The Elliott Analysis, UC vs. Marshall

Fresh off what some may call an ugly win in northern Ohio against in-state rival Akron, University of Cincinnati head football coach Brian Kelly and his team must travel to Huntington, West Virginia to battle the Thundering Herd of Marshall University. Allow me to bring you my oh so humble opinion and inside scoop on a variety of issues that will be key in deciding Friday night's game.

The biggest issue coming into this game is undoubtedly the quarterback situation. If you were relying on Ben Mauk to get another year of eligibility and start this season for the ‘Cats, then the team is down to its fourth string quarterback. Nobody was preparing to have to deal with the loss of Tony Pike. At least when Grutza went down in Norman we all knew immediately who would be going in and starting the team's next game. Now that the battle is down between two red shirt freshmen, it's anybody's guess who will get the starting nod. We may not know the outcome of this week's battle in practice until just before kickoff Friday, but whoever ends up with the responsibility on their shoulders will no doubt be as prepared as possible thanks to Kelly and the rest of the coaching staff.

Let's take a look at the two potential starting quarterbacks.

Chazz Anderson:
Chazz Anderson is a Pickerington, Ohio native who compiled a 39-6 record as the starting quarterback for the Pickerington Central High School Tigers. In 2006 he led the team to the state finals and was named the Ohio Division II Player of the Year. The three-time All-Ohio quarterback amassed over 6,000 career passing yards, 1,000 career rushing yards and scored 80 total touchdowns. He has no collegiate experience.

The Kelly Quotes:
"He's got a strong arm, very smart kid, delivers the ball in a timely fashion," said Kelly of Anderson back in the spring. "He's starting to throw some strikes out there, and in our offense obviously pass efficiency is crucial. He's finding the strike zone."

Tuesday Kelly called Anderson a very smart kid who knows the offense very well.

The Elliott Analysis:
Chazz Anderson is a natural athlete who fans should be very comfortable with under center if called upon to run the offense Friday night. He will take what the defense gives him, whether it is a chance to move the ball in the air or on the ground. Physically he undoubtedly has the tools to succeed at the college level.

Zach Collaros:
As a three-year starter for Steubenville High School, Zach Collaros put together a 41-1 record, including back-to-back state titles and a 30-0 record over his final two years. He was Ohio's Division III Player of the Year in 2006, a season in which he completed 68 percent of his passes for over 2,500 yards, 30 TD's and just four interceptions while running for over 700 yards and an additional 15 scores.

In the first collegiate appearance of his career, Collaros entered the game against Akron and went 1-of-4 passing for two yards while running the ball four times for 18 yards.

The Kelly Quotes:
"Zach's very first start was in the fourth quarter, on the road, down," said Kelly of the tough conditions Collaros faced during his first amount of playing time. "That's not the ideal situation to put somebody in, but he's got enough in the mental end of things that he can succeed."

The Elliott Analysis:
Collaros is a solid quarterback who some say remind them of a young Ben Mauk. He has a strong arm and can move the ball downfield with his feet if he has to. Again fans should feel no need for concern should Collaros be the team's starter against Marshall.

Whoever starts under center Friday night fans should rest assured knowing that Kelly is confidant in their ability to excel mentally.

"(Anderson and Collaros) are young men that we've recruited here, so we feel like the first thing in evaluating a quarterback is can he handle the pressure of the moment? Can he go in there and succeed when you need to?" said coach Kelly. "The first thing that we look for in recruiting is do they have what it takes mentally, and I feel both these guys have got what it takes."

We may even be lucky enough to see both Anderson and Collaros take snaps against the Herd, as well as Demetrius Jones.

"I think right now we're preparing to play all three, whether we get all three in the game or not, will be determined by the game situation," said Kelly.

The Kelly Quotes:
"It's going to be a great atmosphere, sold out stadium, I think everybody knows the tradition of Marshall football, and on ESPN on Friday night should make for some pretty good college football," said Kelly of his team's upcoming trip.

"I like the proximity of it," Kelly said of the overall Marshall series. "(It's) only three hours up the road if you will, up the river. They've got a great home base in terms of home field and they travel well. It's definitely a game that I'd like to continue to play."

The Elliott Analysis:
Anytime you play a program with the kind of college football tradition that Marshall has it can never be a bad thing for your program. The two teams have met 11 times before, with the Bearcats winning the last meeting 40-14 in Nippert last season. UC holds a 7-3-1 lead in the series overall.

The Kelly Quotes:
"Marshall, obviously, an improved football team over last year," said Kelly. "I think the things that stand out obviously offensively Cody Slate, their tight end, is back. He's an outstanding pass catcher. Darius Passmore probably in Conference USA ranks as one of the top wide receivers. Their quarterback is young, but they've got a veteran coaching staff so they're going to minimize what he does in making sure that he gets the ball to the right people. And their running game's been effective. They've got a young offensive line, but very big. I think it's going to be a very talented group."

"Defensively they've got a lot of players back that they didn't have when we played them last year," he added. "Last year they were banged up, I mean they had four or five guys on the defensive line they they've got back, and by evidence they went on the road against Southern Mississippi, I think they won their first road game in what might have been as many as two years."

"They're just a different style, they have a lot of guys back that were injured and last year they were four down (linemen) and this year they're three down," said Kelly of Marshall's Rick Minter defense. "They play hard, they're fundamentally sound, it's what you would expect from any defensive coordinator. Sound, fundamental, they play hard and they have some players back, in particular (Albert) McClellan who was hurt last year and didn't play against us."

The Elliott Analysis:
Darius Passmore has accounted for over 37 percent of Marshalls receptions this season (30), four of their five receiving touchdowns, and over 50 percent of their receiving yards (512), averaging just over 17 yards per reception. Shutting him down will be key for the Cincinnati secondary. Expect some big battles between him and UC corner Mike Mickens.

Cody Slate will also need to be accounted for. He ranks second on the Herd with 138 receiving yards off just nine catches, averaging over 15 yards per touch. Stopping Passmore and Slate would be huge for this Bearcats defense, but stopping the passing game is only one of Cincinnati's concerns, as another Darius, running back Darius Marshall could be a serious threat on the ground. Marshall (the player, not the school) has run for 462 yards and four touchdowns already this season, averaging over 90 yards a game. With the Herd fielding some serious playmakers, the Bearcat defense will need to be up to the challenge.

Rick Minter's 3-4 defense will provide for plenty of blitz opportunities on UC's young quarterback, but Trevor Canfield and the rest of the offensive line are up to the task.

"I'm expecting them to bring a lot of blitzes since it's our third string quarterback. We're going to hopefully crease them with the run or we're going to pick up the blitz on the pass and beat them on the pass," said the senior right guard. "We've seen the blitzes they run in the past in their other games and that's the blitzes we've focused on mainly, and (offensive coordinator and OL) coach (Jeff) Quinn does an excellent job of putting us in the worst situations possible at practice."

Canfield's confidence in the offensive line was beaming Tuesday. After not having allowed a sack in two games, he made a bold statement while trying to say how strong the offensive line really is.

"No offense to coach Kelly, but you could put coach Kelly back there and we'll be alright," said Canfield, getting a laugh from those on hand.

Canfield, Anderson or Collaros, and the rest of the Bearcats will take the field Friday against Marshall at 8:00pm at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

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