CINCINNATI -- Tony Pike had X-rays on Tuesday that showed his non-passing arm is healing nicely from surgery, another step toward getting him back to full practice with Cincinnati (No. 5 BCS, No. 4 AP).
Pike is expected to practice on Wednesday wearing a special splint instead of a bulky cast on the left forearm, which was injured during a game on Oct. 15 at South Florida. The senior quarterback has missed the last two games while the injury heals.
Sophomore Zach Collaros led the Bearcats (8-0) to wins over Louisville and Syracuse, throwing for seven touchdowns during those two games. He's likely to start on Saturday at home against Connecticut (4-4), when Cincinnati attempts to tie the school record for best start.
Coach Brian Kelly said it's possible that Pike could get into the game for a short time, but he would prefer waiting until he's capable of playing without limitations.
"It really would depend on how he practices, because he hasn't been in there handing off and moving on the perimeter," Kelly said, before the start of practice Tuesday. "It may be the case that we think he's 75 percent there, we can't start him but he could come in in certain situations. That's a scenario that's possible.
"I would prefer that not to be the case. I would prefer him to be 100 percent and able to start."
Pike broke the left forearm and dislocated the wrist during a game last season and had a plate and six screws inserted to stabilize the area. He returned after missing two games and led the Bearcats to the Big East title wearing a protective splint on the arm.
He didn't have a problem until the game at South Florida, when he took a helmet to the forearm. The force of the blow damaged the plate, which was replaced a few days later after specialists were consulted about the best way to handle the injury.
Pike has been wearing a cast that promotes healing but limits what he can do. The move to a brace would free him to play more like he did last season after the injury.
"He's out there throwing the ball around, but I'll be candid with you -- he can't go with the cast he has on now," Kelly said. "So this [splint] will allow him the protection and the ability to move and actually be fully engaged in our practices starting tomorrow."
Collaros has settled into the role comfortably since he replaced Pike late in the first half of a 34-17 win at South Florida. Overall this season, Collaros has completed 75 percent of this throws for 749 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception. He also has run for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
If Pike continues to improve, Collaros could be back to No. 2 in another week.
"That's gone through my mind, but Tony's one of my good friends on the team," Collaros said Tuesday. "As long as we're winning, that's all that matters. I think I've proved myself these past couple weeks."