Tuesday will be a key day to determine whether Texas Longhorns sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele can return to practice for the first time since bruising his throwing shoulder in the season opener against the Maryland Terrapins.
However, a return to practice doesn’t guarantee Buechele a starting role on Saturday in Los Angeles against the USC Trojans, as head coach Tom Herman indicated on Monday that Buechele will have to practice well.
“If Shane's healthy, he's got to go prove that he's also competent in practice,” Herman said.
The 6’1, 205-pounder has started all 13 games in which he’s appeared in his career, but is listed as a co-starter with freshman Sam Ehlinger.
Ehlinger started against San Jose State with Buechele in shoulder pads, but not available for the game, and comported himself well, completing 15-of-27 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown, while adding seven carries for 48 yards on the ground.
The mobility of Ehlinger provides an added dimension that Buechele doesn’t quite bring. The freshman also showed more poise in the pocket than Buechele has at times, but the incumbent has more game experience, a deeper command of the offense, and better proven accuracy.
Right now, Ehlinger is being given “small bites” of the offense to digest. Once he gains mastery of that limited slice of coordinator Tim Beck’s attack, the coaches will give him more. So Buechele has a clear and significant advantage in that regard.
Still, despite all of those advantages, Buechele will have to maintain the starting job if he’s able to return to practice this week — he’ll still get the first-team reps, but Ehlinger surely gained confidence against San Jose State and may not be easy to hold off.