So, any thoughts on the quarterbacks, Coach Herman?
Ten days ago, the Texas Longhorns head coach wasn’t particularly interested in discussing the status of his quarterback situation, which now includes two early enrollees competing against junior Shane Buechele and sophomore Sam Ehlinger.
Once again, speculation and uncertainty dominate the most important position in football as the Longhorns continue to struggle in the program’s attempt to find a high-level contributor behind center.
Once again, spring practice may come and go without a resolution to the incessant quarterback debate.
“Again, if one guy runs away with it and clearly becomes a starter, I’m sure we’ll feel that’s the guy we’re going to run maybe out there first,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said on Thursday. “I don’t know that we’re sitting in there going we have to have a starter by the end of spring. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Certainly, fall camp, they’ve got to prove it, too.”
Ehlinger seems to have the edge against Buechele, who is now back from offseason surgery on his hip/abductor muscle. The two early enrollees, Casey Thompson and Cameron Rising, continue to trail the older players as Buechele and Ehliner benefit from their familiarity with the offense.
“I think the two older guys, Sam and Shane, you can tell they’re older guys,” Beck said. “They’ve gone through this. They’ve gone through spring, the system, the style of play, what we expect. They’ve gotten a chance to see the defense for a little bit. Probably a little more calm than last year.”
The hope is that better health and a deeper familiarity with the offense will benefit Buedchele and Ehlinger, who both struggled at times last season. For Buechele, it was largely about staying healthy and showing the necessary pocket presence to survive behind an injury-depleted offensive line. For Ehlinger, it was about consistently making game-changing mistakes that cost the Longhorns three games.
For Rising and Thompson, it’s simply about acclimating, the same way that Ehlinger had to at this time last year.
“The two younger guys are swimming,” Beck said. “I should say this. I am impressed. I like those guys. I think they’re very talented guys. They’re smart guys, but when it gets out here sometimes when the bullets fly you can see it struggles for them a little bit, all of it to marry into one. I like what they’re doing. I do.”
So while any hopes of Rising or Thompson competing to win the starting job this spring are now mostly gone — and weren’t particularly legitimate anyway — there is reason for optimism as both players develop.
“I can’t tell you enough, knock on wood, those two young guys for guys that should be in high school right now… I’m used to when your fourth string quarterback goes in, you might as well turn your back, get a water, and let it play out because you’re not going to move the ball,” Herman said last week. “We moved the ball with those two guys in there.”
Ehlinger is progressing, too, according to the head coach when he was finally willing to talk about his prospective starter.
“Sam Ehlinger, I told him today, had his two best throws within the span of five minutes since he’s been here over a year in an 11-on-11 situation. Really ripped the ball in tight windows in a red-zone period that both resulted in touchdowns.”
Unsurprisingly, Herman also had praise for Buechele, who was supposedly “commanding the offense well” and making good throws.
The Orange-White game will determine which player has an advantage in the competition heading into the summer, just don’t expect the coaches to name a starter.