Mandatory Credit: Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP/Shutterstock (13630752k) Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith (7) runs from Iowa State linebacker Carson Willich (14) during a 1-yard touchdown run in the first half of an NCAA college football game, in Ames, Iowa Texas Tech Iowa St Football, Ames, United States – 19 Nov 2022
The Houston Cougars football team is in a transition phase in every way imaginable.
Not only is the program moving up to the Big 12 Conference, but for the first time since 2019, the Cougars will have a new starter at the crucial quarterback position.
As Houston slowly transitions from workouts to spring practices over the course of the next few weeks, one thing is for sure; the competition has already begun between Texas Tech transfer Donovan Smith and Lucas Coley.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what that competition looks like, and I think they are both going to be better because of it,” Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen told reporters in a Zoom call earlier in the month.
Both Smith and Coley transferred from different schools. Smith joined the program this offseason after beginning the 2022 season as the starter for Texas Tech. Coley transferred a year ago from Arkansas after not playing as a true freshman with the Razorbacks, making him a redshirt.
Smith played against Houston in a Week 2 matchup that saw him throw three interceptions, but he also led Texas Tech to a win in walk-off fashion by scoring the final go-ahead rushing touchdown in overtime.
The biggest issue with Smith was those turnovers in 2022. He threw multiple interceptions in three games and lost his starting role come Week 6 against Oklahoma State.
In his lone season with the Cougars, Coley did not see much action in games, with the position solidified with senior Clayton Tune, but Holgorsen said he made tremendous progress away from the cameras throughout the season.
Beginning the year as the team’s fourth-string quarterback behind Ike Ogbogu and Holman Edwards, Coley became the team’s No. 2 quarterback behind Tune by season’s end, Holgorsen said. He even saw brief stints of action in three games, but he never threw more than two passes in a single game.
Heading into the Big 12, whoever of the two ends up winning the position battle for the Houston Cougars will be facing a tough task. For Holgorsen, regardless of how the competition shakes out, the key will be for both players to make each other better.
Houston also got a commitment from another quarterback on Monday out of Pasadena, California, in senior Indiana Wijay. The three-star prospect will be a preferred walk-on for the Cougars, according to Fox 26 Houston.
The biggest difference between teams in the American Athletic Conference and in the Big 12 is what the second and third-team guys look like, Holgorsen said. It is why one of the points of emphasis for the head coach is to create competition between multiple guys at every position.
For Smith and Coley, that means making each other better every day.
“There needs to be competition at that spot just like there needs to be competition at every single spot, and I think that is what you are seeing with the transfer portal now,” Holgorsen said.