Keith Corbin, the team’s second-leading receiver and also a senior, will also sit out the rest of the season and redshirt, the team announced.
King, who set the American Athletic Conference record with 50 touchdowns responsible for last season, said in a statement that he plans to return to Houston next season.
“I came here to play football for the University of Houston and that is not changing,” King said in a statement released by the school. “After carefully thinking through this process with my family and Coach [Dana] Holgorsen, I have decided the opportunity to redshirt this season gives me the best chance to develop as a player, earn my degree and set me up for the best success in the future. I’m looking forward to being a part of the success of this program going forward.”
Said Corbin: “Having the opportunity to take time and focus on the completion of my degree, plus having the chance to develop as a student-athlete is why I have decided to redshirt for the remainder of the 2019 season. Coach Holgorsen, myself and my family both took time to make this decision. Being a Cougar has been one of the best decisions I have made, and I’m ready to take this time to help our program develop for the future.”
King’s father, Eric King, told ESPN on Monday that he thinks it is the best situation for his son going forward, both for his development as a player as it relates to his professional future and to avoid having a “wasted year.” He said returning to Houston is “absolutely” a possibility, but the quarterback and his family will evaluate their options.
The Cougars are off to a 1-3 start with losses to Oklahoma, Washington State and Tulane. D’Eriq King has started all of them; Corbin has started three of the four. If they don’t play another game, both can return for another season under the redshirt rule instituted in 2018, which allows players to play up to four games and retain a year of eligibility.
Houston will turn to its backup, sophomore Clayton Tune, at quarterback for the team’s game Saturday at North Texas. Tune played in five games last season, including two starts after King suffered a season-ending knee injury.
King, who hopes to play quarterback in the NFL, is on his third head coach and fourth offensive coordinator since he signed with Houston in 2016.
“That can take a toll, learning a new system every year and things of that nature,” Eric King said.
Eric King added that D’Eriq is “not real comfortable” with the decision, “but he knows his opportunities are greater later … at the end of the day, sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit selfish and take care of you.”
For those who might view the decision as a selfish one, Eric King said, “Sometimes you gotta be, because he hasn’t in the past. Not for UH, anyway.”
“He played hurt, he played wide receiver, he played punt returner, he played kickoff returner, he played quarterback, he played running back. He’s the most unselfish kid there is, but sometimes you got to be selfish to get what you want to get in life. There’s only one you. There’s only one life. So you’ve got to make sure you’re good.”
King and Corbin will remain in the program and participate in team activities, according to a source in the program. Holgorsen did not return calls or text messages seeking comment on Monday afternoon.
Before the season, Holgorsen expressed a desire to use as many redshirts as possible.
“If guys have redshirts available and they’re third on the depth chart, I’m gonna try to redshirt ’em,” Holgorsen said on Aug. 12. “I don’t care if they’re a senior. There’s some guys that are going to their senior year who have redshirts available, and if they’re not going to be playing a whole bunch, then I’m gonna try to redshirt ’em. That’s how you develop a program. That’s how you build a program and develop kids. We’ve got some seniors who are 20 years old. That’s crazy to me. My average starting age [at West Virginia] was 23 years old.”
King and Corbin weren’t at the top of Holgorsen’s mind when he made that statement, but it seems he’s on board with their redshirting to improve Houston going into 2020.
“This four-game thing, that’s important,” Holgorsen said then. “We’ll green-light guys and red-light guys, and we’ll do everything we can to win the game. But if it doesn’t involve that specific guy, we’re gonna save the game, and if at the end of the year, we can get it to where we can play him four games and gain a year, then that’s gonna be something we’re interested in doing.”
King has thrown for 663 yards and six touchdowns while completing 52% of his passes this season. A dual-threat, King is the team’s leading rusher with 312 yards and six touchdowns. He has thrown and rushed for a touchdown in 15 consecutive games, breaking the FBS record previously held by Florida’s Tim Tebow.
Corbin has caught 11 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns this season. He started each of the past two seasons and was second in the American in 2018 with 10 touchdown receptions.