A shocking announcement on Friday capped a wild week for the Texas Longhorns as redshirt freshman Quinn Ewers ascended to the starting quarterback position as the entire team dealt with the fallout of significant injuries coming out of last Saturday’s scrimmage, the first of preseason camp.
In a bit of a surprise move, Steve Sarkisian has named Quinn Ewers as the starting quarterback. Reports suggested that the QB battle was leaning in favor of Hudson Card, but was this decision made because Ewers was inevitably going to be the starter by the end of the year?
Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott) — The bottom line is that you don’t bring in a generational talent at quarterback to sit them on a bench after a close battle. As quarterbacks like to say about wide receivers – if they’re even, they’re leaving, and I think that applies to the competition between Card and Ewers. Card is entering his third season in college; Ewers should be a true freshman. Card’s inability to separate tells me that Ewers is going to be better at some point this season, even if he isn’t quite right now. And so I think Sarkisian is making the proper calculation here that the program is better off riding with Ewers and allowing him some growing pains because they should pay off late this season and next year, a crucial campaign for a coach who will be in his third season on the Forty Acres.
Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) — In my mind, there are probably two factors at play. First, like everyone said, if your third-year quarterback is essentially tied with what should be a true freshman, go with the young guy and give him that extra development. Especially in a year when your offense features a Heisman-caliber running back that can hopefully lighten the load offensively. I also think it’s a matter of in the event of a protection breakdown in a passing situation, Sark would probably rather see a “screw it, Worthy is down there somewhere” throw than a scramble to try and pick it up. That also favors the younger QB.
Nik Patel (@NothingbutNik) — I believe Sark understands Card was more comfortable with the offense and was simply waiting for Ewers to get to the same level to make a call. Maybe Ewers isn’t quite there yet, but it makes sense to choose him out of the gate instead of halfway through the season. After seeing Card play last year, I’m glad that Sark has chosen to roll with Ewers from the start. Ewers has a higher ceiling, and even if this is not a championship contending year for the Horns, it gives him ample experience moving forward.
Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - For Hudson Card to win this job, he needed to separate himself from Ewers. He didn’t and the bottom line is that Ewers is more talented than Card. Maybe if Texas had a better offensive line, Card would start but Sarkisian needs a QB who’s willing to take risks, even if Ewers will turn it over. Card would be the safe choice, just like he was over Casey Thompson last year but in the end, Sark went with an injured Thompson over a healthy Card. That tells you everything you need to know in my book.
Last Saturday’s scrimmage saw the Longhorns lose both Isaiah Neyor and Junior Angilau to season-ending injuries. Roschon Johnson, Jahdae Barron, and Cole Huston also got banged up but are hopeful return by Week 1, per Sark. The reaction has been strong, with the general consensus being Texas could not afford to lose either Neyor and Angilau and the ceiling for the Horns has been lowered. Are we overreacting?
Wescott — No. The ceiling has been lowered. Neyor was going to bring proven production and high-level athleticism to the wide receiver corps to complement Xavier Worthy and the Longhorns don’t have any one player who can replace his skill set. That’s a huge reason why Steve Sarkisian brought him in. And Angilau is the team’s most experienced lineman, as well as the leader in that group. Combined, the injuries are going to make it difficult for Texas to reach its goals this season.
Gerald — Not even a little bit. The Neyor and Angilau injuries limit the output of the offense in different ways. Neyor’s job was to give Texas another reliable option opposite of Worthy, so defenses couldn’t key on him. Now, Texas has to depend on Jordan Whittington to remain healthy, plus an unproven wide receiver to step up. Angilau’s injury further exposes how paper thin the margins are for Texas on the offensive line. A week ago, I was excited about the prospect of a kid like DJ Campbell working his way into the lineup and earning a starting position. Texas is now once again in the position where playing a young offensive lineman is a matter of necessity, rather than a luxury.
Nik — I am definitely more doubtful about what Texas can accomplish this season. I desperately want to see Bijan in Heisman form but that requires having other offensive weapons. Junior Angilau and Roschon Johnson are both big voices on the field and in the locker room and losing those leaders will have a big impact. Isaiah Neyor provided a deep threat that would force defenses to either double him or Worthy or play the run. Without a veteran lineman and an extra option at wideout, the arsenal that Sarkisian has been building has been hampered. There were some underdog hopes when Texas wasn’t ranked in the AP Top 25, but realistically, their offensive game has been weakened drastically.
Cameron - If you were asked before fall camp, what positional groups you could not afford to lose a starter, it would be the offensive line and wide receiver. Texas was already going to have to start two freshmen, now it’ll be at least three. And with the injury history already at wide receiver, losing a play-maker who you were going to rely on is killer. Now you have to put more trust in Troy Omeire and Jordan Whittington, two guys who have not been able to stay on the field.
Overreaction or not, Texas will be without two starters this season. Who will need to step up in place of Neyor and Angilau?
Wescott — For Neyor, it’s going to be replacement by committee. The team will rely more heavily on Iowa State transfer Tarique Milton, likely in the slot, and there’s more pressure on players like Casey Cain and Troy Omeire to provide some of the skills that Neyor brought to the table like winning jump balls, particularly in the red zone, and providing a deep threat. Some of the tight ends may also emerge, as Ja’Tavion Sanders has experience flexed out and Juan Davis has upside there. And, of course, Alabama transfer Jahleel Billingsley has the athleticism of a big-bodied wide receiver.
One of the freshmen will have to replace Angilau because Kyle Flood doesn’t really have any other good options. In Tuesday’s open practice, DJ Campbell worked with the ones, but the experience of fellow freshman Cole Hutson, who enrolled early, could displace Campbell, at least early in the season, once Hutson returns from his minor injury.
Gerald — At receiver, you’ve got to look at one of either Troy Omeire, Casey Cain, or Tarique Milton to step up and fill that void. Camp reports of Cain seem positive, and while I am excited about the prospect of a 6’3 receiver that has a bit of speed, he didn’t play a single snap a year ago. Omeire has a ton of potential but is coming off of back-to-back injury seasons and Milton has flashed some in Ames, he would need to increase his output significantly. As far as Angilau goes, I said it above, it seems like it’s going to be one of the younger guys playing a big role. I’ve long said I expected Campbell to work his way into the starting lineup by the end of the year, but I’d rather it come later rather than sooner.
Nik — In terms of receiving options, Jordan Whittington could have a breakout season in the slot position, but he doesn’t fill the shoes of a deep threat. I am also excited to see Jahleel Billingsley in action as he could be utilized frequently as a check-down blocker in Sarkisian’s play-action schemes. Although Cole Hutson is a freshman, it seems like he has gotten his reps in at the guard position through spring and summer training. I would also be excited to see halfbacks slotted into receiver roles which could give Keilan Robinson more playing time.
Cameron - If Cole Hutson can be ready by week one, expect him to be starting but DJ Campbell has gotten some reps with the ones in practice. For Neyor, I’d want to see Omeire take his role in the offense. Texas will need a deep threat who can win jump balls and we’ve heard that Omeire is capable of it, we just haven’t been able to see it yet.
Another scrimmage for the Longhorns on Saturday. Give me one thing you’d like to come from it? Besides more season-ending injuries…
Wescott — The original answer here was obviously separation at the quarterback position. With that off the board, I think the performance of the first-team offensive line, particularly for Banks and Campbell, will provide some key perspective about where they are in their respective development with Banks looking like the starter at left tackle and Campbell in the mix with Hutson.
Gerald — I want to hear about Texas settling in on the offensive line grouping. We’ve seen how a lack of communication and cohesion on the front line can impact the line’s ability to produce at a high level, so I would love to see them settle on the ones and give them two full weeks to work on communication, hand placement, rhythm, and all of the other little nuances that separate good lines from great ones.
Nik — It seems like Texas has grown complacent. Not being ranked in the AP Top 25, I would hope more players have a chip on their shoulder going into the season. The season is coming up quickly and it doesn’t seem like we are ready. A confirmed QB1 going into the season would be nice, some development in the secondary defense, and hopefully no more surprises.
Cameron - The dream is that Ewers shines after being named QB1, the freshman on the OL play well, and the cornerbacks have a strong scrimmage.