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June 26, 2007

Mauk picks Bearcats for his Ohio return

CINCINNATI (AP) - Ben Mauk of Kenton, who passed for 6,528 yards when he was Ohio's Mr. Football in 2002, has transferred to Cincinnati to finish his college career.

His ill-fated venture at Wake Forest ended when he broke his arm in the season opener last year.


"I haven't been this excited about football since I was in high school," said Mauk, who is getting ready for the Aug. 3 start of fall practice.

Mauk has good reason to be excited: New coach Brian Kelly has said he will open up the Bearcats' offense. But first, Mauk will have to beat out returning starter Dustin Grutza, who led Cincinnati to a 7-5 regular-season record last year.

"If he's healthy, he has a great chance to be our starting quarterback," Kelly said. "He's got all the tools to be the starting quarterback at the University of Cincinnati, but we're not going to hand it to him."

During his senior year at Kenton, Mauk completed 434 of 668 passes (64 percent) for 6,528 yards and 76 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,385 yards and 18 touchdowns. He set national career records for yards passing (17,523) and touchdowns (178).

At Wake Forest, he was red-shirted as a freshman, then spent two years sharing the job at quarterback, where the main responsibility was handing off to a running back.

"The biggest thing was maturing during those three years to be the type of quarterback they wanted me to be," Mauk said.

The job was all his a year ago, but he broke his right arm and dislocated his shoulder against Syracuse. Mauk missed the rest of the season, and in spring practice it became evident that the starter would be Riley Skinner, who had taken the Demon Deacons to an 11-3 record and the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

"It was a situation where I didn't think they were going to let me compete for the job," Mauk said. "If I'm not going to have a chance to compete for the job, I don't want to be in that situation. I wanted to move closer to home and throw the ball more like what I'm used to."

Mauk won't have to sit out a season because of a now-rescinded NCAA rule that allowed a player who had completed an undergraduate degree at one school to enroll in a graduate program at another school and use his remaining eligibility.

It seemed like a perfect fit for Mauk and Cincinnati.

"What I was looking for was an experienced quarterback in the spread offense who had done it at a BCS level, a player who had that competitive demeanor that I like in my quarterbacks," Kelly said.

The Cincinnati medical staff determined that Mauk should fully recover from his injuries. Mauk estimates that he has regained about 80 percent of the strength in his right shoulder and is confident he'll be ready by the time fall practice starts.

He figures the switch back to a passing-oriented offense won't be as difficult as the adjustment he had to make at Wake Forest.

"To switch and do a complete 180 degrees and turn and hand the ball off most of the game and just throw when needed was frustrating to me," he said.

Talk about this inside the RED ZONE



Mauk has only one year of eligibility remaining, but he plans to petition the NCAA after next season for another year due to his injury


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