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Longhorns pledge Sam Ehlinger a season away from becoming the No. 1 QB in Texas

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An incredible junior season changed the narrative around 2017 quarterback recruiting for the ‘Horns.

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Sam Ehlinger
Wescott Eberts (SB Nation)

If uncertainly at quarterback remains following head coach Charlie Strong’s third campaign on the Forty Acres, the answer may be found in the local Austin Westlake product, Sam Ehlinger.

Until proven otherwise outside of a controlled team scrimmage, the Texas Longhorns are yet to find the long-term solution at quarterback. Tyrone Swoopes graduates following the 2016 season, but hasn’t looked up to the task, in any case. There’s doubt surrounding Jerrod Heard’s potential emergence after missing the majority of spring practice with a shoulder injury. Shane Buechele, on the other hand, boldly staked his claim in the discussion during Texas’ spring game, but has much to prove before being deemed the next great Longhorns quarterback.

In Power Five football, prominence is largely found in recruiting, and Texas’ quest for a championship-caliber quarterback has proven unrewarding since Colt McCoy’s departure. While it remains to be seen if Buechele can end what’s become greater than a half-decade-long quarterback search, there’s every plausible reason to believe the hunt ends when Ehlinger arrives on campus as an early enrollee.

Though the premise may appear premature, the proof is in the passing — Ehlinger has greatness written all over him. Luckily for the Longhorns, he’s been on board since last July.

At the time, the belief was that Texas, once again, missed on premier quarterback talent within the state’s borders. Prior to what became a monstrous junior season, Ehlinger was widely considered a mid three-star prospect, trailing DeSoto’s Shawn Robinson, San Antonio Reagan’s Kellen Mond and Mesquite’s Chris Robison.

Robinson and Robison would commit to TCU and Oklahoma, respectively, on the same day — June 26, 2015. The following afternoon, Mond committed to Baylor, although, the San Antonio product is no longer in Texas after transferring to IMG Academy in Florida following his junior season.

The expectation was always that Ehlinger would become a Longhorn, but at the time, he didn’t own an elite label and consequently, criticism was aimed at Texas’ ability to land top in-state talent at a position of dire need and utter importance.

A year later, the conversation has a drastically different tone. Recruiting services have varied stances, with 247Sports and Scout listing Ehlinger as the No. 2 quarterback in Texas, while Rivals and ESPN lists the future ‘Horn No. 4 and No. 5 in the state, respectively, trailing Robison, Mond, Robinson and for ESPN, even Notre Dame commit Avery Davis ranks higher.

But if numbers never lie, Ehlinger is the truth.

Throughout his 16 games for Austin Westlake, Ehlinger put up nothing short of video game-like numbers, compiling 3,833 yards and 50 touchdowns through the air, complimented by 1,360 yards and 20 more scores with his legs.

The season-wide performance was far-and-away the most impressive of the in-state quarterbacks, and that’s not simply due to playing at least four more games than the others.

Amid navigating a tremendously competitive schedule en route to leading Westlake to the 6A Division I Texas State Championship, Ehlinger averaged more passing yards per game (239.6) and total yards per game (324.6), making him the only 300-yard-plus performer of the quarterbacks in question. Additionally, Ehlinger boasted the lowest interception rate (1.2%) and the second-highest QB rating (128.5), trailing Mond’s 155.8 rating.

Though the recruiting services are yet to reflect Ehlinger’s tremendous leap forward last season, aside from the boost to a four-star rating, the mind-blowing statistics have earned the future Longhorn rightful recognition.

Following last season’s otherworldly effort, Ehlinger was named the Texas Associated Press Player of the Year, making him the first junior to ever receive such honors, along with being named MaxPreps National Junior of the Year. As an Elite 11 finalist, Ehlinger was named most coachable among the 12 quarterbacks in contention.

Only Oklahoma commit Robison joins Ehlinger in the Elite 11 Finals. Last season’s offensive onslaught and expectations for his senior campaign also led to Ehlinger listed as the first-team quarterback on Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine’s ‘Super Football Team.’

Whether it’s through accolades or publicized praise, Ehlinger is garnering recognition worthy of a title of best quarterback in Texas. With anything remotely close to an encore as a senior, Ehlinger could quite possibly enter Austin as an early enrollee to provide Texas with the state’s No. 1 quarterback.