Charles Wright’s longtime dream could come true on Saturday when the UTSA Roadrunners travel to Austin to take on the No. 21 Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
A lifelong Texas fan who went to Austin High, the redshirt freshman quarterback has already checked off two huge boxes — Wright signed with the Longhorns in the 2021 recruiting class and has appeared in two games, against Texas Tech in 2021 and against Louisiana-Monroe in this year’s season opener.
But Wright hasn’t attempted a pass yet in his brief career in burnt orange and white and he hasn’t been close to starting a game after serving as the four-string quarterback at the end of last season and starting this season as the third-string quarterback.
Because of the left shoulder injury suffered by redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers against Alabama and then the subsequent ankle injury suffered by redshirt sophomore quarterback Hudson Card, Wright could receive his first career start this weekend — Ewers and Card are both listed as day to day, but the injury to Ewers could still cause him to miss several games and a lack of mobility by Card could force Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian to turn to Wright.
So who is Charles Wright?
A Texas legacy, Wright grew up a huge Longhorns fan, but was only able to live out his dream because of Ewers — when the Southlake Carroll standout committed to Texas in August of 2020, the ensuing fallout of that decision resulted in the decommitment of Katy Tompkins standout Jalen Milroe, who quickly pledged to and signed with Alabama in the 2021 recruiting class.
Milroe’s decision left former head coach Tom Herman and his staff scrambling to find a quarterback in that cycle. Days after Milroe flipped to the Crimson Tide, Herman extended an offer to Wright, who was then committed to the Cyclones.
Wright needed little time to make his decision, decommitting from Iowa State and pledging to Texas on the same day as he received his offer. But that doesn’t mean it was an easy choice for the 6’1, 202-pounder.
“It was tough to flip from Iowa State because I had a really good relationship with those coaches,” Wright told the Statesman when he signed that December. “I talked to them nearly every day about life outside of football. Being close to home was a big part for me. I didn’t think this opportunity would be available to me when Texas had other commitments at quarterback, so I was grateful to have that opportunity and get a chance to play at Texas.”
The opportunity to sign with the Horns was surely a surreal moment for the local standout.
“At four or five, I probably would have gone crazy (if I knew that I’d be playing football at Texas). I’m truly blessed to be in this situation,” Wright said. “When I was four and five years old, Texas football was what my life was about. It is a big part of my life.”
Iowa State was Wright’s first offer after he threw for 2,862 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore at Austin High. Wright subsequently camped in Ames that summer before picking up offers from UTSA, Texas State, and North Texas. Wright committed to the Cyclones after his junior season, during which he completed 206-of-371 passes for 2,510 yards and 27 touchdowns with 13 interceptions as a junior. Louisiana, NC State, and Arkansas all offered Wright after his pledge to Iowa State, but it wasn’t until Texas called that Wright truly considered another program.
As a senior, Wright completed 222-of-345 passes for 2,759 yards and 35 touchdowns with nine interceptions while rushing 112 times for 442 yards and five touchdowns in just nine games.
“We expect Charles to be a starting quarterback at Texas someday,” Herman said when Wright signed. “We were really, really impressed with his quick release, his off-platform throws, his — to be quite honest with you — his guts that he has in actually making some of the throws that he makes. He’s not afraid to make throws into tight windows. He’s very confident in his ability.”
Despite appearing in the game against Texas Tech, Wright’s freshman season on the Forty Acres didn’t entirely go to plan — by the end of the season, walk-on Ben Ballard was traveling with the team as the third-string quarterback. Then Texas signed Ewers and brought in consensus four-star prospect Maalik Murphy in the 2022 recruiting class.
But Murphy is currently “not healthy,” according to Sarkisian, affording Wright the opportunity to beat out Ballard for the third-string spot, a task that Wright accomplished by improving over recent months. So against Alabama, it was Wright warming up on the sidelines with Card battling through his ankle injury.
“He was ready to go if need be,” Sarkisian said on Monday. “I give Charles a lot of credit. He has made strides in leaps and bounds from a year ago, from this time as a true freshman to where he is today. I think he’s got a good grasp of our offense, a good understanding of managing things. I think he’s thrown the ball much better, much more accurately. He’s a lot more confident, which is needed at that position.”
With Quinn Ewers out (shoulder) and Hudson Card questionable (ankle), former @AustinMaroonFB standout @CharlesWright_1 could see time at QB against #UTSA on Saturday. His head coach and teammates believe in him.— Tyler Feldman (@TylerFeldmanTV) September 13, 2022
"If he needs to be QB1, he'll be just fine."#HookEm | @KVUE pic.twitter.com/EA4UjlAOvw
Sarkisian was unwilling to reveal which quarterback took first-team reps on Monday, but there’s a reasonable chance the Texas head coach will need to turn to Wright to get through Saturday’s game and allow Ewers and Card another week to recover before starting conference play against Texas Tech.
If Wright does start against UTSA, it would mark the first time Texas has used three quarterbacks in a season out of necessity since 2011.