Purdue coach Darrell Hazell will go with fifth-year senior Rob Henry at quarterback this season.
But the Boilermakers don't plan to give freshman Danny Etling a redshirt year.
"We're not talking about that at all really," Hazell said on the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday. "We're just going to play Rob, and if something were to happen to Rob, we'll make that decision based on the depth of the injury. We'll make that decision when that happens, but we haven't mentioned that one time to Danny yet."
The freshman was part of a three-way battle for the starting spot during preseason camp, with Henry winning the job over Etling and redshirt freshman Austin Appleby.
Henry's decision making on the field, and his leadership off it, put him at No. 1. He is one of three team captains for the year, along with senior cornerback Ricardo Allen and senior defensive tackle Bruce Gaston.
"He's got uncommon ability to get us in the right plays and out of bad situations," Hazell said. "When you balance run and pass options with him, he's able to get you to the right situation based on the looks that we're getting defensively."
Henry is a player who waited his turn, as well, through multiple injuries and a 2012 season with three quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart.
His resilience despite those setbacks impressed Hazell.
"He's tough," Hazell said. "I think it takes some mental toughness to be able to sit behind those guys for this long and then keep competing, and that's what you love about the guy."
Etling will travel with the team Saturday.
Bearcats bring new looks at Boilermakers
The Boilermakers will have to contend with uncertainty of their own during the game at Cincinnati on Saturday.
That will include some questions about what the Bearcats will bring offensively and defensively.
Based on tape from previous seasons and new coach Tommy Tuberville's style, Hazell expects a 4-3 base defense and a pro-style offense from Cincinnati. Purdue expects a Bearcats team that's been very successful in past seasons to bring some new wrinkles for the noon kickoff.
Cincinnati has yet to name a starting quarterback for the opener. Seniors Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux are the candidates.
"We're going to play our defense, and we'll play our base defense and get into some of our blitz packages," Hazell said. "We're not going to prepare for both. We understand that if we're in our right gaps and we stay over top the deepest receiver, we'll be in good shape."
Regardless of what the team looks like, Hazell knows Tuberville – who last coached at Texas A&M – will have his team ready to go.
The Boilermakers staff has done its due diligence, as well.
"We've done a lot of research on Coach Tuberville, and he's done an unbelievable job wherever he's been," Hazell said. "So that's going to be the presentation to the team tomorrow. Some of the things that he's done in his past that could show up on Saturday. That's very important that you do that type of homework."
Hazell downplays tough opener
Cincinnati has won at least 10 games in its last seven seasons. The Bearcats are a veteran team this season and looking to build on a 10-3 year that they closed 4-1.
For Hazell, that all adds up to a tough test in his first game as the lead man at Purdue. Luckily for the former Kent State coach, he's familiar with those kinds of trials.
The Golden Flashes played at Alabama in 2011 for Hazell's first game at KSU. The Crimson Tide, then the No. 2 team in the country, walloped his squad 48-7.
There will be some nerves before kickoff Saturday, but with those types of games behind him, Hazell downplayed any worries about the caliber of opposition in Purdue's first game.
"Every single football team that you play is hard," he said. "The very unique thing about our sport, football is that you only get 12 guaranteed opportunities. It's not like the other sports where you get 25, 30 games all those things. So you better be good each one of those Saturdays, and I don't care who you're playing."
That said, Hazell stressed that this is a very important game for the Boilermakers. It could be a chance for Purdue to make a statement against a team that is proven.
"I think any time you can validate the things that you're doing as a new staff, that's good," he said. "That's good for your program; that's good for your players. So I think validation in this football game would be huge."