Pike will compete with second-round pick Jimmy Clausen for the right to be tabbed Carolina's "franchise quarterback." Clausen is the favorite in this competition, but as Dave Berk of BearcatInsider.com explains, betting against Pike is typically foolish.
Michael Lombardo: Tony wasn't even on most people's radar until a couple seasons ago. How do you explain his rapid ascension? More specifically, how did his talent go unrecognized for so long?
Dave Berk: Luck and being in the right place at the right time. Tony Pike's story is one that is really special. Coming out of high school, Tony only had one team willing to give him a scholarship, Toledo. But Mark Dantonio saw something in Tony and offered him a chance to grey-shirt. After his delayed entry, Pike started his road behind some good quarterbacks. The talent was there with his size and arm strength, but he'd yet to put it all together.
Everything changed in his junior preseason camp. Tony was about fifth string because Brian Kelly was really pushing for Tony to step up his game. Dustin Grutza was the starter, but Grutza got injured during a preseason scrimmage and Kelly went to Tony as the No. 2 guy. Grutza returned but was injured during Cincinnati's game against Oklahoma and Tony never really looked back after that, even with his own injuries. I scouted Tony when he was a senior in high school and told him then he had the ability to play at a high level. I feel he has a chance to be a very good pro once he gets his feet planted in the NFL.
QB Tony Pike
DB: When Tony came into Cincinnati he was under Mark Dantonio's pro-style offense with quarterbacks under center. He has done it, but Tony has long been a quarterback taking snaps in a spread system going all the way back to high school. This is an area Tony will need to work on, but he should pick it up.
ML: What would you say to people who question Tony's durability? Not only his ability to avoid injuries, but also his ability to withstand a 16-game schedule with such a slight frame?
DB: This is a good question that in time we'll get the answer to. Tony did suffer a couple of injuries the past two seasons to the same area of his left (non-throwing) arm. The first time he was injured he was rushed back and not 100 percent when he took the field. Tony is a tough kid who I feel is just starting to fill out physically. I feel Tony can sustain the rigors of an NFL season if called to do so.
ML: A lot of scouting services refer to Tony as a raw prospect with starter's potential. How long will take him to be ready to lead an NFL team?
DB: I've got full confidence in Tony being able to lead an NFL team. The only thing I see standing in his way is if he'll get a chance and if the offensive scheme uses his talents to move the pocket and find open receivers. I could see Tony holding a clipboard for a couple of seasons and then being in position to make a move to a starter's role.
ML: What will be the biggest challenge for Tony as he adjusts to the Big Leagues? And how do you see him overcoming it?
DB: I feel the first thing Tony will have to adjust to will be the offensive system used in the NFL as compared to the one he's been playing in the past three seasons. Brian Kelly's offense is one that requires the quarterback to roll the pocket and find the open receiver, where as most NFL offensive systems look for the quarterback to stay in the pocket and make the reads. The biggest thing helping Tony early is no one expects him to be called upon this season. So if he's given a chance to learn, he'll make the adjustments and overcome any challenges before most people would feel he's ready.
ML: Is there any NFL QB, past or present, that you'd compare him to?
DB: This is a really hard question as Tony has a lot of the tools you look for in a quarterback. But to compare him to anyone right now would be very hard. Tony will have to battle the stereotype of being a spread quarterback, but he's capable of making all the throws and is a solid leader on and off the field.
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