Uncertainty on offense line highlights training camp
As training camp approaches quickly and the pressure for a defining season builds, we take a look at a few of the headlines for the Cougar offense.
Greg Ward’s development at quarterback
Last year Ward was a pleasant surprise, performing better than most thought he could and saving the season to a degree after taking over the starting job midseason.
He proved that he can be both a good passer and an effective runner, with the strength of his game coming when the pocket broke down and he was forced to create on the run. His game, however, is far from perfect.
With limited experience at the quarterback position, Ward will have improve at reading defenses pre-snap, something new head coach Tom Herman requires of all of his quarterbacks.
In 2014, he was often quick to break the pocket. While he was an effective impromptu play maker, teams this year will try to keep Ward in the pocket. He will be forced to prove he can operate like a more traditional quarterback.
As the incumbent, the job seems his to lose and he should have ample opportunity to grow under center, but if he cannot perform, there are plenty behind him willing to step in.
The receiver competition
The top receiving threats from the past few seasons are gone.
Only a couple of receivers, Demarcus Ayers and Steven Dunbar, were on the field for the Coogs last season.
While they might be considered the frontrunners, they are both unproven and won’t have a huge lead over the newcomers.
Of the new faces, Chance Allen is the most intriguing.
After spending three years with the Oregon Ducks, he will be eligible to play right away and, despite catching just five passes during his time there, this former three-star recruit will be sure to compete for the top spot.
There just isn’t a lot of experience at the college level from the remaining roster, which makes this position a huge question mark for the offense.
Better protection from the offensive line?
If the quarterback is the most important position on the field for any team, keeping him upright has to be a top priority.
Last year, the UH offensive line struggled at times to protect their quarterback, giving up 34 sacks in 2014.
The offense ranked 98th in the NCAA in sacks allowed and only a 1-7 Southern Methodist University squad gave up more sacks in the AAC.
Part of the equation is a mobile quarterback holding onto the ball too long, but that can work both ways as he can also run away from a protection bust and escape a potential sack.
Either way you look at it, for Ward and the offense to progress next season, the offensive line will have to provide better protection for the passing game.
With projected starters Zach Johnson and Marcus Oliver missing most of last season with injuries, training camp will be essential for the offensive line to mesh as a unit.