On January 1, 2021, Desmond Ridder walked onto the youthful field at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. He fired up his team in the huddle, called out the opening play of the first drive and prepared to play in the final game of the 2020 Cincinnati Bearcats college football season.
It was a vast difference from the Bearcats postseason matchup the year prior-The Birmingham Bowl-in which Ridder threw for 14 completions and a touchdown, leading his team to a blowout victory over Boston College.
This was Georgia, after all, and the Dawgs represented the dominant aura of the Southeastern Conference. Ridder-along with the rest of the Bearcats-would have to play a near-perfect game in order to taste victory.
The Overall Quarterback Situation
Say what you want, but it was absolutely devastating when UGA kicker Jack Podlesny hit a career long 53-yard game-winning FG to deny Cincinnati from a Peach Bowl victory.
Hopes of an undefeated season and universal respect from the top dogs faded away as quickly as they came. The “little guys” fell one game short of showing that the normal perception of college football qualified as out of touch.
And yet, even a loss so shattering came with a silver lining. Cincinnati, while failing to capture a victory, showed that they could compete at the highest level of football.
That they were not just another underdog, but a true threat to the “norm” of collegiate athletics.
That they were talented. That they were headstrong. That they were almost equals.
And while every player contributed towards that feat, a frontline lead from the quarterback play sparked the fuel for the fire.
QB1: Desmond Ridder
There’s a lot that makes Desmond Ridder so special.
Whether it be his elusive win record or the versatility he carries, the senior quarterback knows how to do it all.
He’s won just about every AAC Award in the book, including the Offensive Player of the Year in 2020 and the Rookie of the Year in 2018. He also finished as a semifinalist in the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Award races.
But the most important accolade comes from his stat-line.
The prolific passer has thrown for a whopping 6,905 yards and 57 touchdowns during his time in Southwestern Ohio. He possesses the highest win percentage among active QB’s and currently stands as the No. 2 overall passer in program history.
Oh, and the air isn’t the only way he gets the ball into the endzone. 22 career rushing TD’s (most by a QB in program history) would speak to that.
QB2: Evan Prater
Desmond Ridder is to Joe Montana as Evan Prater is to Steve Young
Ok, that comparison is a bit generous, but it’s not to far ratio-wise. Ridder serves as the all around loved QB who already has so much going for him. Prater, on the other hand, represents the bright future of a team that will continue to dominate for years to come.
“I’m going up against some of the best players in the country,” Prater told The Athletic in an interview. “You don’t see that everywhere, so having it here, I have to make the most of it. I can’t be scared to compete. God forbid anything happens with Des, my teammates will know that I can step in and lead us.”
The second year quarterback signed with the Bearcats in December of 2019. He threw for 5,699 yards and 72 TD’s in high school, leading his team to the OHSAA Division IV State Championship in 2018. There, he captured a coveted title due to an unmatched performance where he cashed in a combined five touchdowns through ground and air.
The Wyoming HS Star garnered a ranking as the 4th highest rated QB in the 247 Sports 2020 player rankings. Even more impressive, he finished as the No. 3 overall prospect in the entire state of Ohio.
Among Prater’s other accolades are the Ohio Mr. Football award, USA Today’s Ohio Offensive Player of the Year, Division IV Offensive Player of the Year and a 40-2 record as a starter in high school.
QB3: Brady Lichtenberg
A three star-recruit from Toledo, Ohio, Brady Lichtenberg represents the class of local talent for the Bearcats. The 6-foot-2 signal play caller was the second prospect to commit to Cincinnati in the 2021 recruiting cycle. He played high school football at St. John’s Jesuit, throwing for 9,033 yards and 87 touchdowns on 1,151 passing attempts.
Unsurprisingly, Lichtenberg earned honors of being named a top-50 recruit in the highly competitive state of Ohio. He also received a ranking as the 41st best pro-style quarterback in the 2021 college entree class.
QB4: Jack Perry
Let’s face it: Cincinnati fans won’t be seeing much-if at all-of Jack Perry this season.
That’s not meant to be a knock on the quarterback. It’s just that there’s too much talent ahead of him.
Hailing from Mountain View, California, Perry began his college career at the JUCO level. The 6-foot, 200 pound transfer played his first season (only five games) in 2019 at the College of San Mateo, throwing for 19 completions, 294 yards and three touchdowns on 39 passing attempts.
While the college football season still remains a month away, news surrounding Cincinnati grows more rampant by the day. Fans of Down the Drive can anticipate game previews (as well as more position previews) to be released in the following weeks.