New Houston Cougars head coach Tom Herman has coached some quality quarterbacks in his career, most notably during the coaching job he did in 2014-15 season to help Ohio State win the first ever CFP National Championship. This past season, the Buckeyes lost their Heisman Trophy candidate in Braxton Miller two weeks before the season began, so Herman had to focus on getting freshman J.T. Barrett ready for the schedule as quickly as possible. When Barrett went down in the final regular season game of the season against Michigan, Herman was called upon to get his third string QB ready for the Big 10 Championship, and ultimately the College Football Playoff against Alabama and Oregon.
At Houston, Herman has a bit of a new challenge, albeit a good one. Greg Ward Jr. is set to take the reins as QB-1 in the system. Ward started the 2014 campaign as a wide receiver for the Cougars before making the move to quarterback midway through the season. The 5'11" sophomore completed 67% of his passes a year ago with 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions and six rushing TDs.
Ward is the perfect QB for the Tom Herman system as he fits the mold of the type of player he usually coaches (again, See Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett). Ward is a good passer (67%), but he can also run, and he is extremely shifty. He fits the Johnny Manziel mold of quarterback although I think that Ward might rely a little less on a heave-ho to a (hopefully) open receiver down field. Ward keeps his eyes down field even while scrambling, and is fairly successful when throwing on the run. Like Manziel, Greg Ward Jr. has the ability to run, or juke, past anyone. He has the speed to outrun most corners he will face, and has the added ability of throwing on the run when in trouble. Add to that the fact that he can extend plays, as well as throw one heck of a deep ball, and he is the very definition of a dual-threat quarterback.
Ward isn't perfect though, and there are things that he needs to work on in the summer. Other qualities that you will notice when watching film of Herman products like Miller and Barrett, are the things that don't show up on the box score. All of Herman's Ohio State QBs have the ability to read the defense and decipher what is coming before the ball is snapped. Also, while all of the Buckeyes' quarterbacks can run. They don't feel the need to run. Herman doesn't turn them into pro set signal callers, but they all have the ability to operate within the pocket. While Ward can stay in the pocket, he generally breaks the pocket really quickly instead of operating within it. This is partially due to the offensive line, or a blitz making him scramble, but he will need to be able to operate the full offense from within the pocket at times as well as scramble. Ward is very good at outrunning opponents when he has the ball in his hands, but now opposing teams have his film and will be looking for ways to keep him in the pocket or force him to hand the ball off.
Not all coaches walk into a situation like the one that awaited Tom Herman at the University of Houston. Herman likes duel threat quarterbacks that can run as well as pass and that's what he has in Greg Ward Jr. Remember, Ward is just a sophomore, so he seemingly has three more seasonss to learn under Herman and Major Applewhite (a pretty good QB and coach in his own right). For the Cougars, you have the QB and the coach to lead your team this season in what could be a very successful season in downtown Houston. Many are saying this team has a chance to win the American Athletic Conference this season. It all starts with the play that they will get from the QB position, and the Cougars have a good one.