‘The Word’ Says UIW is QB Hotbed, FCS Power
Recruiting has changed so much in college football with a greater emphasis on transfers that a program such as the UIW might be able to successfully replace a Walter Payton Award recipient, unlike others in the past. .
And why not, the Cardinals have already proven they can enter the NCAA transfer portal to replace a Jerry Rice award winner.
That the UIW will try to continue, if not build on last year’s best season in program history, will be one of the most compelling storylines for FCS this year.
San Antonio-based UIW, officially the University of the Incarnate Word, lost two-year starting quarterback and 2020 National Rookie of the Year Cameron Ward to a trade last offseason, only to bring in Lindsey Scott Jr. from across the Southland Conference to Nicholls and watch him become the recipient of the 2022 Payton Award, which honors FCS Offensive Player of the Year.
Not only will the UIW offense be led by a different quarterback for the third straight season this fall, they will have their third different head coach, Clint Killough, at 29, the youngest in Division I. His first team at his alma mater expects an answer behind center with a move, most likely Zach Calzada, who as a 2021 Texas A&M starter beat Alabama, but will have to secure the starting job on Ryan Stubblefield, who was previously at East Carolina.
“It’s a good challenge to take on,” Killough said on Wednesday after the start of DI’s regular signing, “and I think it’s a bit of a different perspective. Obviously, (Scott) was the best FCS player last year, and he deserved it.
“But I also think that was part of the appeal. Obviously, we became a destination for good quarterback play, and we were able to be electric and be powerful and play with a lot of rhythm in attack.
Changes in the recruiting philosophies of many programs are reflected in Killough’s first signing class. The expected 31 members would be made up of 17 transfers — 10 with FBS experience — and 14 high school students. But it goes both ways as the Cardinals have lost a few transfers in addition to gaining newcomers.
Unsurprisingly, many teams experienced regression the season after losing an award-winning Walter Payton QB (Eastern Washington fell to 3-8 last season after losing 2021 recipient Eric Barriere on a 10-3 team ). But Scott’s record-breaking UIW season last year — his 60 touchdown passes and 71 total touchdowns were FCS single-season records — may have signaled how the loss of a quarterback from elite and even of a deep senior class doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a drop-off for a team.
The transfer portal gives Calzada, who made 10 starts at Texas A&M in 2021, passing for 2,185 yards and 17 touchdowns, highlighted by a career performance in the 31-21 win over ‘Bama. He was traded to Auburn last year but missed the season after shoulder surgery.
Standing tall at 6-foot-4 with an arm that Killough says can make all the throws likely gives Calzada an advantage over the shorter (5-11, like Scott), but creative and elusive Stubblefield, who doesn’t have not seen action in three seasons at Eastern Carolina.
“I also think you need to bring in a guy who, one, is going to recognize (Scott’s success),” Killough said, “and (two) is going to attack him. These two guys, hey, ‘You threw 60 hit last year; let’s throw 65.’ These types of conversations need to happen. You have to be bold in this position, and I think these guys aren’t afraid to be bold.
Quarterback Zach Calzada, in action in 2021, spent three years at Texas A&M before being a medical redshirt at Auburn in 2022. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
UIW’s starting lineup will be quite different from its glorious 2022 campaign, when under former coach GJ Kinne (now at Texas State) it went 12-2 to set the school’s winning record, breaking a opponent FBS (Nevada) for the second consecutive season, pushed North Dakota State’s FCS dynasty to the brink of elimination in the national semifinals and finished with a national ranking No. 3. The average of 51 .5 Cardinals points ranked second in FCS history.
Despite losing two All-America wide receivers with over 1,200 yards each, Taylor Grimes and Darion Chafin, UIW’s new signal caller will throw to returnees Brandon Porter, CJ Hardy and Jaelin Campbell, who caught six touchdowns each.
As the UIW program enters only its 15th season, Killough has participated in nearly two-thirds of that time as a player and coach, including the roles of associate head coach, receivers coach broads and recruiting coordinator last year. His new coaching staff includes five other people under the age of 30.
While younger coaches may be more in touch with today’s recruiting mindset than their much older brethren, Killough says he enjoys recruiting and building high schools even more than the transfer portal.
“Are you going to call me crazy if I say I saw this as a player?” Killough spoke about the growth of UIW as a program. He attributes San Antonio’s culture and status as the nation’s seventh largest city as part of his vision.
“To be honest with you, seeing it develop has been really cool for me. Sometimes I just sit there and just go, ‘Wow, look at ‘The Word’. That’s what I thought it should. become.