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October 29, 2010When Zach Collaros bruised his knee last Friday evening he was pulled from the game. UC backup QB Chazz Anderson was injected into a dire situation with the game on the line and time dwindling dangerously low.
With help from Armon Binns and Isaiah Pead, Anderson slowly, erratically moved his team down the field only to fall just short.
If Anderson is called upon to start Saturday afternoon for the Cincinnati Bearcats he will be ready.
"Chazz and I were roommates at camp," said teammate John Goebel. "It was kind of when we were realizing that we might not be the premiere starter or whatever. I knew that I was going to rotate in, but at QB position usually the starter is going to start and the backup isn't going to play."
Camp can be a hard time for freshmen as they adjust to the rigors of a new lifestyle and shocking speed of play.
For upperclassmen fall camp is a time for rebirth and last chances. So what if last year was riddled with sideline meandering. A new coach and a new lineup mean new opportunities.
Unfortunately, Anderson was not sensing an uptick in his playing time.
"Chazz and I kept talking to each other, kept encouraging each other," said Goebel. "We both said we were going to prepare like we were the 1A, like we were the starters. Chazz definitely followed through with that. Even though he has been the backup the whole year he has been preparing like he has been the starting quarterback trying to win the Big East Championship."
To compete for the conference championship almost all of these players are accustomed to, the Bearcats must win tomorrow. Falling to 1-2 in conference with two home losses almost assures them of a middle of the pack finish.
All week Head Coach Butch Jones has been labeling Collaros as day-to-day. Teammates like Goebel are not the only players on the team that believe Chazz is ready to run the offense.
Pead, Binns, Goebel, and others believe Anderson can produce.
Along the way Coach Jones has assertively called Anderson the second option should Collaros be unable to go.
"If Chazz is in we have to take the practice field to the game," said Coach Jones. "We have to do a great job of trying to simulate as many game situations as possible."
Chazz himself has been determined to play since day one of his freshman season.
Tunnel vision toward success
"Well Chazz when he first arrived here he made the team better because he was one of these little freshman that thought they were going to play right away," said Goebel. "He was so committed."
The upperclassmen observed Anderson's eagerness, even impatience to succeed from the start.
"I remember him staying up til 1 o'clock in the morning with him and Armon Binns out here playing catch," said Goebel. "We thought 'Why are they doing that, he is not going to play?' But he didn't know that. He was na?. Everyone freshman is kind of na?, because they think they are going to start."
Where some older, entrenched football players would scoff at such an obvious challenge to their position, the Bearcats actually reacted positively.
"Without realizing it he was making the team better because (Dustin) Grutza stepped his game up," said Goebel. "Ben Mauk stepped his game up. And Zach too. I think he has really matured. He has a lot more patience. He is a lot more comfortable in the pocket."
Comfort, poise, and patience in the pocket will be invaluable traits for Saturday's starter. Three of the year's eight Big East Defensive Players of the Week have been from Syracuse.
Cornerback Mike Holmes, safety Max Suter, and linebacker Doug Hogue were all dubbed the best in the whole league for their respective weeks.
More frightening is the fact that UC could be starting a QB for the third time in his career against a defense of nine returning starters, a unit stacked with seven seniors. For point of comparison Cincinnati has three returning starters and zero seniors on defense.
"We do have some players coming back," said Syracuse Head Coach Doug Marrone. "This year those players have been executing at a higher level and that is why we have been successful."
As a highlight of Homecoming Weekend, Saturday's game will be a glorious gathering of alumni gushing with aspirations of athletic excellence. None of these alumni will remember their classmates reaching the same heights as the 2009 Bearcats. Rarely were the expectations greater making the pressure uncomfortably high.
In the face of all the seriousness Anderson will surely find a moment of levity.
"When we are in there and guys don't feel like practicing he will just say something funny to make the guys laugh so we can get ready to go to work," said Binns. "You wouldn't think Chazz is funny because he is a serious guy, but he is probably one of the more funny people on the team."
During the course of his career Anderson has constantly been faced with moments that tested his confidence and his ability. In the face of adversity Anderson still manages to keep a sense of perspective.
"I think Chazz is one of the funniest guys on the team," said Goebel. "He makes moments when we are all serious, he just likes to make fun of them."
His sense of humor has helped others persevere, but for Chazz faith guides him and sustains him.
Continued in Meet the Man: Chazz Anderson Part II.