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‘It’s his team’: UH QB Clayton Tune’s long journey from backup to opening-day starter

Quarterback Clayton Tune threw 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions during his seven starts in 2019. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Quarterback Clayton Tune threw 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions during his seven starts in 2019. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The last time that quarterback Clayton Tune walked off a football field after a game for the UH football team was on Nov. 30, 2019. The team had just lost a shootout to No. 24 Navy in a 56-41 decision.

Tune finished the game with 393 passing yards and threw four touchdowns, one of which was a 67-yarder to the house that was caught by receiver Tre’von Bradley. In that game, however, he also threw four interceptions.

Then when the calendar turned to 2020, Tune’s role for the Cougars became clear. Star quarterback D’Eriq King, who redshirted his senior season after playing only four games in 2019, transferred to Miami, and the door was opened for the Carrollton native to have total rein of the UH offense.

Soon the Cougars began spring workouts, and it seemed like the team was about to get in full gear as it entered its second season under head coach Dana Holgorsen, when the coronavirus threw a wrinkle in all of those plans.

Houston, like much of the world, had to adjust to the shutdowns caused by the virus and ended their spring workouts early. 

For Tune, the COVID-19 postponements offered a chance for him to return home, and he continued to work out away from the Cougars.

“I focused on what I could do and (at) bettering myself as a quarterback, as a passer and as a leader,” Tune said. “I just tried to focus on not wasting the free time we had.”

During the shutdown, Tune watched film. He worked out over Zoom with the UH training staff, and he was able to get together with a couple of his old high school teammates and continued throwing. 

Now, as the 6-foot-3-inch quarterback enters his first full season as the undisputed starter for Houston, he feels like he has improved tremendously as a quarterback overall. 

On Wednesday afternoon, he spoke with the media as the team gears up for its first game of the season and said that he feels like he is able to read defenses better, scan and see the field at a higher level and also able to go through all of his progressions.

“Year two comes with a lot more comfort and continuity,” Tune said. 

Continuity is the key word for the UH offense. The Cougars are bringing back senior receiver Marquez Stevenson, who played in all 12 games in 2019, senior running back Kyle Porter, who played in 11 and various others both at skill positions and on the offensive line, and they are all being led by No. 3.

 “It’s his team,” Holgorsen said. “He was named one of the early captains. He’s getting all the reps and not looking over his shoulder or anything like that, so I think Clayton is in a really good spot.”

While Tune prepares to start in his first college season opener, he also recognizes the role he is in.

The leadership he is going to have to display at all times during the season, and it is a challenge that he is looking forward to embracing head on and has already showed success.

“He has the respect of the team,” Holgorsen said. “I’m really excited to watch him play.”

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