The year was 2005.
Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France.
Tiger Woods won The Masters for the fourth (final?) time.
Ken Griffey Jr. was named the Comeback Player of the Year in Major League Baseball.
Carson Palmer took the Bengals to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years (on two healthy knees).
And the UC football team made it through the season without needing its backup quarterback.
That’s right; it’s been a decade since the Bearcats have not been forced to give significant playing time to a second, third, or even fourth-string QB. Yet, the Bearcats have gone to a bowl game in all but one of those nine seasons while winning at least a share of five conference titles.
Cincinnati fans have learned that there’s considerable truth in the old football adage that says, “You’re only as good as your backup quarterback.”
“The strength coach said that exact same thing to me the other day,” said redshirt freshman Hayden Moore. “I’m here, and whenever they need me I’m going to be ready.”
Heading into Saturday’s spring football game, Moore is the leading candidate to be Gunner Kiel’s backup next season.
“He’s really made a lot of progress this spring and he’s going to need to because he’s probably going to be our backup,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville.
(Tuberville made that comment before Jarred Evans was found not guilty of an assault charge this week. The senior remains suspended from the football team pending review from the university administration.)
Moore is 6’3”, 193 pounds, and hails from Clay, Alabama where he first heard of Tuberville when he was the head coach at Auburn.
“I was young, but I remember Auburn’s undefeated season (2004) and I remember asking, ‘Why didn’t they go to the National Championship game?’” said Moore. “I was an Alabama fan so I didn’t love him, but I knew he was a great coach.”
But Tuberville was not the only reason that Moore committed to play for Cincinnati in August before his senior year of high school.
“I came to football camp here in late July and loved it here,” said Moore. “I loved the coaches and I loved the campus. We had kind of crossed it off our list because it was a little bit far away, but once I got here I loved everything about it.”
Moore graduated from high school early and enrolled at Cincinnati in January of 2014. He was mostly a spectator in spring football last year, but he’s getting most of the reps with the second team offense this spring.
“I think people are going to be very excited to see Hayden Moore play when he gets in a game,” said quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw. “He’s got exceptional arm strength, makes really good reads, and he’s very athletic.
“He’s making mistakes that freshman make and sometimes I want to strangle him, but we’re getting through that. He’s competing and he’s going to be hungry to get on that football field this season. I can’t wait to see him play and I’m very proud of where he’s at right now.”
“He needs all of the work he can get,” said Tuberville. “You can practice all you want, but we need to put him in live situations where he has to make decisions on his own and doesn’t know what the defense is going to do.”
Moore is also working on tightening his throwing motion.
“I’m working on getting my arm straight back instead of having a little bit of a ‘Tebow action’ I guess,” Moore told me. “I throw every single day, trying to get my arm straight back and over the top.”
“I used to do it, so I know it can be fixed because I fixed it,” said Hinshaw. “And I’ve coached quarterbacks that have fixed it. But it usually takes a lot of time with muscle memory. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s getting better and better. The older he gets, and the more throws that he makes, the more he’ll understand that when you drop the ball down, you’re losing time to get the ball on target. And the defense has a chance to react. He’s getting better with that. He’s not where he needs to be, but he’s getting pretty darn close.”
“I just know that in the long run it’s something that I have to do,” said Moore. “If that’s what my coach says that I have to do, then I’m going to do it.”
Moore also presents a running threat at the quarterback position and the coaching staff raves about his competitiveness.
“The guy has the ‘it’ factor,” said Hinshaw. “You want him in a foxhole when you go into battle because you know that he’s got your back. The kid has been exceptional in his life in terms of how hard he’s worked and everything that he’s done.”
If the Bearcats need their backup quarterback again this season, the coaches sound confident that Moore can get the job done.
“He’s been thrown into the fire, but I think he’s holding up pretty good,” said Tuberville.
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