Roommates and competitors: Latest on UC's QB competition between Ben Bryant, Evan Prater

·4 min read

WEST HARRISON – Imagine going to bed every night next to the person who's trying to take your job. That's exactly the case for Ben Bryant and Evan Prater.

The two University of Cincinnati quarterbacks – who are roommates during fall camp –are vying to be the Bearcats' starter when they open the season Sept. 3 at Arkansas (3:30 p.m. on ESPN). Bryant and Prater's battle waged on Monday for UC's fifth practice of fall camp.

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"(Their competition) is really good," Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. "I've said it all along, but how those guys handle the competition will be a big factor within our locker room because there's so many other competitions out there that don't get the scrutiny that the quarterback often does. That's kind of the idea behind the 'iron sharpens iron;' those two guys, in particular, have got to make each other better. ... This is going to be interesting."

Cincinnati Bearcats quarterbacks Evan Prater (3) and Ben Bryant (6) finish a session during a spring practice at Nippert Stadium in March. The roommates are in a healthy competition for the starting position.
Cincinnati Bearcats quarterbacks Evan Prater (3) and Ben Bryant (6) finish a session during a spring practice at Nippert Stadium in March. The roommates are in a healthy competition for the starting position.

The two quarterbacks and friends are helping each other as much as they are competing against one another. They both are in a familiar yet revamped offense under first-year offensive coordinator Gino Guidugli. They both have taken their lumps early on, throwing interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns. But the battle to be "the guy" hasn't strained their friendship or their living arrangement.

"It's cool. We just chill," Prater said. "We give each other our own space when we need it. There's really not much to it out here. Just bros being bros and enjoying the time."

Prater, a 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound sophomore from Wyoming High School, is hoping to secure the starting job after sitting behind record-setting, four-year starter Desmond Ridder last season. Prater said no longer having Ridder in the quarterback room has heightened his sense of urgency heading into the 2022 season.

"I think it just revs up everything," Prater said. "With Desmond, you kind of knew what to expect. You knew he was going to be the guy. This was his program. I think the big thing for me is just to try to step into that leadership role that he had. Being vocal, being out there and just coming out and competing every day."

Bryant, a 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound La Grange, Illinois, native, is entering his senior season. He's back at Cincinnati after winning the quarterback battle and starting last year at Eastern Michigan.

"(I learned) just how to lead a team," Bryant said of his one season at the helm of the Eagles offense. "That playing experience is something you can't get just in practice. So learning how to deal with those situations, and when it really comes down to crunch time, how you handle that is really important."

Shown in a game against Central Michigan last November, Ben Bryant said his experience at Eastern Michigan has taught him how to lead a team.
Shown in a game against Central Michigan last November, Ben Bryant said his experience at Eastern Michigan has taught him how to lead a team.

Bryant left the Bearcats program after not being able to surpass Ridder during either the 2019 or 2020 fall camps.

"My whole career, I've always been in a competition, and I'm just so used to competing," Bryant said. "I think that's made me a lot better in return. I'm thankful for that and I wouldn't want it any other way."

While Bryant and Prater are pushing to get the most out of each other, their difference in playing styles (Bryant is a traditional pocket passer, while Prater is a dual-threat quarterback) is keeping the Cincinnati defense on its toes.

Bearcats quarterback Ben Bryant (6), dropping back to throw during the first day of preseason training camp at the University of Cincinnati’s Sheakley Athletic Complex, is a traditional pocket passer.
Bearcats quarterback Ben Bryant (6), dropping back to throw during the first day of preseason training camp at the University of Cincinnati’s Sheakley Athletic Complex, is a traditional pocket passer.

Bearcats defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said having the two vastly different quarterbacks split snaps during camp has helped develop his somewhat inexperienced unit's situational awareness.

"We did some two-minute drills at the end of practice," he said. "You sure as heck better know who's at quarterback because they both have tools, but the tool sets could be a little bit different. That's something you've really got to be aware of."

The Bearcats, who are ranked No. 22 (Arkansas is No. 23) in The USA TODAY Sports AFCA coaches poll released Monday, will practice for the first time at night Tuesday followed by an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at Nippert Stadium. By then, Bryant said, both he and Prater should have a better idea of where they stand in the race to be the No. 1 quarterback.

"I'm sure we'll sit down and see where things are at after that scrimmage," he said.

In the meantime, Bryant and Prater will continue to compete on the field and then show each other funny TikTok videos late at night in their dorm. Bryant joked that he may shave off Prater's signature curly hair while Prater's asleep.

Prater, running his fingers through his hair, said that would be fine.

"I need a haircut, just to be honest."

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati football: Bryant, Prater vie for Bearcats' starting QB job