This is the eighth and final part in SB Nation Houston's position-by-position preview of the 2012 Cougar season. Be sure to check out the Defensive Line, Wide Receivers, Linebackers, Running Backs, Secondary, Offensive Line and Special Teams previews, as well.
The last time the Cougars had a football season without passes thrown by Case Keenum, they had a guy named Kevin Kolb at quarterback. Neither Kolb nor Keenum will be taking the snaps for UH, but all is not lost. Not many schools have the luxury of replacing a four (okay, five) year starting quarterback with another QB with starting experience in your own program, but that's the situation facing the Cougars in 2012.
We already know that the Cougars have an experienced offensive line, all-world playmaker Charles Sims at running back, and a stable of talented receivers ready to step up. But ultimately, running the Air Raid offense, they can only go as far as David Piland carries them.
The quarterbacks will be coached by first-year offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt. Nesbitt previously coordinated the offenses of Blinn College, West Texas A&M and Stephen F. Austin, but the 2012 season marks Nesbitt's first at the FBS level. Everywhere Nesbitt has gone, he's had success, and he has over a decade's experience calling plays, but game-planning for UCLA is not the same thing as game-planning for Navarro Junior College.
After year one, will Nesbitt look like one of the game's rising stars, or a youngster out of his depth? Only time, and the extent of Piland's maturation will tell.
It's been discussed before, but let's do it one (hopefully) last time. There are two schools of thought on David Piland's performance as a true freshman in 2010. One: He put up pretty good numbers. His 7.66 yards per pass attempt, 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions compare pretty favorably to, say, the numbers Case Keenum put up as a freshman back in 1997, er, I mean 2007. With the benefit of a redshirt season to prepare for the college game, something Piland didn't have, Keenum averaged 8.27 yards per pass attempt, throwing 14 touchdowns and 10 picks.
The second school of thought is: In Piland's eight starts, Houston went 2-6, and even though the Cougar defense was pretty awful, Piland has to shoulder his fair share of the blame for that.
But regardless which school of thought you subscribe to (or even if you subscribe to both), everyone should be able to agree that the supporting cast around Piland will be night-and-day improved from 2010 to 2012. And everyone will acknowledge that Piland's individual performance will have to be better for the Cougars to be as successful as they expect this year. How much good have the two off-seasons and one season of learning behind Keenum done? Piland has certainly looked the part of the star-to-be during Spring and Fall practice, but the lights are about to come on, and we're about to find out for sure.
The other quarterbacks on the roster are Crawford Jones, Bram Kohlhausen and Rex Dausin. Jones is a walk-on entering his senior season. He has been used sparingly in reserve, and been the holder on special teams the last two years. His middle name is Dow. Crawford...Dow Jones. No, seriously.
Kohlhausen will be a redshirt freshman in 2012, after watching last year from the sidelines. Kohlhausen comes from Lamar High just down the road, was the #30 QB nationally coming out of high school according to Rivals, and has wowed observers with his big arm.
Rex Dausin enters the program out of Warren High in San Antonio. A likely redshirt candidate in 2012 barring catastrophe, Dausin was also recruited by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M (where his father and two uncles played).
The Cougars have a verbal commitment from quarterback John O'Korn in the 2013 recruiting class. O'Korn picked Houston over scholarship offers from North Carolina, South Florida and Central Florida, and recruiting interest from nearly every school in the southeastern part of the US. If O'Korn, as expected, has a big senior season for St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the top programs in Florida, he could see a lot more scholarship offers come his way from power programs. But as previously mentioned around these parts, O'Korn's commitment to the Cougars looks to be pretty solid.