It seems like only yesterday that the Bearcats were in Memphis playing in the Liberty Bowl. But it has been two whole months and believe it or not Spring Football is upon us once more. Practice kicks off on Thursday and will continue until the 14th of April. Running this week will be a series of posts that will get everyone up to speed on the Bearcats as they start their preparations for the 2012 season in earnest. Up first, the battle that everyone will be talking about for the next 5 months, who will play Quarterback?
The dirty little secret about the Bearcats in 2011 is this. UC won Football games without getting consistently excellent production from the position. For casual observers of the program that was a stunning realization. Quarterbacks became synonymous with the Bearcats. From Ben Mauk to Tony Pike to Zach Collaros, with a little bit of Dustin Grutza sprinkled in there. From 2007 through 2010 UC lead the Big East in passing every single year. Last year the UC passing game was 7th in the Big East and 78th nationally. As discussed previously there are two big reasons for the fall off in production, one pragmatic and one practical. The pragmatic one is really simple. Isaiah Pead was the best player on the team. As the best player on the team he needed more touches. The practical one is also really simple. Zach Collaros was never a good fit for the system of Butch Jones and Mike Bajakian. For two years the three of them gave it their best shot to make the square peg fit in the round hole. For some games it really did seem to fit. But it was always a square peg in a round hole.
Now Zach Collaros steps aside to take his shot at the NFL before coming back (at some point) to UC to get his career as a coach started. He leaves a void that much is true. But there is a hierarchy in place at the position which is a very welcome sign from where I am sitting.
The man that everyone will be locked onto during spring practice is Munchie Legaux who took over for Zach Collaros when he went down for the balance of the regular season against West Virginia. In four games as the man he threw for 688 yards, completed 47 per cent of his passes and had a 5 to 4 TD to INT ratio.
I am not that concerned with the numbers, the sample size is too small to make anything of them. Remember what Zach Collaros did in an almost identically small sample size in 2009? Zach never came close to approaching that zenith at any point over the last two years. That run also set unrealistic expectations for Zach going into the 2010 season.
What I am happy with was how much Munchie grew from those first tentative steps against West Virginia game to the first half of the UConn game which was arguably the best half by a Bearcat QB all season. It was too early in his career that you can't get wrapped up in down to down performance. Far more important is his overall trajectory. When he left off that trajectory was still more or less positive.
What I am going to be looking for, and what I am sure the staff will be looking for as well, is an improvement in his consistency. The question for Munchie in 2012 changed over his four games as the guy under center. After Rutgers it was can this guy ever put it all together. After the UConn game whether or not he could do the job wasn't in question for me. This year it will be about down to down consistency. Because that is what he will have to show for this team to repeat as Big East champs.
I am going into the Spring practice with the assumption that it will be Munchie's job to lose. That may or may not be the case in the Football offices as well. But I expect every opportunity to be given in the spring to the guys further down the depth chart to win the job, or more likely to carry it to summer.
Jordan Luallen, Patrick Coyne, Bennie Coney and Trenton Norvell. One of these four guys will emerge as the backup quarterback for the 2012 season. Which one? No idea. Honestly no idea. They all bring good things to the table, Luallen is the best athlete among QB's. Coyne has the strongest arm of anyone on the roster. Bennie Coney has the most physical talent. Norvell is very polished. But they all have warts Luallen is still extraordinarily raw throwing the Football after spending his entire Football life running the option. Coyne trusts his arm way to much. Coney can struggle with his accuracy in the pocket. And Norvell needs to really improve his strength. For all their varying strengths and weaknesses someone is going to have to push Munchie. And someone should be able to because Legaux isn't in an unassailable position. He is ahead of the pack, but not so far that he can pop champagne on the Champs-Elyses (there's one for all you cycling fans out there)