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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Commentary

Round table: Is Ward’s play worthy of more national attention?


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Junior quarterback Greg Ward,  Jr. made effective use of the run game, rushing for four touchdowns against SMU. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

In this week’s round table, The Cougar sports staff takes a break from diagnosing the games to take a look at the Cougars’ season so far and the Cougars’ positioning for a possible conference title run.

There’s been hype building around Greg Ward, Jr. as a Heisman contender. Do you think he has what it takes?

Sports editor Bryce Dodds: So far, Ward has played like a Heisman contender, by the stats. He’s been running well, throwing well, shown poise in the pocket and been very efficient in his throws. The two things I worry about are his accuracy on his long throws, which can be spotty at times, and the perception problem UH has as a Group-of-Five team. If Ward were playing like this at an undefeated Big 12 school or Big 10 team, I think he’d be getting more consideration, but I think the lack of strength of schedule hurts his chances for serious consideration.

Staff writer Tevin Mills: Thus far, he has proven he absolutely has what it takes to win the award. The question is: Can the Cougars finish the season undefeated and will the committee recognize Ward’s year as Heisman-worthy despite him playing in the AAC?  Trevone Boykin, the quarterback from TCU, is the main threat to Ward as far as quarterbacks are concerned. Although Boykin will probably edge Ward in passing statistics by a small margin, the larger discrepancy between the two in rushing stats could sway a majority of votes toward Ward.

With the Cougars approaching the halfway point of the season, how do you rate the coaching staff’s job so far this year?

Staff writer Shardanna Jones: This is a completely new coaching staff and it’s not even remotely obvious. They are upgrading this team and are serving as a great asset. Herman calls his staff the “best in the world,” and I am inclined to say that they are definitely at the top.

Staff writer Dezmond Ewell: The coaching staff has done a good job putting the Cougars in winning situations. Great offensive play calling has been the key to the 5-0 start, but the defense scheme of coordinator Todd Orlando is allowing UH to stay in the lead after fast offensive starts.

What group has shown the biggest improvement over last year?

BD: While Ward has shown a lot of maturity at the quarterback position, I think the wide receivers group has looked really great, despite the fact that they lost a few of their big play-makers. They were one of the groups that had the most doubt and mystery surrounding them heading into this season, but DeMarcus Ayers and Chance Allen have done a good job of being the top two targets and being reliable to make the important catches.

DE: I believe the offense as a whole has shown the biggest improvement. They are really buying into head coach Tom Herman’s offense and the results are reflected on the scoreboard. After the first five games last year, the Cougars were averaging 27.6 points per game. This year after five games, they are averaging 46.4.

In light of recent conference events in the America Athletic Conference, where do you think UH finishes?

BD: I think the Cougars are either the first or second best team in the conference. I think three of the four toughest teams are in the West division, between UH, Memphis and Navy. Right now, I give the Cougars the edge as the best team in the AAC because both their offense and defense have shown up each game and never missed a beat.

SJ: I initially had Houston finishing third overall, but the Cougars have the potential to win it all. I predict nothing less than 12 wins, with Navy being their only true upcoming challenge. The team isn’t just taking over Houston, it’s taking over the entire American Athletic Conference.

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