Commentary: A spotlight on the quarterback battle
With new, high-profile coaches across the board, excitement about Cougar football has never been higher.
The official start to the Tom Herman era is still months away, but in the meantime, we will be taking a closer look at the different position groups on the team.
In today’s game, no other position holds the importance of the quarterback and Herman has coached some quality QB’s in his career.
The new offensive system employed by Herman and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite promises to improve on a group that finished 60th in scoring a year ago, but who will be under center to lead this team?
Greg Ward Jr.
Entering the 2014 season, Ward was taking reps as a starting wide receiver, but was called upon to play quarterback midway through the season.
Ward turned the season around for his 2-3 squad, leading them to a 6-2 record and a comeback win over Pittsburgh in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.
Along the way, Ward proved that he can be a dynamic player in the mold of Johnny Manziel, completing 67% of his passes while tossing 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions to go along with six rushing TDs.
This year, with a full offseason working at quarterback, the 5’11” junior has a lot of people eager to see his potential, including his teammates.
“Even with limited practice time at quarterback last year, he came in and did a pretty good job,” senior running back Kenneth Farrow said. “Now that he has been with these new coaches and learned the whole system, I think he is going to have a great year for us.”
With former starting QB John O’Korn transferring to Michigan, Ward should be the hands-down favorite to win the starting job. Herman, however, isn’t just going to hand it to him.
This former walk-on at Utah threw for 1,091 career yards and six touchdowns in eight career games with the Utes en route to earning a scholarship.
The former Muskego (Wisconsin) High School standout started the final three games of 2013 following an injury to starter Travis Wilson.
But in 2014, Wilson’s return and the arrival of transfer Kendal Thompson limited Schulz to just one appearance and two passing attempts.
At 6’2”, 210 pounds, Schulz has the size and pro-style that Herman looks for, but can he keep up with the fast-tempo of the offense and create with his legs when the pocket breaks down?
Best of the rest
This is a very top heavy group, with only two real front-runners for the starting job, but several young players could emerge as dark horse candidates for playing time should Ward or Schulz struggle.
Redshirt freshman Bear Fenimore is the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster.
While at Westwood H.S. in Austin, his team went to the Texas State playoffs each of his three years and he threw for 3,014 yards and 23 touchdowns in his junior year.
Hunter McCoy and Mason McClendon are also back, though neither player saw any action during the 2014 season.
While the position battle at quarterback may seem an easy decision, Herman will be sure to closely watch his players before the opening of the season, to ensure his tenure with Houston starts with a bang instead of a whimper.