New Eastern Illinois QB shows off poise, big arm in his first career start
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The start to Otto Kuhns’ college career highlighted his arm strength … and perhaps his nerves.
“The first play, the adrenaline was coursing through his veins and he overshot a wide-open receiver,” Eastern Illinois head coach Adam Cushing said with a smile.
Despite missing redshirt freshman wide receiver Matt Judd on that first play Saturday at Tennessee State, Kuhns provided plenty of highlights.
Kuhns completed 19 of 30 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers (0-3) as the first true freshman to start at quarterback at Eastern since Jimmy Garoppolo in 2010.
Cushing said Tuesday that Kuhns will start again for EIU when the Panthers host Tennessee Tech in an Ohio Valley Conference game Sunday.
“He settled down and had a ton of poise in the pocket,” Cushing said. “That was the first thing that stood out to me. He would stand in and make the throws, or he escaped well and extended plays with his feet.”
Kuhns ran for three first downs in the game but was also sacked five times for 35 yards in losses in Tennessee State’s 21-20 victory.
He did not turn the ball over and threw two touchdowns to superback Jay Vallie in the second quarter to give EIU a 17-3 halftime lead. But two third-quarter sacks ended EIU drives and allowed Tennessee State to rally.
“For a freshman starting his first game, I was truly impressed with his poise and how he handles himself,” Cushing said. “He’d tell you there are about three or four throws he’d love to have back. He missed a couple of big plays out there.
“We know he’s not going to be perfect, but we’re impressed with what he did,” Cushing said. “We’re looking forward to him continuing to grow.”
Tennessee Tech head coach Dewayne Alexander said preparing for a young quarterback with limited experience has its difficulties.
“That is a challenge,” said Alexander, who praised Kuhns for moving EIU’s offense through the air and on the ground. “He certainly has a lot of ability. Guys with that dynamic of running the football are the hardest to defend. They can keep plays alive.”
With young quarterbacks, there are often ups and downs.
“It’s like all freshmen quarterbacks,” Alexander said. “He’s going to make some exciting plays and he’s going to make some freshman plays. But the key is he’s going to make some plays.”
Alexander was a TTU assistant when the team played against former EIU – and future NFL – quarterbacks Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo. He joked that he hopes Kuhns doesn’t develop like the other two did in Charleston.
“But he’s certainly got potential to do that,” Alexander said.