ECU head coach Mike Houston on Tuesday brought to an end the Pirates quarterback competition. It’s who you thought it would be.
It was announced that Holton Ahlers would be the starting quarterback when ECU heads to Carter-Finley Stadium to play NC State on Aug. 31. That certainly hyped up Pirate fans about the season, but it didn’t take anyone by surprise. Why? Because the quarterback competition was anything but one.
Ahlers attempted 25 fewer passes than Herring and completed 27 fewer passes. His completion percentage of 48 percent was inferior to Herring’s 53 percent. Yet they were almost identical in passing yards per game, Herring’s 178.56 to Ahlers 178.50. Ahlers also threw for 178 more yards, six more touchdowns, and seven fewer interceptions. That’s how he finished with a quarterback rating of 118, 18 points higher than Herring.
That is before accounting for his running effect. Ahlers was the team’s leading rusher a year ago, with 592 yards and six touchdowns on a team-high 119 carries. Herring was minus 67 yards on the season. This is what allowed Ahlers to be a factor in the offense early in the season before he was receiving many chances to throw, yet why Herring disappeared after Ahlers took over as the starter.
And then some intangibles, such as how Holton Ahlers is perfect to be QB1 for the ECU Pirates as a D.H. Conley grad who has been here his whole life, and the way he energizes the crowd and his teammates as a leader.
“I like Holton’s leadership ability. I like the way he competes. He does have a lot of intensity. Sometimes he probably does need to stay a little bit more composed, but I like the edginess and the way he is. I think that vibe feeds on those around him. Anytime you have a player who raises the level of play of his teammates, I think that’s an important characteristic,” Houston told reporters.
Houston and offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick have been saying that you need two quarterbacks ready because you’re always one play away from the other one coming in. That’s correct. After all, Herring started last season before Ahlers took over midway. Who knows what could happen. That’s why having Herring as a backup is valuable.
“Reid has to be prepared to be the starter at any moment,” Houston said. “I’ve yet to go through a season where the backup didn’t have to come in and be the starter. It’s very important for us to have two guys prepared to be the guy.
I wouldn’t hesitate to put him in if the occasion presented itself.”
That’s why nobody is knocking Herring as a quarterback, he can win football games. Nobody is saying he should get out of Ahlers way and never get snaps. We all know the quarterback room has never been against one another, and Herring is supportive of Ahlers and vice-versa, so it isn’t one of those things either. It’s only that most knew Ahlers would/should be the starter week one, so it was never much of a competition.
Kudos for Houston being patient and wanting to see things with own eyes and not just pick up where the previous regime left off on anything, but this announcement meant he saw exactly what all of us saw in Ahlers as well.
So now Pirate fans, and not just his teammates, can feed off of their starting quarterback’s energy as they prepare for their in-state rival.
“Anything this team needs to do to win, I’m going to bring to it. I can’t wait. Things are different. Everything about this program is different now. I can’t wait,” Ahlers told reporters.