Bearcats' Zach Collaros on crutches
CINCINNATI -- Zach Collaros maneuvered down the hallway toward the training room, using two metal crutches to support each slow, methodical step. The edges of a bulky knee brace showed through his sweat pants.
Not a good sight for Cincinnati.
Collaros didn't participate in team drills during practice Tuesday, limited by a bruised left knee that could force him to miss a game against Syracuse. Coach Butch Jones said he'll decide later in the week whether to go with backup Chazz Anderson, who hasn't started in two years.
Collaros hurt the knee when he was hit on a scramble during the fourth quarter of a 38-30 loss to South Florida on Friday night. He stayed in the game for another play and threw a touchdown pass, but felt something wasn't right in the knee.
"When I got up, it was kind of just like sliding around a little bit," Collaros said before practice Tuesday, his first interview since the injury.
Cincinnati (3-4, 1-1 Big East) had a chance to tie it at the end. Anderson, who like Collaros is a junior, led the Bearcats to the South Florida 16-yard line, where his fourth-down pass under pressure fell incomplete with 7 seconds left.
Anderson ran the offense during practice in a steady rain on Tuesday afternoon. Collaros was on the sideline for most of it, throwing the ball. He protected the left knee -- his plant leg -- and moved stiffly. He wore sweat pants rather than uniform pants.
With about an hour left in practice, he headed for treatment, taking steps toward the locker room one at a time, using his healthy leg to pull himself up each one. Jones declined to make him available for interviews after practice. He said it's still possible that Collaros could play on Saturday against Syracuse (5-2, 2-1), which beat West Virginia in Morgantown last weekend.
"We've not ruled that out," Jones said. "We'll probably know a little bit more Thursday. Each day he gets better. He did good in individual [drills]. Now it's seeing how much of the work load the leg can handle after today."
Shuffling injured quarterbacks has become an annual thing at Cincinnati. Former coach Brian Kelly had to change quarterbacks in 2007 when Ben Mauk had problems because of a shoulder injury. Dustin Grutza broke his leg early in the 2008 season, Tony Pike replaced him and broke his left forearm, prompting Anderson to start two games.
Last year, Pike broke the forearm again, forcing Collaros to start four games in his place. The Bearcats won all four, part of an undefeated regular season that got them a second straight Big East title and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.
Collaros and Anderson were even in competition for the No. 2 job heading into last season, but Collaros passed him by showing a better grasp of the offense. Anderson didn't grouse.
"It's tough, but the relationship me and Zach have right now, I wish him nothing but the best," Anderson said before practice. "It's been really cool to see him progress. I know it had to be a weird feeling two years ago when I was playing and he wasn't, so it was cool to see him get his opportunity and take advantage of it."
Collaros and Anderson have shared snaps equally in practice, keeping both ready in case of injury.
"If Chazz has to play, he's had the exact same amount of reps as Zach has in practice," Jones said. "The difference is experience."
Syracuse is coming off a 19-14 win over then-No. 20 West Virginia in Morgantown. The Orange had three interceptions and five sacks, one of the best efforts by a defense ranked 16th nationally in yards allowed.
Syracuse figures Anderson, who is the faster runner, would be a different type of threat.
"If [Collaros] doesn't start, we'll adjust," defensive end Mikhail Marinovich said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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