By CLIFF BRUNT
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Preparing for a season opener tends to be a difficult task for a new coach.
The degree of difficulty increases greatly when that opener is against another new coach.
Purdue coach Darrell Hazell and Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville will be in equally challenging situations when their teams match up Saturday at Nippert Stadium. Because of the uncertainty about how each will implement their systems with new programs and players, preparation on both sides has been more general than usual.
“Football is about probability, offensively, defensively and special teams,” Hazell said on Tuesday at his first weekly news conference. “It’s about probability. You study coverages in fronts and formations offensively, and then you say, ‘Okay, we think that they’re going to be in this a certain amount of time on this down.’ So all of that is out the window, a lot of it for this particular game. So you get what you get, and then you have to go.”
Both coaches are capable. Hazell resurrected the Kent State program, leading the Golden Flashes to 11 wins and their first bowl appearance in 40 years last season. Before that, he spent seven years as an assistant at Ohio State. Tuberville spent his previous three years at Texas Tech. Last season, he led the Red Raiders to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. He previously coached at Auburn and Ole Miss and has a career record of 130-77. He coached the undefeated 2004 Auburn team that was left out of the BCS National Championship game.
Still, both are in unique situations this week. Purdue will have plenty of non-Cincinnati film to study and vice versa. In-game adjustments will take on added importance.
“Purdue is a team we really don’t know a lot about,” Tuberville said. “New coach, new coaching staff. We feel that there are a lot of similarities probably between both teams; the defense and the offense. We’ve worked a lot against ourselves quite a bit, now the scout team is working on some formations and things that we don’t run, that we feel they might run. But it’s still a guessing game whenever you play the first game of the year.”
Adding to Purdue’s uncertainty is the fact that Cincinnati will use two quarterbacks: Munchie LeGaux and Brendon Kay. LeGaux passed 52 percent of his passes for 1,716 yards with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season and ran for 335 yards and four scores.
Kay is the more efficient passer. He completed 63 percent of his throws a year ago with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 306 yards and two touchdowns.
Tuberville said there was no way to separate the two quarterbacks during preseason camp because nagging injuries prevented either from separating himself.
“Both will play, we know that,” Tuberville said. “Both played last year. 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.”
Hazell said he’s not going to worry about which quarterback plays.
“We’re not going to prepare for both,” Hazell said. “But we understand that if we’re in our right gaps and we stay over top the deepest receiver, we’ll be in good shape.”
Hazell said even though the situation is unique, he is relaxed. He said he certainly is more at ease than he was for his Kent State debut two years ago — at eventual national champion Alabama.
“I feel pretty good right now, but it’s only Tuesday,” he said. “There is still a lot of preparation that we need to do. We need to have three great practices this week. But I’m very relaxed because I think we have a good football team. I think we have a lot of good football players in our locker room, and I think they’re looking and seeing things the same way. I look forward to what our execution level is going to be about on Saturday.”
Hazell said it will come down to fundamental football.
“We don’t know for certain what we’re going to get scheme-wise, offensively, defensively,” Hazell said, “but the play comes down to execution. It’s about our execution at the end of the play regardless to what we call and regardless to what they line up in. It’s about what we do execution-wise.”