CINCINNATI – Tommy Tuberville is like most football coaches. He’d like to have named a starting quarterback by now but four days before the Cincinnati Bearcats host Purdue in their season opener it’s still unknown whether Brendon Kay or Munchie Legaux will take the first snap Saturday afternoon at Nippert Stadium.
Tuberville isn’t likely to let the outside world know until kickoff just who his starter will be. Not that he’s going all CIA/James Bond/black briefcase on everyone but in Tuberville’s mind neither Kay nor Legaux have stood out enough from one another to enable him to make the announcement. Both seniors have had an up-and-down preseason, mainly due to one injury or another.
“Both will play, we know that, both played last year,” said Tuberville. “I feel confident about both of them, both still have some lingering issues in terms of injuries, nothing to keep them out, but we are going to go with the starter between both of them that we feel is the healthiest going into the game, knows the game plan the best.”
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Kay and Legaux are splitting practice snaps with the first-team offense. Legaux started the first eight games last season before he was replaced in the lineup by Kay. Legaux threw for 1,716 yards and 13 touchdowns while running for 335 yards and four touchdowns.
His biggest issue was that he completed just 52.2 percent of his passes and threw nine interceptions.
Kay started the final five games, including the Belk Bowl victory against Duke, and threw for 1,298 yards and 10 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions while completing 63 percent of his pass attempts. He was slowed by a sore shoulder in preseason camp, an injury that kept him out of much of the team’s final scrimmage 10 days ago.
“It’s not the ideal situation but it is what it is right now,” said Kay. “I know the team has trust in both of us. We both have to be ready to go Saturday, and we will be.”
When Tuberville arrived, bringing offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw with him, it provided Legaux the opportunity to start anew. He started the last four regular season games of 2011 while Zach Collaros was injured, so he’s seen the quarterback shuffle from both sides of the ledger.
Legaux said his lone question for Tuberville when they first met was whether or not the competition was going to be open. He got the answer he wanted to hear.
“I didn’t care if (Kay) was the first one and I was second one going into the spring, one-A or one-B or how it was listed, I just wanted to know whether it was an open competition. That’s what he said and I took him at his word,” said Legaux. “I took (last season) as a learning lesson. I got humbled, continued to work and just go hard every day.”
Legaux has heard the criticisms of his game. That was part of the humbling process. He said he took it to heart when it came to working on his craft. He wants to be known as a quarterback.
“A lot of guys say ‘He’s an athlete. He can do this, he can do that. He’s good with the run with the ball in his hand.’ Well, yeah, but I’m also a quarterback first,” said Legaux. “I came here to play quarterback at the University of Cincinnati. These coaching staff is allowing me to play quarterback. If I have to use my legs, that’s okay, but just protect the football. That’s the main thing a quarterback must do.
“I could say I was that (quarterback) last year but I wasn’t. If you look at the numbers, the numbers don’t lie. I had a certain amount of turnovers and I had a lot of games where I had two turnovers or maybe three. That’s not good for a quarterback. That’s hurting the team.”
Tuberville got what he wanted out of that first meeting with Legaux as well. Tuberville spoke with others who had knowledge of why Legaux was benched and how he had reacted to the situation. Then he sat down with Legaux.
“It’s hard to lose your spot in any position especially as a quarterback so he was obviously a little bit distraught not being able to hold on to it but he was really thrilled for the team and the success they had,” said Tuberville. “I had the opportunity to sit back and watch him and see how the players reacted to him because that’s what I am concerned about, do they have confidence in him, or in any quarterback that we have out there and I see no difference from wide receiver to offensive line, running backs. He is really regarded very highly by all of his teammates.”