Both mentally and physically. He's really getting us ready to go for the spring and next season. He believes we can be Big East Champions, and so do we.
BCI: What do you feel will be the biggest factor on who wins the quarterback position?
DG: The biggest factor is going to be leadership on the field and getting the team together. Being a leader is the most important thing a quarterback needs. The quarterback needs to be able to push his team mentally.
BCI: What would you tell Bearcat fans that don't see you out here working at 6:00 in the morning and the guys who are staying after and working hard?
DG: Bearcats are working hard. They should come out and support us because there will be great games and good things for them to watch in the future.
BCI: Dustin I want to thank you for your time.
DG: Thank you.
I want to thank all four quarterback who took the time and spoke with us about the position and where they stand. But these four are not alone in their quest.
Another quarterback, Todd Spitzer, is also in the quarterback mix and should return from injury in time for spring practice. He's working out during winter workouts and while speaking with Coach Staten about Todd, the coach felt Todd should be ready to go for spring camp.
What should Bearcat fans expect from Todd? Todd brings ideal size for a quarterback. Having played his high school football in two states may have affected his high school numbers. But while he didn't come to UC with high passing totals, he did come in and earned co-Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year for the Bearcats.
Todd has a lot of skills and shows the ability to connect at a high percentage with his receivers. He will need this skill to become successful for the Bearcats and earn the starting quarterback job.
While it's too early to say who is going to be the next Bearcat quarterback. I do know this! Bearcat Insider will be on hand to watch the battle first hand during spring practice.
I know, I know. You're sitting there saying that I took the easy way out. And if you could ask me, you would ask the following question. How do you see the quarterback position breaking down today?
So let me say this first. I can't wait to see this battle take place during the spring.
At this time, I see the quarterback spot being a battle between Todd Spitzer and Dustin Grutza. Here is my reasoning in my choices.
First, looking at what Todd did as a member of the scout team should prove he will pick up the playbook easy. Each week brought new challenges and Todd showed he was ready for them. If he's fully recovered from his ankle injury, he could be the wild card many have stopped talking about.
I had the chance to see Dustin throw before our interview. He shows a nice arm and is a leader. He took control of the morning workout between the receivers, backs and quarterbacks. You could see he took each snap serious and knows the job is his to have.
As for Tony and David. Both are just getting their feet wet in the program. David is an athletic type QB, while Tony is a pure passer. I really like what I saw from Tony. He has a very strong arm and really looks the part. If I were to pick a player that could surprise everyone, Tony would be that pick. He has a great future ahead of him, and the Bearcats will see his recruitment be the biggest steal from the quarterback strong class of 2004.
That brings us to Nick. All eyes are on the qouthpaw quarterback that many are calling the next Boomer. With two years under his belt, many are looking at Nick and thinking he's going to be given every chance to earn the starting job. While I do believe he will be given this chance, there is a difference in JUCO and D-I football and I think we will see some growing pains this spring for Nick.
Right now Nick is looking to fit in with his new teammates. This spring will be very important for his development in the Bearcat system. I have seen much talk about Nick being a "Boomer" type QB. I feel they say this only because he's left handed. I will say this, the kid throws a real nice ball and has some nice arm strength. By the time spring camp opens I feel the receivers will have gotten use to catching his lefty passes.
So while we don't know who the future QB will be, one thing is for sure. There will be a quarterback battle on campus after seeing Gino for the past four years with no questions at the position.