Cougars’ hunt for new quarterback still active
Former Cougar quarterback Greg Ward Jr. electrified crowds across the country in his four seasons at the University of Houston. Filling his shoes is proving to be no easy task.
Now more than two weeks into fall camp, head coach Major Applewhite remains patient in deciding who will line up under center when the Cougars take on the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners on Sept. 2.
“We got good players at that quarterback position right now,” Applewhite said.
The first-year head coach has a tough decision ahead.
No one like Ward
Between the likes of Texas A&M transfer quarterback Kyle Allen or returning lettermen D’Eriq King and Kyle Postma, it would be difficult for Applewhite to make a wrong decision.
Although Allen enters the fold as the odds-on favorite to take the job, King and Postma have made their case to be placed with the first-team offense. Like Ward, all three offer a dual-threat attack at the quarterback position, but it’s the former quarterback’s leadership abilities that will prove hard to match.
“(Ward) raised the level of players around him. You can say that’s what all great players do, but it was just something about each and every day the way he approached the game, the training room and the weight room,” Applewhite said.
“Whatever the coaches say, whether it’s the head coach, quarterback coach or the offensive coordinator, he responds. That’s the type of leadership that he had for our offense. That’s what we want to have at our quarterback position now.”
Next man up
Allen was highly touted out of high school before committing to attend Texas A&M. The Arizona native appeared in 20 games for the Aggies, where he threw 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in one of the best defensive conferences in the nation.
Using his 6-foot-3 and 210-pound frame to his advantage, Allen specialized in short yardage situations in his freshman and sophomore seasons. He found the end zone three times via the run while in College Station and accumulated 146 rushing yards, albeit while averaging just 1.6 yards per carry.
The junior redshirted last year due to NCAA transfer rules, but spent the whole season on the team learning the system. Allen’s skill set can allow the Cougar coaching staff to take risks with downfield passes that can open the run game for either himself or his tailbacks.
Having been on the sidelines for over a year, Allen dodged the wear-and-tear that King and Postma experienced in 2016. King’s season was cut short before the team’s bowl game after a weight-lifting mishap while Postma suffered a year-ending broken collarbone after just four games.
Regardless, the pair are ready for action.
Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson acknowledged last season’s injuries during Houston’s media day on July 30, calling it a “unique situation.”
“This will be our first chance to really get a look at those guys when they are fully healthy and ready to go,” Johnson said. “It should be an interesting battle. All those guys are unique with their skill sets and talent levels. We’ll find ways to put them in positions to be successful.”
Postma became a fan favorite when he filled in valiantly for Ward against the Memphis Tigers on Nov. 14, 2015. When Ward went down with a tweaked ankle in the second quarter, Postma led a 20-point fourth quarter that was sealed with his seven-yard touchdown run in the waning minutes of regulation.
The then-sophomore accounted for 285 yards of offense and two touchdowns in the 35-34 victory over the 25th ranked Tigers.
Overall, the Katy native has proven his tenacity in relief of Ward over the last two seasons. The 6-foot-3 senior finds success with short to mid-range passes while also offering a constant threat on the ground.
Like Postma, King can use his feet to make big plays.
The former ESPN 300 recruit dominated defenses in high school before joining the Cougars. Although highly-touted as a quarterback, scouts recognized his ability to play a multitude of positions and thus ranked him among the top athletes in the country. King elected to switch to wide receiver during Ward’s senior season.
As a freshman, he proved his dynamic play-making ability by recording a passing, rushing and kick return touchdown against the Texas State Bobcats on Sept. 24, 2016. King finished the season averaging 25.4 yards per kick return.
With Ward now in the NFL, King is trying to return to his former position. Even if he is unable to earn the starting position, Applewhite noted on media day that he expects to use the sophomore in a multitude of ways.
“There is also a bit of a balancing act with D’Eriq being the whole package,” Applewhite said. “He’s going to play quarterback, regardless if he’s starting or not. He also has to play at the wide receiver spot. We want to utilize a good athlete like that.”
No matter who is named the starter, football will be in a good position to once again be among the NCAA’s top offenses.
Even with their diverse skill sets, Applewhite said that it will be intangibles that decide who wins the starting position.
“Toughness and competitiveness: To me, that supersedes the on-the-field tangible attributes, because that really is what your offense and team holds onto in a quarterback.”