Questions remain for quarterback as Cougars prepare for opening night
As the Cougars prepare to face off against Tennessee Technological University, excitement surrounding the game intensifies. One vital piece of information remains a mystery: Who’s the starting quarterback?
General consensus seems that the incumbent, junior Greg Ward Jr., will retain his spot, but the reps that potential-backup senior transfer Adam Schulz has been getting in practice has put some doubt in the minds of Cougar fans.
Head coach Tom Herman hasn’t officially announced the starter for the game tonight, creating a bit of uncertainty, but the importance will be placed not only on the starting quarterback, but the entire offense as a whole.
The Cougars return just six players who started last year’s opening game along the offensive side of the ball, which means inexperience in the starting lineup could be a problem for UH.
The other concern is the lack of experience at the college level the two premier names have.
Ward took over the starting quarterback job in the sixth game of last season, tallying eight starts for his career at Houston.
Even with limited experience, Ward has had a successful tenure so far, leading the team to a 6-2 record in his time at the helm.
Ward is a scrambling quarterback, adept at making things happen outside of the pocket and on the move.
One of the more worrisome aspects about that is that teams in the American Athletic Conference now have more time and film to game plan for his play style.
Ward still has the ability to a dynamic force for the Cougars, but in Herman’s system, Ward will have to prove he can be more reliable with his arm within the pocket and not look to run as a first option.
For his career at the University of Utah, Schulz appeared in just eight career games, tallying over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns.
The inexperience with the collegiate game might hinder Schulz, but he has impressed the coaching staff in the preseason, and brings a bit more of a gun-slinger mentality, standing taller in the pocket at 6’2”, as compared to Ward’s 5’11”.
Another group where lack of experience could be harmful for the Cougars is in the wide receiving corps.
The Cougars return only two receivers from last year squad who saw substantial time, in junior Demarcus Ayers and sophomore Steven Dunbar.
Ayers started eight games last season and appeared in all 13 games but registered 33 receptions all season.
In his true freshman season, Dunbar played in every game of the year for the Cougars, hauling in 19 receptions for 273 yards.
The Cougars also added transfer Chance Allen to the team this offseason.
Allen comes in from the University of Oregon, where he had limited playing time behind a deep position group.
Herman and the coaching staff will be hoping for the type of production Allen promised as a three-star recruit out of high school.
Beyond those three receivers, the Cougars will be looking to a group of untested freshman and sophomore to step up.
It’s not all bad news for the Cougars, however, as the offensive line and running backs will provide stability on the offensive side.
The defense returns largely intact, beyond a few departures along the defensive line.
The secondary, a strong point for the Cougars for the past few years, returns senior safeties Adrian McDonald and Trevon Stewart, as well as senior lock-down corner William Jackson III.
Tonight will prove to be interesting, as Herman and the Cougars will debut new offensive and defensive schemes to a home crowd which has strong potential to be a total sellout.