Who Will Seize The Chance?

Athletes say all they need is a chance and they'll take care of the rest. For Tony Pike his chance will come next Saturday when Cincinnati takes on Miami Ohio in Nippert Stadium for the first real test Brian Kelly and his staff has faced since taking over the program. But can Pike be the man? If not who will seize this chance?

Since Brian Kelly took over the reigns of the Bearcats football program things have gone smooth.  The smooth talking Kelly is never afraid to put someone on the spot and he’s won two bowl games and enough games to make those who follow the Red & Black excited about its future. 


But no different than the man he replaced, Mark Dantonio, Kelly has seen most of the talk center around the quarterback position despite having more quarterbacks on his roster than most college programs.


Last Saturday what looked to a standard play turned out to change the football season for several Bearcats.  Dustin Grutza was the starter.  Ben Mauk had been denied another season again and Tony Pike had moved from deep in the depth chart to the man-in-waiting.  But how many expected Pike to move to the starter’s role by the third game?  Not many except for Brian Kelly.


Kelly saw during camp at Higher Ground his younger quarterbacks just hadn’t done enough to earn the second chair.  He forced Chazz Anderson and Zach Collaros reps for a whole week just in case their services would be needed.  After that week Kelly saw the long lanky kid from Reading High School would have to be his back-up in case disaster hit.


Disaster hit on Saturday afternoon in Norman, Oklahoma and Dustin Grutza is out for several weeks.  What once was said to be a four week absence is now said to be eight weeks.  While these are best guess timelines Kelly knows his timeline sits one week from this Saturday when Miami shows up on his door front.


So how will Pike perform after going 3 of 11 with an interception and only 21 yards?


We’ll have to wait until next Saturday to find out but here is the Insiders take on what the future holds if Pike has success or if he fails.


Pike Has Success


Tony Pike didn’t do as bad as the number indicated in his short stint against Oklahoma.  With little time to set up and throw the ball, Pike was fresh meat for a defense looking to add to the stat sheet.


Keep in mind there is always more to a play than just the quarterback.  Did the receivers do their job and run the right route or make the correct block?  Did the running back do his job of picking up a blitz?  Did the offensive line adjust to what was in front of them and make the proper call?  I feel if you spoke to one of the offensive coaches they would tell you no to all of them.


Dustin Grutza going done left those on the field lost.  Grutza had become the leader on the field and was showing he had the tools to run Kelly’s offense and put points on the board.  If the staff released grades we’d probably learn he graded out higher than most fans feel he should. 


Tony Pike is not some underclassman who just arrived on campus.  He’s a veteran who delayed his entrance into Cincinnati after having a very successful career at Reading High School.  You don’t pass for over 4,000 yards and not have an idea of what you’re doing.  Of the four quarterbacks who Kelly can turn to now with Grutza out, Pike has the strongest arm and is the player who has the greatest grasp on what Brian Kelly demands from his signal caller.  This is his time to shine and he’ll have success.


Pike Fails To Produce


Tony Pike hasn’t been a starting quarterback since his team lost in the playoffs his senior season.  Despite showing signs he could earn the job others continued to pass him by making some question if the staff should keep him on after this season.  If he fails Kelly will have to look at his bench and pick from three remaining quarterbacks.  Who does he pick?


Your guess is as good as anyone right now because all three of the remaining quarterbacks lack on field time.  Kelly has stressed that Demetrius Jones is not ready to go physically having shoulder surgery last season.  But is this a smoke screen or reality?


Jones can play but he’s limited in what he can do in Kelly’s offense.  If Kelly needs to go to more of a running game he'll look for a quarterback that can run. Don’t be surprised if Jones is on the field behind center if this is the case.  While Jones is not ready to make deep pass after deep pass he can throw the ball in a limited area.  But running is where Kelly would use Jones if Pike would fail.


Chazz Anderson showed signs in spring practice he was ready to fight for the starter’s job, but what happened?


Anderson is still young and despite showing signs in the spring he seemed to digress during preseason camp.  While he’s one of the hardest working players on the team he still must have a full grasp of what Brian Kelly wants if he’s going to see the field.  Has he been passed by Zach Collaros?


Zach Collaros reminds the staff of Ben Mauk.  The kid is a winner and has the moxie Mauk used to take the Bearcats to a ten win season just a year ago.  In camp he made strides in passing up Anderson and could be called upon if Tony Pike fails to produce.  Collaros knows how to take a game and make sure his team is on the right side of the won-loss column when the whistle blows.  The biggest area of concern with Collaros is his height.  He seems to get lost behind the offensive line and can’t see the field the way he needs to.  The biggest adjustment made by the former two-time state champion is keeping his head up while he scrambles looking for a receiver.  In the spring he was quick to tuck his head and run up the field getting what ever he could.  This is what made Ben Mauk the successful quarterback he was last season.


Kelly Smart About Choice


Give Brian Kelly credit for closing practice to the media this week.  If this week was open he’d have everyone giving their breakdown of how each quarterback threw the ball during the week causing even more of a stir.  Instead we’re left guessing what may or may not happen when the Battle For The Bell  happens in just over a week.


Insiders QB Picks

1. Tony Pike

2a. Zach Collaros

2b. Demetrius Jones

3. Chazz Anderson


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