The three quarterbacks all saw action in Southeast's final scrimmage
Junior Matt Scheible is established firmly as Southeast Missouri State's starting quarterback.
But in the violent, injury-filled world of football, the No. 2 signal caller is only one play away from being in the game.
With Southeast's opener less than two weeks away -- Sept. 2. at Ball State -- a spirited competition is being waged for positions behind Scheible, the all-Ohio Valley Conference preseason QB.
The three young quarterbacks battling it out got the bulk of the work during Southeast's final scrimmage at Houck Stadium.
Saturday night's session, which lasted about 70 minutes and featured situational work as well as live scrimmaging, concluded Southeast's fall camp.
"We didn't play Scheible very much. We let the other guys have it," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said.
Redshirt freshmen Zach Levy and Derek Gibson, along with true freshman Tyler Peoples, all had their moments Saturday although Southeast's offense never dented the end zone as reserve running backs and receivers also played most of the way.
"They all have different gifts," Samuel said. "Peoples, he's got some athleticism, he's a real student of the game. Levy came out of spring well. He missed some time this fall but he's capable of running the offense. Gibson is very accurate and moves well.
"You always have to have a backup quarterback. We run our quarterbacks. ... really, you want to have two or three ready."
Levy, from Francis Howell Central High School in St. Peters, Mo., redshirted at Southeast last year. He had a strong spring to emerge No. 2 on the depth chart behind Scheible but missed valuable fall practice time with an infection.
"It's not really fighting for the [backup] job, it's just coming out here to compete, when you have somebody on your tail," Levy said.
While the perfect scenario is for Scheible to remain healthy all season and to not require a backup other than in mopup duty, that isn't always reality.
"Matt should do great things, but you have to be ready mentally and physically," said Levy, listed as 6 foot 2 and 178 pounds. "You have to go 100 percent. You don't know what can happen. You have to be ready."
Gibson, from North County High School in Bonne Terre, Mo., also redshirted at Southeast last year.
"All three of us are good enough to do the job," said the 6-3, 205-pound Gibson. "I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to compete, and it's not close to being over."
Gibson spent this spring juggling between the football and baseball fields. He was a redshirt member of the Southeast baseball squad and plans to continue that sport as well.
"I love 'em both," Gibson said. "Football practice was in the morning and baseball later in the day. ... it was definitely a juggle."'
Peoples is the only one of the group a long way from home, hailing from Glendale, Ariz.
"It's nice. I'm enjoying my time here, doing what I can," said the 6-1, 180-pound Peoples. "I'm just trying to learn the offense, like every new quarterback."
Peoples might be a long way from home, but he's no stranger to Southeast football. He's the younger brother of former standout wide receiver Walter Peoples, who completed his eligibility with the Redhawks last year.
"I've probably been here about eight times to see Walter play," Peoples said. "I had a couple of other [scholarship] offers but none as good. I knew a lot of the people and some of the coaches."
Peoples is not likely to redshirt since Samuel said he has moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart in the past week.
"But they're all still getting reps," Samuel said.
Regardless of how the pecking order behind Scheible emerges, the three are good friends.
"Best friends," Levy said.
Added Peoples: "We have a blast at practice. We're working hard, but we're always having fun."
* Highly touted freshman Spencer Davis, who was being counted on as Southeast's primary return man for both kickoffs and punts, is out for the season.
Davis suffered a serious knee injury during practice early in fall camp and recently underwent surgery.
* Classes begin Monday as the Redhawks settle into their in-season practice routine.
"We had a good fall camp. It was a hot camp but the kids fought through it pretty well," Samuel said.