Bearcats 07 Quarterback Preview

This week Bearcat Insider looks at the University of Cincinnati's quarterbacks in our ongoing position previews for the 2007 season.

Most discussions about the University of Cincinnati's 2007 football season will begin with dialogue about the quarterback position.  Since Nick Davila more or less claimed the starting spot at the end of 2006 with an outstanding game against Rutgers and by leading the Bearcats to a come-from-behind second half victory against Connecticut to secure a spot in the International Bowl, there is no true incumbent.  But Dustin Grutza ended the spring with a strong showing in the Bearcat Bowl and probably enters 2007 as the #1 contender. 


Dustin has 22 starts in the last two seasons which makes him UC's most experienced quarterback.  However, Grutza has really struggled in his touchdown to interception ratio.  For his career, the redshirt junior has thrown only 20 touchdowns passes and has been intercepted 24 times for a negative result in this very important quarterback statistic.  In 2006, the Maysville native actually regressed by throwing for only 9 scores in 12 games and was intercepted 13 times.  Those numbers need to be improved upon if Grutza is to return to his starting position, but he is also a veteran and could really blossom in Coach Kelly's spread offense.  In the spring, Grutza repeatedly showed during quarterback meetings that he clearly had a grasp of the new offense, but he'll need to translate that knowledge into production on the field.  In the past, Bearcat football fans have questioned Grutza's arm strength and decision making, but no one can question the kid's grit and leadership.


The wild card in the quarterback competition is the addition of Ben Mauk, a senior transfer from Wake Forest.  Ben set almost every possible high school passing record in Ohio, but inconsistency and injury kept him from really claiming the Demon Deacon starting spot.  In three seasons at Wake running Jim Grobe's somewhat pedestrian offense, Mauk had only 4 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions, but the ten time starter at Wake Forest hopes to revive his career in Cincinnati running an offense he feels is better suited to his skills.  One of the questions that will need to be answered soon concerns Mauk's health.  A shoulder injury and broken arm in last year's opener ended his 2006 season, and Ben will need to prove to the Bearcat staff that his arm is healthy and ready to run Brian Kelly's intricate offense. 


A player that would be my darkhorse pick to win the starting spot is true freshman Chazz Anderson.  The Pickerington Central product is an excellent athlete that could really flourish under the tutelage of Brian Kelly and Greg Forest.  Anderson led his Pickerington Central team to the Ohio Division II state championship game last season, but Big East football will be a much bigger hurdle to leap for the freshman, and he is much more likely to redshirt in 2007.


Redshirt Sophomore Craig Carey from Elder High School has shown that he has the arm to produce as a college quarterback, but inconsistency and throwing accuracy have sometimes been a problem.  Carey was a tight end at Elder until his senior season so he is still very inexperienced at the position, but he has the tools and benefited from a spring of running the new offense.  The question is whether he will take the next step in his development and seriously challenge for the starting job?


Local product Tony Pike from Reading High School is another quarterback candidate.  The 6' 6" signal caller is the tallest of the group and least mobile but on occasion has shown a nice touch and accurate arm.  Tony greyshirted and then redshirted so he's been around for quite some time despite being listed as a sophomore.  If he claims the starting spot, he'll need to leapfrog quite a few candidates in the process.


The final candidate expected to line up at quarterback is true freshman Zach Collaros from two time state champion Steubenville High School.  Collaros brings impressive high school numbers.  He was 30-0 as a two year starting quarterback for the Big Red and was Ohio's Division III Player of the Year.  Although not as big as classmate, Chazz Anderson, Collaros is more diverse.  As a sophomore at Steubenville, he started at receiver and also has played extensively at defensive back, picking off 14 interceptions.  He is one of Steubenville's top all-time scorers in basketball and was offered a rare full ride to play baseball at Marshall.  Yet only one school (Kent State) offered Zach a football scholarship. I think the biggest question with Collaros will be how long he's willing to stay at quarterback and sacrifice more early playing time at another position.


The quarterback battle will definitely be an interesting one, and the questions will begin getting answers in about four weeks.           

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