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

There are news dumps on Friday, and then there’s the announcement from Texas — via the sports information director during player interviews, no less — that Ohio State transfer and former No. 1 overall pick Quinn Ewers will enter the 2022 season as the starting quarterback. But while the timing of the announcement 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 take advantage of the 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.

After Ewers’ commitment, the Longhorns’ offseason hype went off the rails. Texas received an anonymous first-place vote in the preseason coaches poll and landed another No. 1 quarterback — Arch Manning — in June. The Longhorns also ranked among the 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 in the top 10 in Heisman odds at Caesars SportsBook.

Continuing that offseason form by announcing Hudson Card’s 2021 starting Week 1 as the QB1 would have been a wet blanket on high 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 games.

Of course, Ewers is more of a lottery ticket than a sure thing. He hasn’t thrown a live pass since the Class 6A Division I state championship game for Southlake Carroll in 2020. However, his skill set gives Texas more offensive upside in a critical 2022 campaign.

“[Ewers is an] an elite improvisational quarterback who can extend plays and stay accurate on the move,” 247Sports Midlands Region recruiting analyst Gabe Brooks wrote of Ewers. “He senses pressure and knows how to respond to it. Also willing to stand up and deliver under duress and will take a big hit if it means hanging in there to make the necessary throw. I’ll take risks from time to time – but that’s also part of what makes it so good.”

Card struggled mightily under pressure, completing just 38.5 percent of his passes and earning a 29.1 passer rating out of 100 from Pro Football Focus in those situations. His effectiveness also fell apart during action sequences, a staple of Sarkeesian’s offense. Unfortunately, that weakness could prove to be a critical flaw as Texas works through what could be debilitating offensive line issues in 2022.

Derek Kerstetter graduated, along with longtime collaborators 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 start against No. 1 Alabama in Week 2.

Of course, no one expects the Longhorns to withstand the pressure of stars like Will Anderson and Dallas Turner early in the year, let alone compete with one of the top-heavy Alabama teams of all time. However, struggling to handle pressure will be a fatal flaw for a quarterback in this offense. Texas needs a game-changing playmaker under center. Ewers is much 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 Composite rating. The last one? Vince Young.

If things go well in Austin, Ewers has two years to make an indelible impact on the Texas record books. There could have been some growth issues in Year 1, but Sarkisian had no choice but to lean right into almost unprecedented expectations for the new Golden Boy of the 40 acres.

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