If the University of Cincinnati Bearcats and the Cincinnati Bengals are going to realize their goals this season, each must play on without a key component of their teams. The Bengals have lost their best cornerback, Leon Hall. The Bearcats have lost their senior, starting quarterback, Zach Collaros. The question is, which is the bigger loss?
To me, it’s the Bengals losing Hall.
In college football, a quarterback isn’t as valuable to a team as a cornerback is to an NFL team. Remember a couple of years back, the Bearcats lost Tony Pike to injury? Off the bench came the unheralded Collaros, who kept UC’s perfect regular season in tact. Before that, the Bearcats went through a sesason where they had to use five different quarterbacks, and yet made it to a BCS bowl game. Most college quarterbacks, and the group at UC would fit this description, are ‘system quarterbacks’. They are controlled by coaches play calling and rarely deviate from the play that’s called. That why in college football, you constantly see quarterbacks looking to the sideline before a snap, as the coaches decide if the play called should be changed. You almost never see that in the NFL.
Most, if not all NFL team have at least one world class wide receiver, someone who knows how to get off a jam at the line of scrimmage, run the correct route and out-man a physical cornerback. Usually, your top corner will cover that receiver. Without Hall (and compounding the problem, losing Jonathan Joseph to free agency), the Bengals top cornerback now becomes an aging Nate Clements. To his credit, he’s played very well since arriving in Cincinnati late last summer. But how much of his success is tied to not having to cover the other team’s primary wide receiver? Sunday against the Steelers, Clements drew wide receiver Mike Wallace, the fastest receiver the Steelers have. But Wallace is not as physical, nor as disruptive as Antonio Brown. That’s the receiver Hall was charged with covering, until Hall left hurt. And to be honest again, Brown was eating up Hall before Leon’s departure with a season ending Achilles tear.
Down the road, the Bengals will face several world class receivers. Anquan Bolden this week in Baltimore, later another date with Pittsburgh and when the Texans come to town, Andre Johnson. Hall will be missed, greatly.
But the Bearcats, I think, have a better chance of surviving their quarterback loss, because that position isn’t as critical to what they’re trying to do, as Hall is to the Bengals defense. My hope is neither injury has an adverse effect on either team. But history would tell you otherwise.