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October 25, 2009

Parting Scott: All Collaros does is win

Six feet tall, 209 pounds. Not exactly prototype FBS quarterback material.

We've heard it before. Plenty of others have heard it before. Seemingly, if you're not hovering around the 6-4 range, you're potential is limited as a quarterback. It's similar to baseball scouts that insist on only looking at the lanky kid that throws 90 mph (and can't find the plate with a GPS). The kid that's in the 80s and hits his spots and keeps batters off-balance, he waits in the wings, ready to prove everybody wrong.

In football, there's the Ryan Leafs, the Akili Smiths, the Dan McGwires, that coaches salivate for. It makes you wonder how they all forgot the Fran Tarkenton or Doug Fluties of the world.

Do any of you play fantasy football? My wife does and she asked me to help her with her draft this season. Going against the grain, we took a quarterback...six feet, 209 pounds...Drew Brees.

I challenge any of you to argue with his NFL stats or pedigree.

Six feet, 209 pounds--that's Zach Collaros (and Chazz Anderson for that matter). The six-foot Collaros was 15-17 for 253 yards and three touchdowns against Louisville Saturday in UC's 41-10 win for the Keg of Nails.

"It felt good, I didn't know my numbers were that good," said Collaros. "We knew we could run the ball against their defense. I didn't get touched all night-the line protected me."

With Collaros, you get similar numbers and similar measurements to another UC quarterback from not long ago. Give or take an inch or a pound or two, Ben Mauk is 6-1, 200 pounds. While Tony Pike might (if healthy) threaten Mauk's Bearcat passing marks, the one-year transfer from Wake Forest had some pretty significant UC passing games in Brian Kelly's offense. Notably, he threw 31 touchdown passes surpassing Gino Guidugli's 26 thrown in 2004. (You may remember, Gino Guidugli could play a little quarterback.)

Mauk finished his one-year at UC as the MVP of the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham with four touchdown passes.

Not a bad season's work for a guy that some might label as "too small".

I bring this up because, from the day he left the playing field, Ben Mauk has touted the talents of Zach Collaros. He did it last year and he did it this spring. On this Saturday, Collaros backed all of the talk up and gave credit to his mentor.

"My redshirt year and even last year, he would always point certain things out," said Collaros. "The main thing with Ben is that he would tell me to be who I am and not something I'm not. I talked with him a couple times this week and he told me to be who I am."

While you have a small sample to make the comparison, Ben makes a pretty good argument for "Mauk 2.0" (Collaros). 41-1 as the starter at Steubenville High. Back-to-back state titles, 30-0 over his final two years with the Big Red.

He doesn't look flashy, he doesn't rack up monster passing numbers (though Saturday's ain't shabby) but he does win games. Probably the best thing about Zach's game is he gives you a whole new look, which so far has thrown two opponents completely off.

"With Tony, he's an NFL prototype," said Collaros. "With me, we can run the ball a little bit too (52 yards for Zach, a career high 88 for Isaiah Pead). We like to get involved in that and it opens it up for the running backs."

Even at UC, the Bearcats have not lost a regular season game that Collaros has participated in (the only defeat he's PLAYED in was the Orange Bowl last January 1st on special teams). Despite all of that, and despite following Tony Pike's night-before-the game ritual of Skyline cheese coneys, Collaros was understandably anxious early on Saturday. (Even though he was told he was starting on Wednesday.)

"I had some butterflies," admitted Collaros. "Really, last night and this morning was when I was most nervous. When I got on the field, it was like playing football again."

Amazing what two quick scoring drives will do for a case of nerves!

Twice when Tony Pike has gone down, the "call to the bullpen" has gone to Zach Collaros. Against Akron last year in a game that could've been a classic bust, Collaros got the Bearcats into field goal position for Jake Rogers to win it. In Tampa this year, when everyone groaned about Tony Pike's injury, it was Zach Collaros hitting the hole for the longest run of the game.

It seems like Collaros is the "closer" if anything. That's very appropriate as Zach's home of Steubenville is also the home of Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers. While Zach doesn't have the mustache (and who'd want that thing anyway?) he does have a knack for winning. For now, he's a firm #2 and spot starter in Brian Kelly's offense, having surpassed Chazz Anderson (who also played vs. Louisville and was 3-4 for 25 yards).

It all came down to practice for a guy that apprenticed under Mauk, Grutza and Pike for a year, then did little more than special teams after his mop-up performance in the Rubber Bowl last season.

"I liked the way he played...I didn't like the way he practiced," said Brian Kelly. "We had a conversation in the spring. As you know, he played baseball for Brian Cleary and did quite well. We talked about what he needed to do to be the starter. He really worked hard all summer. He really came into summer and won that second place. It really wasn't that Chazz did anything to lose it, Zach just won it. Zach was really much more consistent than Chazz Anderson."

Kelly also credited Tony Pike with helping Collaros and the team in their preparation. Pike watched film with the team Friday night in their hotel and helped with the offense in their computerized simulations. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he rooms with Collaros before games.

"There is no difference," said Mardy Gilyard of Zach's presence in the huddle (when they do). "He didn't lose a game in high school. I told him in pregame not to worry about it. We were going to make sure when it was all said and done that he would have a nice day."

Winning is what's important. I've checked both the AP and USA Today Top 25 and there is absolutely no category for style points. Throwing the ball just 23 times, the Bearcats still racked up three scores through the air and two on the ground. Doesn't matter how you do it, 41 points is 41 points.

After all, what's style? And, who says Zach Collaros is not flashy?

While Steubenville might not strike you as "flashy", I present to you that it's also the birthplace of Dean Martin. Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder was also from there. The group "Wild Cherry" ("Play That Funky Music") has Steubenville roots.

Because of all of that, I like the "odds" when Collaros has the ball. "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime" (ah, your grandparents will get it) and UC fans, while not jumping off the Pike bandwagon, best show Zach Collaros some "love" as he continues to do what he does best...win football games.


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