When Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman was attempting to lure Ohio State Buckeyes passing game coordinator Mike Yurcich to Austin, the appeal of taking over the offense wasn’t the only factor that convinced Yurcich to take the promotion.
The presence of senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger made a difference, too.
“Sam’s a hell of a player and he’s a big part of why I chose this position,” Yurcich said last week. “He’s an experienced quarterback and proven winner.”
Now entering his third season as a starter, Ehlinger has led Texas to a 20-13 record as a starter, three bowl wins, including the Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia, and etched his name into the school record book — No. 2 in single-season passing yards (2019), No. 2 in career passing yards behind Colt McCoy, No. 2 in career touchdown passes, and No. 1 in most consecutive passes without an interception, among others.
Yurcich is still getting to know Ehlinger, but he has been able to watch film on his new quarterback and came away with a favorable impression, citing Ehlinger’s toughness as one area that stood out to him. At 6’3 and 230 pounds, Ehlinger is built like a fullback and is known for taking on defenders instead of sliding, often saying that taking a hit gets him engaged in the game.
Since beating out Shane Buechele for the starting role in 2018, Ehlinger has grown as a player, developing into an all-around quarterback capable of beating opponents in multiple areas of the game.
“His intelligence, his ability to run the ball, but throw it with tremendous accuracy, he’s got good footwork, and he can manage the game really well because he can get you out of bad plays,” Yurcich said. ”He knows where the defense is and has tremendous vision, so he’s the total package. I’m really looking forward to working with Sam.”
When Herman first took the Texas job, he met with Ehlinger, who was a senior at Westlake weeks away from signing with the Longhorns. His first impression was of Ehlinger’s dynamic leadership quality” that has also impressed Yurcich.
“The most significant trait is his leadership ability, and his ability to grab the guys’ attention, to get them focused and to make sure they own everything,” Yurcich said. “He’s on them right now when we’re at morning workouts. If something’s not going right throughout the week — somebody misses, somebody’s late, whether it be to tutors or workouts — he’s on them, and he’s controlling that.
“It’s player-driven and it’s awesome to see that. It’s awesome to be a part of that. And that trickles down, so if you’re an incoming freshman, if you’re Hudson Card, you’re seeing how it’s done. It has such an enormous effect on a team when you can have leadership that Sam displays.”
Now it’s up to Yurcich to maximize Ehlinger’s ability in his final season on the Forty Acres.