Long, McNeal know one thing: They'll both play

Updated: August 26, 2003, 4:44 PM ET

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M fans and foes won't know until game time Saturday who Coach Dennis Franchione will send out to take the first snap at quarterback.

Reggie McNeal and Dustin Long are among the curious.

Franchione wasn't above teasing the masses Tuesday about the most asked question since he took over as head coach last December: Will it be the veteran Long, who had a record-setting performance last season, or sophomore McNeal who came off the bench to lead last season's upset of No. 1 ranked Oklahoma?

"We have decided on our starting quarterback. It's going to be Dustin McNeal," Franchione joked.

Franchione can make light of the subject because to him, it doesn't matter who runs onto the field Saturday night when the Coach Fran era begins at Kyle Field against Arkansas State.

"Who takes the first play is a bigger topic for you all than for us as a football program right now," said Franchione, who formerly coached at New Mexico.

Long and McNeal know they will both play in the game, possibly alternating on each play. But not even they know who will have the honor of running onto the field for the Aggies' first offensive series.

"We'll let them know later in the week, Thursday or Friday," Franchione said. "They pretty well know the plan right now. Which one runs out the first play is somewhat immaterial right now. Obviously, only one guy can play the first play of the game, but I'm comfortable with either of them."

Long, a junior from Port Neches-Groves, started nine games for the Aggies last season and school record for a single game passing (399 against Kansas) and his seven touchdown passes against Texas Tech was a school and Big 12 record.

As outstanding as Long was last season, he had to share duties with redshirt freshman McNeal, who is the faster and more elusive when the pocket breaks down.

McNeal played in eight games but he made his biggest impact when he came off the bench Nov. 2 and threw four touchdown passes and scrambled the Aggies to a 30-26 upset of the Sooners.

"We're good friends and we just try to deal with it the best we can," Long said. "We don't hate each other. If we did, it would be a long season. You'd have each one picking at the other instead of helping the other guy and the team probably would suffer from it too.

"We're treating it the right way."

Franchione won't know how he will deal with his dual quarterbacks until the season starts.

"Our plan is to move the chains and score points," Franchione said. "If two of them do it, that's fine. If we play one and he does it, fine.

"I've talked to several of our players, and they believe in both of them."

McNeal is eager to resume his career. After earning a start the week after the Oklahoma game, McNeal sprained an ankle and sat out most of the Missouri game and the final game against the Texas Longhorns.

"The team knows that whoever steps on the field is going to do the job and both Dustin and I know that we're going to play, so it's not a problem" McNeal said. "I'm sure it's more important to the media than to us who takes the first snap."

But Franchione is having fun with the topic.

"I suppose we have to run one of them out there to start the game, though we could run two of them to start the game," Franchione said.

Would he really do that?

"I think I'll leave you on the edge there," Franchione said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index