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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Football

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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