Carey Excels with Special Teams

It's a good bet Craig Carey leads the country in tackles by a quarterback. Bearcat Insider spoke with Craig after Wednesday's practice.

Seeing a back-up quarterback play on special teams as anything other than a holder is very unusual, and seeing a substitute quarterback leading the special teams in solo tackles is down right crazy.  But that's exactly what Craig Carey has done for the Bearcats in earning the club's "Special Teams' Player of the Week" honors twice. 


One of Cincinnati's best special teams' contributors explained how he accidentally discovered his skill.  "My freshman year I just jokingly went out there, and I ran down the field and gave some people fits.  Every once in a while I'd even make the play.  Last year was the same thing so they thought about putting me at kickoff, but I just played mostly punt return.  At camp this year, I had fresh legs and went down there and made some plays.  The very first game this year they threw me in there because I guess they weren't getting enough penetration on the wedge, and I've been there ever since."


Bearcat special teams' coordinator, Mike Elston, confirmed Carey's claims of how the fourth string quarterback earned a special teams' spot this year.  "He was not scheduled to be a starter on most of the special teams.  He got his start after a guy wasn't doing his job, and Craig made three tackles in the first game."


Carey explained his attitude when he steps onto the field as a special teams' player.  "I just think about making plays.  Coach Elston does a great job of telling us what their returns will be.  Then I just study and concentrate so I know what's going on and can put myself in a position to make a play."  Craig is tied with Evan Sparks and Jason Whitehead with eight special teams tackles, tops on the team.  Of those eight stops, five were solo tackles which is also tops on the squad.


If Carey continues at this pace, he could receive some hardware at the end of the season in addition to knowing he helped the team.  "I don't want anyone to get a big return on us, but I like to make solo tackles because they help my production points and reaching my goal to get that trophy at the end of the year for special teams."


Coach Elston knows it's unusual to have quarterbacks making tackles on special teams, but he thinks it's more likely to happen at UC.  "When you recruit the kind of quarterbacks we're recruiting to a system, it's a little more common.  We have athletic quarterbacks, and if they don't play quarterback, they have a good chance to play somewhere else."


The redshirt sophomore knows his career is passing quickly, and his chance of earning the starting quarterback spot in the near future is looking slim.  But for now, he's not ready to give up on the position he loves.  "They've asked me to play linebacker, but quarterback is where I want to be.  It's the position I love.  I want to be on the field so things could always change.  I'll play wherever they want me, but I want to play quarterback."


At Elder High School, Carey played tight end and helped the Panthers win a state championship.  He spoke about his future at his old position.  "Tight end is also a possibility, but we already have a bunch of play makers there like Connor Barwin, Kazeem Alli, and Ben Guidugli.  Coach Kelly thought it might not be such a good idea to put me at tight end." 


Although Indiana's original scholarship offer was as a tight end, the Hoosiers later changed their minds and offered Craig as a quarterback along with the Bearcats and Pittsburgh Panthers.  This speaks more to Craig's potential at the position since his experience is very limited.  "My eighth grade year I played quarterback, and I didn't play it again until my senior year.  My freshman year at Elder I played linebacker.  At the JV level, I played everywhere.  They put me at running back, receiver and tight end, and I played tight end as a junior."


At 6' 4" and 220 pounds, Carey feels he matches up favorably with those who are trying to block him.  "Linebacker and tight end body types are usually what I go against, but Louisville had wide receivers blocking me.  I had a good time getting off their blocks, but Jake (Rogers) had some touchbacks, and there weren't any returns on my side."


All positions aside, Craig would love to win a BIG EAST championship.  "We talk about a BIG EAST championship every year.  That's always the goal."  With Craig's continued outstanding special teams' play, he makes that goal seem even more attainable.


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