John O’Korn Is the Houston Cougars’ Next Big Quarterback

Houston has seen its share of amazing quarterbacks over the years:

  • Andre Ware won the Heisman Trophy in 1989
  • Case Keenum is the all-time NCAA FBS career leader in both passing yards and passing touchdowns
  • David Klingler and Kevin Kolb both went on to NFL careers after putting up big numbers at UH

Now John O’Korn would like to add his name to the list of successful Cougars quarterbacks. And he’s off to a good start.

Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Florida (where he won a state championship his senior year at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale), O’Korn looks every bit of a pro-style college quarterback: 6-foot-4, 205 pounds (he says he’s up to 225), and a cannon for an arm. O’Korn chose UH over North Carolina and home-state schools USF and UCF, and he is likely making schools out of the AAC wish they’d taken a closer look.

O’Korn bursted into the scene last year in Houston, taking the starting job as a freshman almost from day one. In his first game against Southern, O’Korn split time with David Piland and went 11-for-15 with three touchdowns. His first drive was an eight-play, 71-yard march down the field for six. In his post-game news conference, coach Tony Levine was emphatic Piland was his starter, but O’Korn was thrust into the role a week later after Piland suffered a concussion that eventually ended his playing career.

O’Korn took the opportunity and ran with it. Or, maybe it’s better to say he threw the opportunity all over the field to wide open receivers.

  • 312 yards and four touchdowns at UTSA
  • 363 yards and three touchdowns against BYU
  • 24-for-30 (including an 83-yard completion), five touchdowns and zero interceptions in his coming-out party at Rutgers

O’Korn ended his freshman campaign going 259-of-446 (58.1 percent) for 3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns. Of O’Korn’s 446 passes, only 10 were interceptions. It was enough to earn O’Korn AAC Rookie of the Year and third-team Freshman All-American Honors.

When asked about the performance of his quarterback in one post-game press conference, Levine said, “he doesn’t look like an 18-year-old that doesn’t shave and went to prom five months ago. That’s big and hard to find.”

That’s all well and good, but have you done for me lately? O’Korn won’t surprise anyone on Houston’s schedule in his sophomore season. He has already been placed on the 2014 Davey O’Brien and Maxwell Award watch lists. Most members of the media voted him one of the two best quarterbacks in the AAC.

He spent the summer as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy (yes, the same Mannings you’re thinking of) and watching a lot of game tape. O’Korn recently told the Houston Chronicle about his progressions:

“I felt last year, at times, I tried to do too much. I think that’s natural as a freshman still trying to get comfortable … I focused on learning defenses, where to attack them and getting balls to the playmakers and letting them do the rest.”

O’Korn will be looked at to not only repeat his success from last season, but to become more of a leader. He is no longer a baby-faced 18-year old learning on the fly. But if O’Korn is nervous about taking the next step, he has everybody fooled. Just check out what he told his hometown Orlando Sentinel in March:

“Personally, my individual goals are just to get better every day and to continue to develop as a leader on and off the field. That’s in the weight room, that’s in meetings, that’s in workouts, and that’s at practice … It’s literally every second of my day and that’s something I have to keep in mind.”

Talk about saying all the right things.

Whether O’Korn has what it takes to follow in the footsteps of Ware, Keenum, Klingler and Kolb remains to be seen; but he’s off to a high-flying start and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down and hitting a sophomore slump.

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