Cougars’ Keenum shining

Published 12:46 am Thursday, September 25, 2008

By Staff
By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
When Case Keenum arrived at the University of Houston in the fall of 2006, Cougars’ starting quarterback Kevin Kolb immediately took him under his wing.
Kolb, a four-year starter who holds the Cougars record for highest career passer rating, showed Keenum the ropes. Kolb taught him how to read defenses, how to break down film, how to work hard on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom.
Now that Kolb - a second round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007 - has departed for the NFL, Keenum has taken the reins and has become the next great quarterback in the Cougars storied tradition of signal callers.
A tradition that includes 1989 Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware, record-setting QB David Klingler and Kolb.
“Case has developed into a real good quarterback,” tight end Mark Hafner said. “He’s a great leader and knows what he needs to do be successful. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
As a redshirt freshman in 2007, Keenum threw for 2,259 yards and 14 touchdowns, despite splitting time with sophomore Blake Joseph for most of the season. He also ran for 414 yards and rushed for nine touchdowns to earn Conference USA’s Freshman of the Year award.
“Last year was awesome,” Keenum said. “I got my feet wet and I thought I really made some strides as a quarterback.”
Just when he was beginning to get acclimated to coach Art Briles’ offense, Briles departed this winter to take the head coaching position at Baylor.
So it was back to square one.
Keenum was anxious in the days after Briles resigned.
Who would they bring in to coach? Would he fit into the new coaches system? Would they run? Would they pass more?
“I was upset when coach Briles left,” Keenum said. “Any time there is a coaching change, you’re going to be a little nervous.”
Keenum was relieved when the Cougars brought in former Oklahoma receivers coach Kevin Sumlin and then named former Texas Tech offensive coordinator Dana Holgorson to the same position at the University of Houston.
“With coach Holgorson coming in, I knew that we’d want to throw the ball,” Keenum said. “As a quarterback, you want to throw the ball, and with his history at Texas Tech, I knew I’d get that opportunity this season.”
After beating out Joseph for the starting position in training camp, Keenum has thrived in the new offense this season. The gun-slinging Texan has thrown for 1,521 yards through four games and has 16 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
“Their quarterback is scary,” East Carolina safety Van Eskridge said. “He can beat you in so many different ways, and when you look at him on film, he always seems to make the right decision. The kid is good.”
Keenum has thrown for more than 300 yards in all four games this year, including a career-high 392 yards in a 55-3 win over Texas Southern.
The scary thing for future opponents, is that Keenum said he still hasn’t completely grasped the new offense and that he thinks he’s only going to get better.
“I’m still getting acclimated to the new offense,” Keenum said. “I’m still learning what the coaches want and expect in certain situations. Once I learn what they want, and master the offense, I think I’ll be a much better quarterback. I still got a long way to go.”