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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Say Hello to the New Guys

Kevin Sumlin has two options under center, neither proven.

It’s amazing what can change in a matter of mere days, as Houston can attest. Prior to Saturday, the Cougars had their sights set on a B.C.S. run, a perfect regular season and a conference title. Case Keenum, the record-setting quarterback, was eyeballing both the N.C.A.A. record book and a Heisman run. It’s now Tuesday, and both team and individual goals no longer exist. What’s next for Houston? A rebuilding job done on the fly, now that both Keenum and Cotton Turner, his backup, are done for the season. The keys to Houston’s high-powered offense now lie in the hands of two true freshmen, both of whom were destined for a redshirt campaign before the position was decimated by injuries.

This isn’t good news. On the other hand, it could be worse: Houston’s offense is so quarterback-friendly that it’s easy to picture either Terrance Broadway or David Piland having success, albeit on a far smaller scale than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from Keenum.

What do we know about Broadway and Piland? As a pair, they constituted one of the most impressive quarterback hauls by any non-B.C.S. conference program in the latest recruiting cycle.

Each has an interesting resume of high school success. Broadway was a four-star recruit, according to Rivals.com, and one of the more highly-regarded dual-threat quarterbacks in the country — with the offer list to prove it. However, it’s not clear — someone might know the particulars — whether Broadway landed B.C.S. conference scholarship offers as a quarterback or an athlete, whether as an offensive skill player or a defensive back.

Piland played his high school football at prestigious Southlake (Tex.) Carroll H.S., they of the spread offense run to great effect at countless F.B.S. school throughout the region; ironically, it seems that only North Texas, led by former Southlake coach Todd Dodge, remains unable to master the offense’s intricacies.

Piland is just another name in the line of Southlake quarterbacks that made the move to the F.B.S., joining Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy and Riley Dodge; the school’s current quarterback, Daxx German — yes, two x’s — has given his verbal commitment to Arizona.

The two freshmen have a different style of play, though each fits well into what Houston wants to accomplish on offense. Broadway is undoubtedly the better athlete, the quarterback more likely to make plays with his feet — this give the U.H. offense a dimension its lacked for several years.

Piland might currently be the better passer; he’s undoubtedly more familiar with Houston’s spread attack, thanks to his high school experience. This is quite a sizable advantage for Piland: even if his arm strength is spotty, as some have indicated, he might bring enough familiarity with the offense to allow Houston to continue running the majority of its playbook.

Of course, it’s worth nothing that when Houston’s back was to the wall, when both Keenum and Turner went down to injury, Kevin Sumlin called on Broadway, not Piland. And Broadway fared well, completing five of his eight attempts for 84 yards and a score, adding 14 yards rushing on the ground.

As of now, however, the competition is even: no starter has been named, with Sumlin likely not doing so until the end of this week — if at all. There’s no rule saying Sumlin has to name an official starter, of course, and could therefore keep Tulane guessing: the Green Wave would have to prepare both for the dual-threat quarterback and the pocket passer.

Say hello the new guys. And keep an eye on this week’s competition, and which quarterback takes control of the offense over the rest of the season. Looking beyond 2010, whichever freshman lands the starting role this fall will be looking at a potential four-year stretch as the engine behind one of the nation’s most prolific offenses.

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  1. Burnt Orange says:

    I know nothing about Broadway but my money is on him. Piland is a knucklehead on and off the field. I do disagree about Piland’s arm strength – he has a very strong arm – stronger than all of the recent Southlake QB’s except maybe Daniel. ( You can add SMU starter Padron to your list of Southlake QB’s). The “current” Southlake QB – Daxx G. has been ruled ineligible in one of the more messy Texas high school recruiting scandals in recent memory. I would have ruled him ineligible because he is named Daxx. Daxx’s Neanderthal father also has excellent arm strength – he nailed a reporter in the head with a 10 pound bag of ice when he was ambushed at the c-store for an interview. You need to bring up former Southlake QB’s Dodge and McElroy in the future – I have good material.

  2. Paul, Piland did not make the UH traveling squad for the trip to L.A.

  3. Rafe says:

    Piland wasn’t an option in the UCLA game because he wasn’t on the traveling squad.

    Paul: Nice tidbit. I’ll have to update that above. It makes sense why he didn’t travel, obviously. U.H. already had three quarterbacks making the trip, one of whom, Broadway, was headed for a redshirt season as well.

  4. Rafe says:

    Four QBs on the trip, actually. Case Keenum started and got hurt, then Cotton Turner came in and got hurt, then Austin Elrod came in and threw a couple of passes, and finally Terrance Broadway came into the game. Once Broadway came in, I knew one or both of Turner and Keenum were going to be out long term. If the injuries were expected to be minor, Coach Sumlin would have stuck with Elrod, I imagine.

  5. Burnt Orange says:

    If Piland was not on the trip, then maybe the decision has already been made. Piland is very talented but my beef with him is he loves to tuck it and run – often when there are receivers open. He was sometimes frustrating to watch in high school because you felt like if anyone could get him under control, he could be playing for many, many years. Still he is better right now than what Rice and North Texas are trotting out each week. I hope it works out for UH – with the exception of the Helton years, they have always been very entertaining to watch though I did not enjoy some o the beatings UT suffered at their hands in the 70″s and 80′s.

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