- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Butch Jones needed a quarterback.
In his early days as the new head coach at Cincinnati in 2010, Butch Jones needed to shore up his recruiting class. He had a month to get that done.
Jones took one look at his roster and his list of commits and didn't see anyone promising at one of the most important positions on his team. No freshman quarterbacks. There wasn't much depth behind Zach Collaros, either.
He instructed his coaches to begin a national search for a top quarterback prospect that was either uncommitted or willing to listen to what the Bearcats had to offer.
They found a player: Munchie Legaux.
Legaux was one of the top-rated dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation out of New Orleans. There is no pipeline between Louisiana and Cincinnati, but the Bearcats' coaches had connections to his high school so they went to work.
Luckily for them, Legaux knew a little something about Cincinnati. He had attended the 2010 Sugar Bowl between the Bearcats and Florida Gators as a spectator. Though he had made a commitment to Colorado, Legaux was open to other offers, fearing the unstable coaching situation with the Buffaloes.
His phone rang one night in January 2010 on the way to one of his basketball games. An unfamiliar area code popped up on the screen.
Rather than letting it go to voicemail, he picked up the phone. It was Cincinnati calling.
"The school that just played in the Sugar Bowl?" Legaux asked the coach on the other line.
That would be the one. The coach on the line asked if Legaux wanted to take a visit to Cincinnati. Intrigued with what he saw in the Sugar Bowl, he agreed.
Legaux liked the idea that Jones would continue to run the spread and that Jones wanted him to remain a quarterback. Most other schools were recruiting him as an athlete.
Running back Isaiah Pead hosted Legaux, and he loved what he saw. He decided he would play for Cincinnati.
Now, all eyes will be on Legaux as he takes over for the injured Collaros on Saturday at Rutgers. Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1) will win the Big East if it wins its remaining three games.
"Munchie was a big find for us," Jones recalled earlier this week. "We basically did a national search of quarterbacks to find the best out there to fit our mold of quarterback to entrust in the future of our program. Obviously we had a lot of catching up to do."
At this point in the season, Legaux may be best known for having one of the best names in sports. He was born Benton Shannon Legaux, but picked up the nickname "Munchie" when he was 2. Family members thought it was adorable to watch him try to munch on food with two missing front teeth. The name stuck.
He grew up around sports and as a huge LSU fan. Always a fast runner, he played a multitude of sports growing up. But he had a huge growth spurt in high school, going from 6-foot-1 as a freshman to 6-4 as a senior. His size and strength helped allow him to become a dual-threat. He ran for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in addition to throwing for 65 scores and 5,250 yards.
Several SEC schools offered him scholarships. But LSU never did, which came as a disappointment for Legaux. Still, he thought Cincinnati offered him the best opportunity to see playing time. Legaux initially played receiver, but Jones knew his desired position was quarterback. Legaux was locked in a tight competition for the backup job during the spring and fall, and did not solidify his role as the No. 2 quarterback until the season began.
Three months later, he is the starter, entrusted with running the offense.
"I have a lot to take on my shoulders, being the quarterback, becoming the leader of the offense," Legaux said in a phone interview. "Everybody looks up to you. But I am feeling good. My teammates have my back 100 percent. At practice all week, they told me they believe in me, don't be Superman, play my game and run the offense the way it's supposed to be run."
A number of factors should help Saturday. For one, Cincinnati gives equal reps to the starter and the backup during practice. That has given Legaux the opportunity to get the same number of reps as Collaros all season. He also gained game experience under tough circumstances last week, having to go in for Collaros in the second quarter. Legaux rebounded from a rough start to nearly lead the Bearcats to the win.
As for his ability, Legaux actually is more in line with Dan LeFevour, whom Jones coached at Central Michigan. LeFevour shattered school and conference records as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. Legaux, at 6-foot-4 and 203 pounds, is bigger and more powerful than Collaros, though his passes last week sailed on him at times.
Legaux said he spent this week working on his timing with the receivers and on communication with the offensive line. Now he just has to put everything together.
"I'm just going to trust in the system," Legaux said. "I know everything is not going to be perfect out there. I'm not a perfect human being. But if I just trust the scheme we have going on and the offensive game plan, everything will work out."