Heading into Saturday’s second scrimmage, the Texas Longhorns have their starting quarterback after head coach Steve Sarkisian named redshirt freshman Quinn Ewers the starter over redshirt sophomore Hudson Card on Friday.
After starting the first two games last season, Card was replaced by Casey Thompson, now the starter at Nebraska, for the Rice game and didn’t make another start despite Thompson’s thumb injury, eventually finishing 51-of-83 passing for 590 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
Thompson departed for Nebraska after Ewers committed to Texas after spending the fall at Ohio State following his late re-classification from the 2022 recruiting class. Late to arrive during preseason camp, Ewers was the fourth-string quarterback for the Buckeyes and appeared in two games without throwing a pass.
“It was kind of a wash of a season for him,” Sarkisian told ESPN this week.
As the nation’s No. 1 prospect in the 2021 class, Ewers was considered a generational talent after receiving a perfect rating in the 247Sports Composite and represented one of the most significant additions to Sarkisian’s program since the head coach arrived from Alabama early in 2021 when he committed in December.
The immediate expectation was for Ewers to come in and win the starting job — players with that level of ability aren’t recruited to come in and serve as a backup.
Unsurprisingly, the 15 spring practices culminating with the Orange-White game did not resolve the competition between Card and Ewers despite the redshirt freshman flashing his remarkable arm talent on a long touchdown pass to now-injured wide receiver Isaiah Neyor.
The battle between the two quarterbacks continued through summer conditioning, but Sarkisian teased an earlier resolution than last season at Big 12 Media Days.
“No, we haven’t made a decision yet, but I don’t think it’ll take quite as long as maybe last fall took us,” Sarkisian said in Arlington.
The Texas head coach called Ewers “a very talented young man, extremely coachable, great teammate,” attributes that allowed the young quarterback to make significant progress since his arrival on the Forty Acres.
“Every day of spring ball was new to him, but he’s a very coachable guy. We’ve done a lot of scheme implementation and a lot of things that may have been an issue for him in the spring are better now. We’ve got to take to the grass in fall camp, but he wants to be coached hard, he’s putting in the work, and you can see it, because his play is improving,” Sarkisian said.
Before Tuesday’s open practice, the competition was still close following the first scrimmage last Saturday.
“I would say it’s tight. I will say both guys are working very hard. They both got great attitudes. I’ve actually talked to both of them separately just about their kind of their mindset the room how they’re working with in with one another but yet competing with one another,” Sarkisian said on Monday. “But I think they both are operating and doing it at a high level and I think both of them recognize, ‘Man there’s room for me to improve,’ and I found the other guy’s thinking, ‘Man there’s room for me to improve’ and that’s that’s what I love.”
On Thursday though, Sarkisian said he had “a pretty good idea” who the starter would be despite neither quarterback creating much separation during the open practice — Ewers made fewer mistakes and a big-time throw on the move to wide receiver Brenen Thompson for a touchdown in a team period, but also struggled tremendously during one stretch of throws.
Meanwhile, Card made more splash throws while struggling with interceptions.
Based on Card taking the first reps with the first team, he seemed to have the slight edge over Ewers. For Sarkisian, however, the upside of Ewers was too much to ignore despite his relative inexperience, and perhaps some of Card’s issues that caused him to lose the job last year resurfaced.
And expect one big difference from last season — Ewers isn’t going to lose his starting job if he makes some mistakes in non-conference play because Sarkisian believes rotating quarterbacks last season kept the team from getting comfortable
“I think it’s hard for a quarterback to get into rhythm that way, and I think you play differently knowing, ‘Hey, I don’t know how many throws I’m going to get,’ and you take too many chances,” Sarkisian told ESPN. “I just don’t think the decision-making is very good.”
Let the Mullet Era begin.