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John O'Korn, a true freshman, will make first start for Houston

Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY Sports
Houston freshman QB John O'Korn will be elevated to the starting lineup because of an injury to David Piland.

Houston true freshman quarterback John O'Korn will get his first start in Saturday's annual rivalry game with Rice.

O'Korn (6-feet-4, 205 pounds) has played extensively in the first two games and will get the start against the Owls because usual starter David Piland suffered a concussion in Houston's most recent game, a Sept. 7 victory over Temple.

O'Korn, who led perennial power Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas to a state high school title last fall and was a first-team all-state selection, was the centerpiece of Houston's 2013 recruiting class. He chose the Cougars over, among others, Louisville, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

O'Korn, a solid athlete with a good arm and a high football IQ, is 34-of-46 for 340 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions this season.

"I feel like he's prepared," Houston coach Tony Levine told the Houston Chronicle about O'Korn. "It will be fun watching him play."

Piland has not practiced since the concussion and could return next week, though if O'Korn plays well Saturday, the job likely remains his even if Piland is healthy because O'Korn's upside is bigger than Piland's.

O'Korn already seems to have developed a good rapport with sophomore wide receiver Deontay Greenberry (6-3, 198), who was the crown jewel of Houston's 2012 recruiting class. Greenberry was a consensus top-10 receiver nationally in that recruiting cycle and originally committed to Notre Dame before signing with the Cougars. Greenberry has worked a lot in the slot this season and has proved to be a natural at that spot. He has 20 receptions for 235 yards and a TD.

Houston's new backup is well-traveled junior Billy Cosh, who began his career at Kansas State before transferring to James Madison, a junior college and finally Houston. His dad is former longtime college assistant Chris Cosh.

Meanwhile, Rice could be without its starting quarterback, too. Senior Taylor McHargue (6-2, 215) suffered through what is being called concussion-like symptoms in last week's win at Kansas. Sophomore Driphus Jackson (6-0, 205) would make his second career start if McHargue can't go. Jackson's first start came last season against Houston after McHargue was hurt the week before.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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