The Houston Cougars are on their bye week. For most teams, this would be a chance to get some rest. To heal some injuries. To relax. To start focusing on the rest of the season.
Houston Cougars head coach Kevin Sumlin isn't thinking this way, and his players this week sure haven't gotten a bye because Sumlin's not happy. And he's not happy with his players. For while the Cougars may be 3-1 on the season, Sumlin's using this week to make a few changes and rethink a few things.
The primary work is coming at the quarterback spot as Sumlin and his offensive staff work with freshmen Terrance Broadway and David Piland. Broadway got the start last week against Tulane, but that was based primarily on Broadway's having played against UCLA after the injuries to Case Keenum and Cotton Turner and Sumlin's desire to have one have quarterback get the bulk of the work during the week.
But while Broadway performed admirably against Tulane, especially considering his lack of experience and a shortened playbook, Sumlin is using this week to evaluate both QBs before determining who will start next week. And once that decision is made next week that decision won't change for the rest of the week or for that game.
"Since I've been here, we've really been a one-quarterback system," Sumlin said. "I know that people didn't really like that when we got here. Because that wasn't the case the first year. We had the advantage through the spring football and through two-a-day practices and evaluated the quarterbacks. We decided that Case was going to start and we just weren't going to run guys in and out of the game. For a number of reasons. For continuity. For confidence. For reps. Everything."
It's going to be interesting to see what, if anything, Sumlin does to change up the Cougar playbook to suit the styles of Broadway and Piland. Piland's more of a Keenum-type QB who is able to make the quick timing passes. Broadway's more of a dual threat-type, but he appears to have a slight hitch in his delivery that makes it more difficult to hit those quick timing patterns that have been a trademark of the Cougars offense. But Broadway has shown an ability to throw deep, and the Cougars have receivers with the speed and ability to get deep quick.
Quarterback isn't the only position being reevaluated by Sumlin and his staff. Sumlin stated that he is very happy with the play of all of his running backs, the linebackers, and his special teamers. But everybody else needs to worry because Sumlin's not very happy at some of the things he's been seeing, and if he doesn't see what he wants to see this week, then there will be some changes to the lineup next week.
"There's a lot of things that are involved in this program right now, and that's based on the best people playing," Sumlin said Tuesday. "This is a performance-based organization, and a performance-based business. So we practiced yesterday. We'll practice today. We'll practice Thursday, and we'll practice Saturday. So this isn't just a bye week by any means. We've got some things we need to address. We need to be smart about how we do it. And we're not going to wear out players, but we need to practice and we need to get on the same page. We've got to figure out in a couple of areas -- if guys continue to, can't perform at a certain level, we've got to replace them. That's where we are."
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Sumlin's not the type to make empty threats. He's also not the type to let the status quo stand. And it's clear that there are certain aspects of the team's play this year with which he's not too happy, even if the team is 3-1.
The Tulane game is a perfect example. The offensive line dominated the first half of the game, then seemed to fall apart in the second half. Sumlin said he wants the line to be more consistent in its play, and with a freshman QB, and with the team having to rely on more of a running game, then the O-line is going to have perform to the best of its ability at all times. And some of the players admitted to getting too comfortable during the Tulane game, which helped to let a weak Tulane offense get their team back into the game.
"This week is not about Mississippi State [who the Cougars play next week]," Sumlin said. "This week is not about the rest of the season. This week is about us. And we're practicing for our team to get better."
The Cougars didn't plan on losing the services of quarterback Case Keenum this season. But lose they did, and Kevin Sumlin and his staff are searching for a back-up plan that will get them through the season. That back-up plan might involve finding a new quarterback, but it also looks as if it that back-up plan might involve a few lineup changes.