Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux will both play quarterback in Saturday's opener against Purdue, but only because Tommy Tuberville knows they can handle the challenge.
CINCINNATI -- Maybe the situation would be different. Maybe in a different program, maybe with two different quarterbacks, maybe with a different history.
Maybe elsewhere running two quarterbacks on to the field for a sold out opener against Big Ten opponent Purdue would elicit concern from a coaching staff and his competing signal-callers. Just not here. Not at Cincinnati. Not with seniors Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux.
Both quarterbacks will play Saturday and the official starter has yet to be announced by head coach Tommy Tuberville. The new coach prefer to have a starter, but as the situation evolved amid bumps and bruises this spring it became apparent pulling off the double duty would be the best option for now.
That's primarily because of the two he's asked to pull it off.
"These two kids are experienced, they both will have first game jitters but it's not like your putting a redshirt freshman or sophomore knowing they haven't played a lot," Tuberville said. "Their maturity has really played a role in how we have handled this."
For Legaux, few better understand the fragility of playing quarterback in college football. The same kid who suddenly stepped in for Zach Collaros to secure a shared Big East title the final four regular season games of 2011 then endured the humility of being pulled as a teammate salvaged another conference title share last year.
The change in Legaux today compared with a year ago stretches far beyond his shaved dreadlocks. Last year's experience altered his perspective and even through dark moments invigorated his attitude.
"It was an eye-opener," Legaux said. "Shows you its a competition, your spot can be taken any day. I was already a humble guy before that but it humbled me more. Be ready. Always stay off your heels, always be prepared, always take advantage of your opportunity and never let up. I learned a lot those last four weeks."
Tuberville vetted Legaux like a presidential candidate upon arriving in Clifton. He probed coaches, staffers, really anyone with information on how the former starter reacted to the Kay benching. As questions sprayed at Legaux from his new coach, unearthed was a player thrilled for the success Kay enjoyed even if distraught the change came at his expense.
Meanwhile, Legaux only needed one question to learn what he needed to know from Tuberville.
"When I had my sit down with Coach Tub during Spring I just had one question for him about the quarterback position, was it open?" Legaux said. "He was like, 'It's an open competition.' That was all I needed to hear. I didn't care if he was the first one, I was the second one, 1a or 1b had it listed I just wanted to know if it was an open competition, that's what he said and I took it and ran with it."
Despite what most would consider to be an awkward situations, Legaux and Kay remain friends. Conversation rarely moves to the competition, rather both support the other in every way possible and prepare to live whatever role coach decides.
Anybody who believes Kay could struggle with an unsure quarterbacks situation, didn't pay attention to the entire 2012 season where nearly every week the second half of the season he stood on call in case Butch Jones decided to give him a shot.
And anybody who believes Kay can't deal with discomfort playing the game of football hasn't a second of his injury-plagued career where he's constantly practiced through pain of a wide variety of ailments. That will likely be the case Saturday, but no mind. He's played through pain before and will do it again.
"Oh, it's not one thing it's another," Kay said. "Overall my time here just really makes you appreciate everything and how it can be taken away so quickly. Full-go at camp and then something quick happens and there is really nothing you can do. You just have to go rehab it, take care of it and be ready to go."
Kay referred to sharing time as "not the ideal situation" but should be considered a standard situation at UC. Dating back to beginning of the Brian Kelly era in 2007, two quarterbacks have started at least one game every year. In four of six years, the backup tossed more than 100 passes.
- 2007: Dustin Grutza started two games in place of Ben Mauk
- 2008: Grutza opened season as starter, Tony Pike took over two weeks in
- 2009: Zach Collaros took over for injured Pike for four games
- 2010: Chazz Anderson started one game in place of Collaros against Syracuse
- 2011: Legaux started final four regular season games for injured Collaros
- 2012: Legaux pulled for Kay, who started final five games
Maturity and experience allow Tuberville to deal his QB card by feel Saturday against Purdue. The primary concern comes in the consistent details of presence under center and inside the huddle.
"What I am concern about is the timing difference of what we do and how we do it, the center exchange, snap count and all those things," Tuberville said. "But we really haven't had a problem, if that would have been a problem I would have made a decision earlier and said we have to go with one guy."
That's not the case here. Not at UC. Not this year. Not with these two.
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