Bearcat Bowl II - The Quarterbacks

Bearcat Bowl II saw the entire collection of Cincinnati quarterbacks see field action. Some excelled, some showed signs of improvement, and some showed that improvements would still be necessary. Post-game Saturday night, we spoke with head coach Brian Kelly, quarterbacks coach Greg Forest, and some of the quarterbacks themselves.

Quick recap of spring game QB stats:

Dustin Grutza: 13-of-18, 100 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT

Demetrius Jones: 5-of-9, 136 yards, 1 TD

Zach Collaros: 6-of-11, 91 yards, 1 TD, sacked twice

Chazz Anderson: 9-of-20, 97 yards, 2 INT’s, sacked once

Tony Pike: 1-of-5, 4 yards, sacked once


Through spring practices many wondered whether senior Dustin Grutza was losing ground in the quarterback’s race.  Saturday night he showed why coach Kelly calls him the front runner.  Grutza opened the spring game with an 18-play, 70-yard drive, capping it off with a 6-yard touchdown toss to a wide open Armon Binns.  In the third quarter Grutza again led the Bearcat’s offense down the field, this time on an 11-play, 70-yard drive, a drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Barnett.


“I thought we were able to get a good flow at certain times in the offense,” said Grutza following the game.


Coach Kelly acknowledged that Grutza may not be the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, but he is currently the front runner for the starting job and Kelly was happy with his play Saturday night.


“Well I think it’s still Dustin Grutza,” said Kelly when asked who emerged from the spring season as the front runner at quarterback.  “He manages the game well.  I think we all know he may not dazzle you with arm strength or some of the things that everyone looks for in evaluating quarterbacks, but he manages us well.  An 18-play drive to open up a spring game says a lot because everything’s got to be working in the right direction.  We had a pretty good unit out there defensively to balance off against our offensive line and our first group of guys, so I was pleased with his steadiness”


The decision of Ben Mauk’s appeal for a sixth year of eligibility to the NCAA is due within the week, and Bearcat fans will be in for either a dose of very good or very bad news.  Coach Kelly however won’t be thinking it’s the end of the world if Mauk happens to lose his case.


“I like Dustin Grutza,” said the coach.  “Ben Mauk is a proven commodity in terms of playing all year, and if we get Ben Mauk back we’ll be happy.  But we can’t cry over it.  Dustin Grutza will have to be the guy, and we’re going to have to win with him.  We can’t trade him.  We can’t get another guy for him.  We think he can do the job.  If he’s our starter, we’ll get it done with him, we’ll find a way.”


The key word in that final sentence may be the “if.”  While Grutza may currently be leading the race, there’s a long time between now and the start of the regular season, and anything could happen.  One of a crop of young quarterbacks could be poised to make the jump into the starting role over Grutza over the course of the off season.


Grutza doesn’t mind the fight.


“That’s how college football is,” Grutza said of his constant battling for the starting job over his time at UC.  “You’ve got to be able to compete and you’ve got to prove yourself.”


“I think competition is good for improving,” he added.  “I’m going to go out and compete.  From now until summer camp I’m going to be working my butt off every day.”


Red shirt freshman Chazz Anderson had greatly impressed many over the course of the spring season.  While showing serious signs of greatness and potential, unfortunately Anderson’s consistency and decision making also showed they could still use some work Saturday.  Always humbling himself after playing well, Anderson was sure to place blame solely on his shoulders after Saturday’s sub-par outing, showing his great attitude.


“We started off well, but we just couldn’t seem to put it in the end zone,” said Anderson of his night.  “We’ve just got to continue to be consistent.  I have a lot of things that I need to work on to make sure that I’m getting the play makers the ball.”


“They did an unbelievable job,” said Anderson of the UC defense.  “But again, you have to be consistent.  You have to make good reads and make good decisions, and that just shows that you have a lot to work on.”


“It was very competitive,” Anderson said of Bearcat Bowl II overall.  “It wasn’t surprising,” he added.  “I think the defense did a great job, but again it just shows that your quarterback has to be consistent and make good decisions in order for your team to score touchdowns.”


After struggling through the better part of spring ball, red shirt sophomore Demetrius Jones wowed the crowd of over 10,000 at Nippert Saturday night.  After undergoing off-season throwing shoulder surgery, Jones’ mechanics looked far from perfect early on through the spring.  He displayed vast signs of improvement however during the spring game, and was able to put some serious zip on a number of throws.  His highlight of the night had to have been his 57-yard touchdown strike to Marshwan Gilyard with 1:17 remaining in the game to give his team their first lead of the night.


Anderson and Jones were both able to shine at times Saturday evening, but effects of their youth and inexperience also reared its ugly head.


“I think what I expected was good play, bad play,” said coach Kelly.  “I was hard on them today, and they needed to be under the gun a little bit.  I maybe was a pretty good actor today on both those guys in kind of turning the heat up on them a little bit.  But I thought they both did some good things, and we’ve got two guys that obviously need to get better but they showed some signs.”


After almost falling off the radar at times during the spring, Saturday night red shirt freshman Zach Collaros made sure we remembered his name when thinking about the starting quarterback race.  Collaros took his team 63 yards down the field on a 7-play drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Gilyard with over 11 and a half minutes remaining in the game to pull the black team within four.


“He made plays,” said coach Forest of Collaros following the game.


The future of the Cincinnati quarterback position looks to be in good hands with three young players all already showing serious signs of improvement.  The present, however, may be held on too tightly to by Dustin Grutza.


“They did a good job,” said coach Forest of his quarterbacks.  “Obviously Dustin is still above all those guys, just because he knows the offense better.  A two-year starter, he understands all that stuff.  Obviously our young guys made a few mistakes.”


Coach Kelly agrees.  For the moment, at least.  In the time between now and the fall season, Kelly says he wouldn’t mind having to sort out a tight quarterback race.


“What I would say is that the young kids aren’t ready yet.  They’re not ready to the level that I want them to be,” said Kelly.  “Dustin Grutza’s the starter if Ben Mauk’s not back.  Now, those kids are going to be given every opportunity to take that job away from Dustin Grutza.  I’m not going to hand it to him, he’s going to have to compete and hold onto it.  We’ve got five weeks of preseason camp.  That’s a long time.  If we’ve got to sort it out, that’s fine.  If he feels like he’s under the gun everyday, that’s good too.”


The current Sam Elliott projected QB depth chart:

Ben Mauk (if granted a sixth year)

Dustin Grutza (for now)

Chazz Anderson

Demetrius Jones

Zach Collaros

Tony Pike


Has to be the closest quarterback race I’ve ever seen.  We’ll be watching it with great interest all the way up until the August 28th season opener.


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