With spring practices complete across the country, the college football world is now in the midst of ranking season as fans and media wait for Media Days still more than two months away.
At Athlon Sports, that means ranking all 130 FBS quarterbacks, with Texas Longhorns sophomore Sam Ehlinger coming in at No. 34, one spot in front of prospective Oklahoma starter Kyler Murray, who could choose professional baseball this summer, and directly behind Iowa State’s Kyle Kempt and Baylor’s Charlie Brewer:
Just like Kyler Murray, don’t be surprised if Ehlinger climbs this list by the time fall practice starts. All signs point to Ehlinger holding off Shane Buechele for the starting job, and coach Tom Herman is counting on the sophomore to jumpstart an offense that averaged only 25.4 points a game in Big 12 contests last year. As a true freshman last fall, Ehlinger led the team with 1,915 passing yards and tossed 11 scores. He also paced the team in rushing yards (381) and scored twice on the ground. With a full offseason to work as the starter and develop under Herman’s watch, Ehlinger is poised for a big jump in his second year in Austin.
Athlon describes the list as akin to a power ranking and believes that Murray could significantly climb on this list if he’s able to settle in as a passer. Based on his spring game performance, there are still some questions about that when also factoring in the fact he threw more interceptions than touchdowns as a freshman at Texas A&M.
Kempt doesn’t have nearly the same amount of upside as Murray, but he is an extremely experienced player. However, the question for Iowa State is whether Kempt can produce at the same level after losing three of the team’s top four wide receivers. Opponents will also enter the season after months of scouring Kempt’s film for weaknesses to exploit.
As for Brewer, Athlon believes that the Bears will improve significantly in head coach Matt Rhule’s second season, with a strong wide receiver corps and Brewer’s positive freshman season providing the launching points for the offense. Brewer doesn’t have the arm strength of Ehlinger or his power in the running game, but he also made fewer costly mistakes.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier ranks No. 1 on the list, providing some perspective on just how difficult it will be to beat the Mountaineers in Austin against a healthy Grier.
From the Texas perspective, the question is whether Ehlinger really put himself in position for a “big jump” during his sophomore season. While there are still questions about the offensive line and Ehlinger’s decision making, he did improve during the Texas Bowl in avoiding mistakes and drew praise from his coaches in the second half of spring practice.
The Orange-White game was a forum for Ehlinger to take some more chances, according to head coach Tom Herman, and Ehlinger was able to avoid any interceptions once again, but did show continued room for improvement with his ball placement.
The belief from Athlon is that Ehlinger is poised to rank among the top quarter of all starters at his position nationally with a chance to make a significant jump. If Ehlinger can truly become one of the top 20 or 25 quarterbacks in the country, it would represent a big jump that would likely coincide with similar improvement from the offense overall.
According to at least one national publication, that jump is possible and would put Texas in a position it hasn’t occupied at the position since 2012. Share your own thoughts on the matter in the comment section.