For Houston Cougars football, QB competition pushing Lucas Coley, Donovan Smith to reach higher levels

Nov 19, 2022; Greenville, North Carolina, USA; Houston Cougars quarterback Lucas Coley (12) drops back in the pocket against the East Carolina Pirates during the second half at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

For Houston Cougars football, QB competition pushing Lucas Coley, Donovan Smith to reach higher levels

Houston Cougars football quarterbacks Lucas Coley and Donovan Smith are locked in the competition to earn the team’s top spot.

While both have the same goal of becoming QB1, they are also forcing each other to become better versions of themselves, Houston quarterbacks coach Mike Burchett told reporters on Tuesday.

“Those guys are pushing each other,” Burchett said. “They are really supporting each other, but they are pushing each other every single day.”

When it comes to each quarterback, Coley has the experience edge in terms of knowledge of the UH offense over Smith. The Converse native transferred from Arkansas last offseason and spent the entire 2022 season with Houston.

Coley began last season as the Cougars’ third-string quarterback. He rose through Houston’s depth chart and was veteran Clayton Tune’s backup by the end of the season.

“Last year was all about finding comfortability in the system,” Coley said. “Learning it, perfecting it, and building those bonds with your teammates, that has transferred over tremendously to the spring.”

For Smith, his journey with Houston has been much more of a crash course on the offense while also aiming to compete for the top spot throughout the spring.

The Las Vegas native is coming over from Texas Tech. Smith started five games for the Red Raiders last season. He threw for 350 yards, two touchdowns, and rushed for an additional touchdown against Houston in 2022.

“It’s great, it’s great,” Smith said. “[Competition] always keeps you on your toes. You always got to have a good day every day. You try to do your best every day cause the people in the room are going to give their best every day. It makes you want to be at your top game too.”

Burchett said Coley and Smith have similar skill sets, which helps the UH coaching staff because they can essentially run the same offense for either player.

With spring ball wrapping up for Houston soon, the focus on each quarterback in the final days is to put them in a lot of situational spots such as in two-minute drills, third down scenarios, and red zone opportunities, Burchett said.

The Cougars coaching staff wants each play caller to be efficient when practicing, and when they are in the red zone, they want the quarterbacks to put the ball in the end zone, Burchett added.

Smith said he has been working on his footwork, staying poised in the pocket, and also playing with a sense of urgency with his dropbacks throughout spring practices.

Coley has focused on the success of the offense collectively, he said.

“We got to be able to move the ball consistently down the field at a high level,” Coley said. “I feel like that starts with me, and I have to be at the top of my game in the spring game. Hopefully, we go out there and have success.”

With the competition only set to ramp up in intensity throughout the spring and into the summer, both quarterbacks and the team as a whole believe that whichever player comes out on top will be better for it.

“We have two very good quarterbacks, very good quarterbacks,” junior running back Alton McCaskill said. “I don’t know who is going to be our starter at all, but I think whoever it is going to be for the better of our team … The competition is only going to make our team better.”

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