Sam Ehlinger is back.
The reveal took nearly 30 seconds of a video clip that only lasted a few seconds longer than that, but after receiving an evaluation from the College Advisory Committee, the Texas Longhorns quarterback announced on Monday that he will return for his senior season.
“I haven’t really sat down and talked to a whole lot of people about it just because I’m focused on leading these guys and being he best I can be for them,” Ehlinger said before the Alamo Bowl. “Honestly, going into this year, I didn’t really even think about it. I wasn’t considering that at all. So I just feel extremely blessed that’s even a question that’s being talked about.”
The decision surely didn’t come as a surprise to head coach Tom Herman, who said before the Alamo Bowl that he “absolutely” expected Ehlinger to return to school.
“He’s already gotten those results back, yeah,” Herman said last week. “But I do think he’s got a tremendous future at the next level. Again, I’ll say it as many times as I need to — he sees the game as good as any I’ve coached. Having coached some really good quarterbacks in my day, that’s certainly no slight on them, it’s a testimony to him and his intelligence, his toughness. That’s going to go a long way at the next level.”
Ranked as the No. 14 draft-eligible quarterback by WalterFootball.com, Ehlinger received a draft grade of rounds 4-6, so there’s a strong likelihood that he wasn’t graded as a Round 1 or Round 2 pick by the committee, instead receiving a return to school grade.
Perhaps that wasn’t even the ultimate factor, either, as Ehlinger grew up a lifelong fan of the Longhorns and will now have another season to play with his younger brother, Jake, a walk-on linebacker who joined the program as a member of the 2019 class.
There’s also the factor of unfinished business after a disappointing season for the program and for Ehlinger personally — after infamously announcing that Texas is back after the Sugar Bowl win over Georgia, the Horns struggled to an 8-5 record. Ehlinger also threw five more interceptions as a junior than he did during his breakout sophomore campaign, while rushing for nine fewer touchdowns. After a strong start, he struggled to carry the team as the defense dealt with youth and inexperience.
So even though the season finished on a high note with the Alamo Bowl win over Utah, it seems fair to say that Ehlinger still has plenty to accomplish in burnt orange and white, first and foremost including what would be the first conference title for Texas since 2009.
A fourth season at Texas will allow the Westlake product to continue making his mark on the school record book — he’s already positioned himself as the third-best Longhorns quarterback of the modern era. And while passing up Colt McCoy in the school’s pantheon looks unlikely, he will have that opportunity to break more records.
In 2019, Ehlinger surpassed Vince Young in total touchdowns, ranks second in passing touchdowns, and achieved a feat that Young and McCoy did not in passing for 200 or more yards in the first 10 games, becoming the first Texas quarterback since Major Applewhite in 1999 to do so. In fact, he set the school record with 12 games of 200 or more passing yards in a row.