Saturday, October 1, 2022

Quinn Ewers named Texas starting QB: Why heralded redshirt freshman was the only choice to lead Longhorns

There are Friday news dumps, and then there’s Texas announcing — through a Sports Information Director during player interviews, no less — that Quinn Ewers, the Ohio State transfer and former No. 1 overall recruit, will enter the 2022 season as the starting quarterback. But while the timing of the message was unexpected, the decision is anything but. In fact, it was the only choice second-year coach Steve Sarkisian could make. 

Ewers served what was effectively a one-year apprenticeship with the Buckeyes after enrolling a year early out of Southlake Carroll High School to capitalize on name, image and likeness opportunities. Ultimately, though, the former five-star prospect opted for a fresh start with the Longhorns as they try to rebound from an embarrassing 5-7 season. 

Since Ewers’ commitment, the Longhorns’ offseason hype has gone off the rails. Texas received an anonymous first-place vote in the Preseason Coaches Poll and landed yet another No. 1 quarterback — Arch Manning — in June. The Longhorns also pulled in top-five recruiting and transfer classes in the 2022 cycle and sit at No. 2 in the 2023 rankings with three five-stars already on board. Ewers even ranks top 10 in Heisman odds at Caesars SportsBook

Following up that kind of offseason by announcing 2021 Week 1 starter Hudson Card as QB1 would have been a wet blanket on the lofty expectations. Card threw for 224 yards against Louisiana but lost his job after a miserable 61-yard outing against Arkansas the following week. After his two starts, Card completed just 29 of 47 passes for 305 yards in five game appearances. 

Granted, Ewers is more of a lottery ticket than a sure thing. He hasn’t thrown a live pass since the 2020 Class 6A Division I State Championship Game for Southlake Carroll. However, his skillset gives Texas more offensive upside in a critical 2022 campaign. 

“[Ewers is an] elite improvisational quarterback who can extend plays and remain accurate on the move,” 247Sports Midlands Region Recruiting Analyst Gabe Brooks wrote of Ewers. “He senses pressure and knows how to react to it. Also willing to stand and deliver under duress and will take a big shot if it means hanging in there to make the necessary throw. Occasionally will take risks – but that is also part of what makes him so good.” 

Card struggled mightily under pressure, completing just 38.5% of his passes and earning a 29.1 passing grade out of 100 from Pro Football Focus in those situations. His efficiency also fell apart during play-action sequences, a staple of Sarkisian’s offense. Unfortunately, that weakness could be a critical flaw as Texas works through what could be debilitating offensive line issues in 2022. 

Mainstay starting tackle Derek Kerstetter graduated, along with longtime contributors Denzel Okafor and Tope Imade. Top returning lineman Junior Angilau suffered a season-ending knee injury during the first scrimmage of preseason camp. Center Jake Majors had a solid first year as a starter, but the only other key returner is Christian Jones, who led the team in pressures and sacks allowed by a wide margin. As many as three true freshmen could be starting against No. 1 Alabama in Week 2.

Granted, no one expects the Longhorns to withstand pressure from stars like Will Anderson and Dallas Turner that early in the year, let alone compete with one of the most loaded Alabama teams of all time. However, struggling to deal with pressure will be a fatal flaw for a quarterback in this offense. Texas needs a game-changing playmaker under center. Ewers is far more prepared to be that player than Card. 

Ewers is just the second quarterback in the 247Sports recruiting era to earn a perfect 1.0000 rating in the Composite rankings. The last one? Vince Young. 

If things go right in Austin, Ewers has two years to make an indelible impact on the Texas record books. There could be some growing pains in Year 1, but Sarkisian had no choice but to lean all the way into nearly unprecedented expectations for the new Golden Boy of the 40 Acres. 

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