Veteran QB holds off strong freshmen
Houston coach Tony Levine announced Friday night that incumbent starter David Piland will be the Cougars’ starter this season again under center.
Piland, who threw for 2,929 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012, was able to beat out freshman quarterbacks John O’Korn and Greg Ward Jr. in what was a heated positional battle during fall camp.
“Everyone got better, which is the whole point,” Piland said. “We wanted to push each other to try and bring back that competitiveness that we were lacking.”
Piland credited his experience with the program in holding the advantage at camp.
“I been around a little longer,” Piland said. “That was a big benefit to me.”
A product of Texas high school power Southlake Carroll, Piland acknowledges the benefits of playing for a distinguished program.
“The level that Southlake plays at and the amount that they throw the ball prepared me pretty well for college,” Piland said.
Southlake Carroll features renowned alums including NFL quarterbacks Greg McElroy and Chase Daniel in recent years.
Piland has experienced a bumpy road since arriving at Houston in 2010, playing under four offensive coordinators with four differing coaching philosophies.
“Every coach brings a different dynamic,” Piland said. “It’s been fun to get different opinions from different coaches and how each of their strategy changes depending upon the situation.”
Piland is particularly excited about what new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham plans to bring to the offense this season.
“Coach Meacham has brought a lot of the fun back to the offense,” Piland said. “(Meacham) and I have done a great job of meshing, and I’m understanding what he wants out of me. It’s been a lot of fun to work with him.
“We’re going to have different dynamics that we can do within the offense, whether that’s me running the ball or rolling out. We just want the defense to prepare for a lot of different things. We want to go fast. We want to keep the defense guessing.”
The Cougars have the difficult task of attempting to replace running back Charles Sims, who transferred to West Virginia in the spring. Sims rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns the past two seasons. Piland said the Cougars will lean on running backs Kenneth Barrow and Ryan Jackson.
Houston welcomes highly touted receiving prospect Markeith Ambles, who signed out of high school with Southern California in 2010 as a five-star recruit. Ambles has the size and speed to create mismatches.
“Out of high school, he was all-world,” Piland said. “He’s going to like the tempo of the offense, and he should put up a bunch of numbers, so it’ll be fun. I think he’ll fit in around here and he’ll find a home.”
When Piland drops back to pass, he has confidence not only in Ambles to make plays but in the rest of the receiving corps as well.
“All of our wide receivers can play. ... They’re all going to get the ball,” Piland said.
Piland said the Cougars are looking forward to the challenge Southern will provide Friday, noting that Houston’s up-tempo offense will be a factor in the contest.
“From what I know about Southern, they’re going to run a bunch of different fronts,” Piland said. “They’re going to try and confuse you. We’re going to try and use our tempo and speed to throw them off. We’re game-planning for anything they can throw at us.”
After falling short in the last year’s season opener to Texas State, Piland said, he sees a transformed focus from the Cougars this year.
“We’re just really excited to get the season started,” Piland said. “Everyone’s got their minds right and ready for the season to begin.”