In contrast to the Dr. Pepper commercial with the quarterback being drawn into the transfer portal, East Carolina has been pulling quarterbacks out on the other side.
ECU continues to delve into the ever-widening portal to address personnel needs following a 2-10 season in 2023.
The Pirates landed a pair of Power Five transfers this week, including a quarterback who will be a welcome addition to that room after an obvious lack of leadership and productivity following the exit of Holton Ahlers, who completed his eligibility after an 8-5 season in 2022.
Katin Houser has already enrolled at ECU after gaining experience at Michigan State with starts in the last seven games last year.
New offensive coordinator John David Baker looks to have five scholarship quarterbacks to work with in his first season with the Pirates, including signee Cole Hodge of Christian Academy of Louisville.
Jake Garcia announced recently he was coming aboard after stops at Miami and Missouri.
Spring ball and preseason camp certainly should be interesting for Pirate Nation and highly competitive among the components of offensive leadership.
Houser and Garcia both have starting experience that was lacking last season.
Highly-regarded Mason Garcia had just one start against Navy as a true freshman in 2020 before opening the 2023 campaign at eventual national champion Michigan, not exactly an ideal situation to develop confidence. .
Garcia gave way to Alex Flinn as 2023 progressed.
There is the possibility that Flinn will learn from his experience last year and manifest improvement going forward. Raheim Jeter may be the top running threat in the group.
Pirates coach Mike Houston has said that no one is “anointed” in terms of the quarterback position and continual position competition is a cornerstone of his philosophy.
Here’s how the QB competition shapes up in terms of background and experience:
Houser was a 4-star prospect coming out of St. John Bosco in Bellflower, CA, which also produced former Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, now at Florida State after a year at Oregon State. Nomar Garciaparra and Evan Longoria have gone on to Major League Baseball stardom from the prestigious all-male Roman Catholic institution.
Houser initially committed to Boise State on April 1, 2021. He canceled camps at Duke and North Carolina after casting his lot with the Broncos.
Houser decommitted from Boise after recruiting interest expanded. He committed to Michigan State in late June of 2021.
He saw action in one game in 2022 as a true freshman for the Spartans, completing one of two passes for two yards with a 13-yard run for a first down in a 52-0 win over Akron.
Michigan State experienced coaching turbulence in 2023 with the suspension of Mel Tucker after two games and subsequent dismissal. Harlon Barnett was named interim coach.
Houser completed 112 of 191 passes for 1,130 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions last year. The Spartans were 4-8 overall and 2-7 in the Big Ten.
Like Houser, Garcia was rated a 4-star prospect when he came out of Grayson High School in Loganville, GA. His offers included Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oregon, Southern California, Tennessee and Texas.
He chose Miami of Florida.
In his redshirt freshman season with the Hurricanes in 2022, Garcia played in eight games, completing 68 of 115 passes for 803 yards with five touchdowns.
In his first collegiate start at Virginia in 2022, Miami won, 14-12, in four overtimes. Garcia completed 15 of 31 for 125 yards.
Garcia, a native of Whittier, CA, where Richard Nixon spent much of his youth, hit the portal and wound up at Missouri, where he didn’t play in 2023.
Garcia and Houser each played on state championship football teams and its hard to put a value on winning experience. Houser may be more effective as a runner, but both appear capable of implementing the vertical passing game that Baker intends to install.
Portal additions in the receiving corps and the offensive line should complement whoever emerges from the upcoming quarterback competition.
To wit, the Pirates added a commitment from tight end Chad Kelly this week. An alumnus of Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, Kelly is the younger brother of former Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly and nephew of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.
Baker was co-offensive coordinator at Ole Miss before leaving for ECU.
Kelly saw action in 13 games for Oregon last season after transferring from Ole Miss. He had five catches for 43 yards with two touchdowns in 2023.
ECU’s defensive unit appears capable of sustaining an above average level of play from 2023, so the question marks relate to the offense.
The Pirates have actively addressed the voids that were evident last year.