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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Former Cougars battle it out for a spot in the NFL

It’s a good thing former UH quarterback Kevin Kolb is no stranger to pressure, because his new employer, the Philadelphia Eagles, intends to make sure he receives his fair share of it.

Kolb, selected by Philadelphia in the second round of April’s NFL draft after starting 50 games in four years with the Cougars, saw extensive action in the Eagles’ 27-13 exhibition loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday. He entered the game in the second quarter and finished 26-for-37 for 260 yards and a touchdown.

Philadelphia starting quarterback Donovan McNabb started the game and connected on 5-of-11 passes for 60 yards before being replaced by Kolb.

From that point, the rookie was on his own. Eagles head coach Andy Reid elected not to play backups A.J. Feeley or Kelly Holcomb, who was traded Monday to the Minnesota Vikings for an undisclosed draft selection in 2009.

Kolb struggled in the first half, but picked up the pace in the second half. He connected with tight end Lee Vickers for a four-yard touchdown strike with 4:57 left in the fourth quarter, his first touchdown pass of the preseason.

Saturday’s performance earned Kolb some praise from his coach.

”(Kolb) did some good things,” Reid told the Allentown Morning Call. ”He was able to get into a little bit of a rhythm. He hasn’t had a lot of snaps, and we wanted to get him some snaps in there.”

With that outing, Kolb has completed 48-of-73 passes for 397 yards and one touchdown with one lost fumble in three preseason games. That’s not too shabby considering he’s done so against Pittsburgh, Carolina and Baltimore, all of which are teams with solid defenses.

Kolb has made a ton of progress in his first Eagles training camp. Coaches and players have praised his arm strength, mobility and poise in the pocket. He has yet to make any significant mistakes, and he has been a model pupil for Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

Unless both McNabb and Feeley go down with injury, Kolb isn’t likely to receive any significant playing time this season. For all intents and purposes, this is the best possible scenario for Kolb, who will benefit from sitting and learning from McNabb and Feeley.

There is no doubt Kolb is the Eagles’ future starting quarterback.

And given Kolb’s development, the Eagles have to like where their future is headed.

Survival of the fittest

While Kolb enjoys the security of a guaranteed roster spot with Philadelphia, several of his former UH teammates are striving to hang on to spots with other NFL teams.

Kolb was the only Cougar selected in April’s NFL draft, but eight other Cougars were signed to undrafted free agent deals within hours of that draft. As of Wednesday, five of the eight were still listed on their respective team’s roster.

Wide receiver/return specialist Vincent Marshall (Atlanta), wide receiver Biren Ealy (Tennessee), defensive back Willie Gaston (Baltimore), tight end Rodney Hannah (Dallas) and converted offensive guard Marquay Love (Miami) survived the initial round of cuts. Linebacker Wade Koehl (New Orleans) and fullback Jackie Battle (Dallas) did not, and Will Gulley (Arizona) never reported for training camp.

The final cut, however, will be the most difficult for the five remaining Cougars to overcome with teams having to trim their rosters from 75 to 53 players by Saturday afternoon. There’s a good likelihood that all five could be without jobs by this weekend.

Ealy appears to have the best shot of landing a roster spot. The 6-3, 207-pound wide receiver has received limited time during the preseason but played well in Tennessee’s 28-17 win over Buffalo, catching two passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Ealy has caught several glances from coaches by being a reliable performer in practice. It also doesn’t hurt that Ealy is good friends with Titans starting quarterback Vince Young.

However, Ealy doesn’t appear to be caught up in the speculation game.

"I let my agent worry about stuff like that," Ealy told the Maryville (Tenn.) Daily Times. "I can’t get complacent. I’ve got to keep going out there and working hard every day. That’s why I work so hard. When that ball is in the air, it’s no time to be nervous. That’s what I do. That’s my job, catching the ball. It’s like second nature to me."

Odds and ends

UH junior outside hitter Justine Farmer snapped a string of seven consecutive double-doubles after managing only seven kills and eight digs in the volleyball team’s 3-0 loss (30-18, 30-16, 30-23) at Kansas State on Tuesday…. First-year Cougars soccer head coach Susan Bush will make her coaching debut in the team’s season opener against UCLA at 7 p.m. Friday at Robertson Stadium…. The Touchdown Club of Houston will hold the annual University of Houston-Rice University Bayou Bucket Luncheon at noon Oct. 10 at the JW Marriott, 5150 Westheimer. Tickets are $40. For tickets, contact Neal Farmer at 713-849-9860.

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