Greg Ward Jr. to start at quarterback for UH against Memphis

Whether he's completing passes or receiving them, freshman quarterback Greg Ward Jr.'s versatility on offense has provided a change of pace, making it tougher for defenses to defend. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Whether he’s completing passes or receiving them, quarterback Greg Ward Jr.’s versatility on offense has provided a change of pace.  |  File photo/The Daily Cougar

After playing for much of the second half against Central Florida and nearly leading UH to its first conference victory of the season, sophomore Greg Ward will get his chance to pilot the Air Raid offense.

Head coach Tony Levine announced that Ward would move to the top of the depth chart, replacing former starter sophomore John O’Korn. He will earn his first collegiate start against Memphis on Saturday on the road.

“Greg is a dual-threat quarterback… He’s a guy that can throw the ball, run the ball, and more than anything he can run our offense,” Levine said.

Ward played two first half series before entering the game for good midway through the third quarter. He finished with 116 passing yards and 31 on the ground, but came just short of helping the Cougars earn a victory.

Ward fumbled at the goal line, resulting in a touchback and UCF squeezed by UH with a 17-12 win.

This season, Ward served as a punt returner and starting outside receiver. Markeith Ambles will start at outside receiver against Memphis, Levine said.

“It’s more based off the production that Greg had on Thursday. Again, I’ve said this 1,000 times that football is the ultimate team sport,” Levine said.

O’Korn has served as the Cougars’ starter since week three last season. He broke several freshman records at a school known for its passers. He tops the Cougars’ freshman list in touchdowns with 28 and is in the lead with 259 completions. He is second in UH’s freshman record book for yards with 3,117 yards.

This season has been a different story.

His completion percentage barely hovers above 50 percent, and O’Korn has eight interceptions, compared to only six touchdown passes.

“John’s a competitor. And it’s a position that’s not like receiver or defensive line where 8 to 10 young men rotate. One traditionally plays in our program. We’ve been two (this season) but it’s been 85-15, rotating Greg in there at that position,” Levine said.

“John certainly wants to be the starter, and wants to win and is a team player and a competitor and took the news as such.”

But Levine didn’t completely close the door on the possibility of O’Korn eventually becoming the Cougars’ starter again.

“If you’re asking me who’s going to be the starting quarterback going to be three games from now, I can’t answer who the starting guard is going to be three games from now,” Levine said.

During his tenure as quarterback, O’Korn was 8-8. He has passed for 4,061 yards since joining UH.

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  • We’re an Air Raid offense that’s a lot more hot air than raid. O’Korn is hardly the problem- Levine should look at the Offensive Coordinator.

    • Again, and again, and again, Levine hired Bush. It’s not Bush’s fault. He’s running the offense that Levine brought him in to run.

  • The fans are well aware that this is a bank-aid, a very needed band-aid, but a band-aid nonetheless. THE problem is not O’Korn; it is the Offensive Coordinator. All you have to reflect on is how John was named Conference Freshman of the Year under an OC who knew how to coach him. How coincidental that he regressed under Bush, like Piland did under Bush, after Piland showed great promise as a freshman under the direction of KK when Case went down. What we can truly look forward to next year is a new coaching staff, which hopefully includes Coach Gibbs.

    • As I noted above it’s really not Bush. He was hired by Levine to install a running offense. The guy has no clue how to run the Air Raid. There’s much more to it than simply passing the ball. And all the sets and reads that make the Air Raid run are no longer part of the offensive package. But that’s on Coach Levine. He’s the one who hired Bush. For Bush’s part, he’s just doing what his boss tells him to do.

      • I grasp what you’re saying. At any rate, this coaching staff (other than Coach Gibbs) is not the one for UH. I so miss the offenses that the Cougars were known for, for so many years.

  • This problem started when Coach Levine turned his back on the passing attack that made UH one of the most prolific, and feared, offenses in all of college football. It’s not on Bush. He was hired by Levine to manage the conversion to a run-based offense. And all this after Levine publicly declared “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

    You can certainly pass out of a running offense but it’s not very effective. O’Korn became very tentative and the receivers were clearly not focused. That is because the passing game is an afterthought in a fools scheme to turn UH into a power running game. Well coach, you can glue feathers on a turtle but it will never fly. Shades of Kim Helton. You just saved me over $1000 come time to renew my season tickets.

  • The players are not the problem. It’s 100% coaching. Sumlin nor briles had this type of Talent that Levine has. They are just better coaches. Jason Phillips should have been the Coach. He’s from Houston, played for Houston and ran the Air Raid his entire LIFE!! Levine needs a start at a lower tier school, like Lamar or SFA. The play calling is/was horrible. I understand you want ward to start but i personally think he is a better WR. What is the problem with COSH??

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