The hottest question around the Cincinnati football program circles around the quarterback position. Munchie Legaux was pulled from last Saturday's game against Syracuse for Brendon Kay. Coach Butch Jones will not name a starter until later in the week. Being the curious mind that I am, I wanted to know what the other people who wrote about the Bearcats thought.
I asked the man and Go Bearcats writer Paul Dehner Jr, Chris Bains from Bearcats Nation and Matt Opper from Down the Drive 6 questions about the quarterback position. They were gracious enough to answer them. In this time of America being divided politically, all the UC voices game together. The results were very good.
Questions in bold. PD is Paul Dehner, CB is Chris and MO is Matt.
First of all, who do you think should be the starting quarterback for the Bearcats against Temple?
PD: My gut says Brendon Kay. I think when Butch said he brought a spark and mentioned Monday that he showed important intangibles in the game, it illustrates he's owed a chance to show what he can do. And what more perfect opportunity, really? Temple is last in the conference in rush defense. UC can enter with a game plan to run it down their throats, as they have most everyone, and let Kay see what he can do in the few times they need to pass it. Learn what he does well. Ideally for them, they go up by 20-plus at halftime and open the playbook up for him a bit in the second half as a tryout.
CB: It has to be Brendan Kay. I'm not sure how Jones, after seeing the crisp throws and the way #11 picked up the entire team, he can't logically go back to Legaux now. Jones made the tough decision to switch to Kay mid-game against Syracuse and starting Legaux against Temple would send the wrong message to both players and the team in general.
MO: Kay. Munchie had his chance, I just think that his experience as the Bearcats starting QB is over. Jones will play out the string with Kay this year before moving on at the position to one of Patrick Coyne, Trenton Norvell and Bennie Coney, who is among the more talented QB's the Bearcats have ever had.
Butch Jones isn't announcing a starter until later this week. Do you think this matters?
PD: No. I don't think we expected that. They are going to hide any piece of their gameplan to the final minutes so Temple has to prepare for both. Butch may already know his move, but what is gained by announcing it? As long as the team knows, it doesn't do much good to tell us schleps. Plus, it gives us more fodder to droll on about! Win-win!
CB: Temple is god awful and Cincinnati could probably win with either quarterback leading the offense. But Butch Jones is smart enough to know that giving opposing coaches even the smallest amount of information has the potential to swing the outcome of a game. By keeping Steve Addazio and his staff in the dark it only increases the Bearcats' chances of winning on Saturday, if only by a little. And that small margin is something Jones would fight for each and every week.
MO: Not in the slightest. His announcement will increase pageviews but that's all. The timing of the announcement plays no role what so ever in how this works out.
What do you think Kay brings to the table Munchie does not?
PD: Hard to say, Scott. We haven't seen much of Brendon. We know what they hope he brings, which is better decision-making and fewer turnovers. Anything beyond that is a cherry on top. He doesn't own Munchie's speed, but showed Saturday he can still run it effectively. You hope he would be more accurate, but really this is all about turnovers. Incompletions weren't desirable but they got by with them as long as they weren't leading to turnovers. Good teams take advantage of errant throws and they were dooming the Cats. Kay doesn't throw interceptions or fumble, the job should seemingly be his for now.
CB: The sample size is extremely small but Brendan Kay appears more confident and overall "in control" than Munchie Legaux. Mechanically he's just a completely different quarterback; he keeps his elbow up, works through his progressions, and delivers an accurate ball. The thing is that neither Kay nor Legaux need to be asked to carry the offense on their back, not with the way Cincinnati runs the football and plays defense. The problem with Legaux is that he couldn't even manage the offense is the past couple of weeks and that's why Kay was inserted against Syracuse.
MO: Rhythm. If I was a defensive coordinator my biggest fear looking at this Bearcats team would be a consistent Munchie Legaux. When he is on the top of his game he poses threats to defenses that have no readily apparent solutions. But he hasn't performed to that hypothetical level, and has regressed badly. Kay doesn't have Munchie's athletic ability, or his raw arm strength. But he is more restrained, more predictable, and thus, more reliable than Munchie. Butch Jones knows that he can win with the running game and this defense, which lowers the burden of performance for the QB, but its a burden that Munchie couldn't and can't meet. In truth, starting Kay is as much about what Munchie wasn't doing, as much as what Kay can do.
Can whatever is going wrong with Munchie be fixed?
PD: You'd like to think so. Decision-making will get better with time. There are ways to work with his accuracy in the offseason. The biggest concern depending on how this year plays out will be his confidence. More than likely that's a huge reason why any change took so long. You have to ask, are you sacrificing future success to win games now. I personally think that should be done, but rebuilding his confidence will be a major part of his development regardless of how much he plays the rest of the year.
CB: What's wrong with Munchie right now is more between his ears than anywhere else. After losing two straight to Toledo and Louisville it's clear his confidence is shot. And the problem when that happens is that he can't make the proper reads and decisions passing the ball which is why we've seen him stare down receivers over the past couple of weeks. It's also caused him to inappropriately operate the zone-read, misreading the backside defensive end and handing it off to the running back for a couple-yard gain instead of keeping it himself and taking off for 10 - 15 yards.
MO: Probably not.
Do you think that Jordan Luallen will see more time?
PD: I would imagine similar packages to what you saw against Syracuse. He's been successful with those and such a great athlete, it would be a shame if he didn't help the team in some capacity.
CB: I'd expect Luallen to stick to his wildcat role more than anything else. Against Syracuse we saw the "Bearcat" more than anytime all season but I don't think his contributions to this team will expand more than that. Quite frankly as long as the offense is running smoothly Cincinnati shouldn't have to utilize the wildcat more than 2 or 3 times per game.
MO: Yes, he provides another look for defenses and is a capable performer in his current role. it only makes sense to expand his roll.
If Brendon Kay was the junior and Munchie Legaux the senior, do you think Butch Jones would have made a move like this sooner?
PD: No. Probably later. When it is a guys last chance you don't want to take that away unless you are completely sure. But, realistically, I don't think either way would have changed much of anything. The goal is to win games and that trumps most anything, especially at this point in the season. He owes to the other 100 guys to put whoever is best capable of winning the game that day out on the field.
CB: There's a thinker. My gut tells me Butch would have still gone with Legaux because he did get a ton of valuable reps when Zach Collaros went down in 2011. But if Kay comes in this Saturday and lights up Temple I think all of us are going to wish he had an extra year to quarterback this team.
MO: If Kay was the junior he would have started from day 1. Inherent in the idea of starting Munchie is that you have the most important position on the team sorted for two years, which is obviously advantageous for a coaching staff. Turnover can be managed at other positions, you can't manage quarterbacks. You have to have one. Now that the Munchie experiment is/should be over, and Brendon Kay will play out the string. The coaches will have another year of quarterback questions, and a trio of young, talented guys in Bennie Coney, Trenton Norvell, and Patrick Coyne. All three guys are talented and capable to perform at a similar, or higher level than Munchie next year. It would be nice if Munchie was performing at a higher level, but he is not, and the coaches have to try something else.
For the record, I would have asked Bill Koch if he wanted to participate, but the Cincinnati.com private message thing didn't work so I couldn't ask him. I'm sure he's sad about that.
That said, those 3 guys really killed it to borrow a phrase from TJ Lavin. Thanks to Paul, Chris and Matt for participating. They are great and read all of their sites. None of us have the same opinion on things, which makes all of this fun. They really took the time to put some thought into my questions, and that was really nice of them. Once again, thanks to them for participating. Thanks to you for reading.