When the Texas Longhorns offense trots onto FedEx Field for the first time against the Maryland Terrapins in the coming days, it will be sophomore Sam Ehlinger who lines up behind center.
On Monday, Texas head coach Tom Herman announced that “barring any sort of catastrophe,” Ehlinger will get the starting nod on Sept. 1, earning the job over junior Shane Buechele following yet another offseason-long quarterback competition. Ehlinger took most of the first-team reps throughout preseason camp because he showed improvement throwing the football and commanding the pocket.
“Lets make no mistake, Shane Buechele had a great camp. He didn’t do really anything wrong. I just feel like there’s a lot of years of coaching experience on our staff and neither of them did anything to justify saying ‘you can’t win with that guy.’ It was a matter of who do we feel gives the best chance to win in the first game,” Herman said. “We’ll see if we’re right.”
Much like late in the 2017 season, Herman will be willing to play Buechele if the offense falters early — the two players exchanged starts down the stretch, though Ehlinger played the bulk of the final three games.
Last season, injuries and inconsistencies prevented Texas from settling on a single starting quarterback throughout the entire slate. Buechele began the season as the starter, but suffered a bruised shoulder in the season-opening loss to Maryland, which opened the door for Ehlinger to start the next two games against San Jose State, USC. This theme remained throughout the season, with Buechele notching seven starts and Ehlinger seeing starts in six games.
As evident with Ehlinger and Buechele exchanging starts and often even rotating series several times within a single game, neither was able to separate himself in 2017, which remained the case throughout much of the offseason as the quarterback competition continued on into fall camp.
Now with nearly an entire offseason to consider, including a pair of fall camp scrimmages, Herman has elected to side with Ehlinger to begin the 2018 slate.
As a true freshman, Ehlinger led the Longhorns with 1,915 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, along with seven interceptions. Ehlinger also headlined the Horns rushing efforts with 385 yards and two touchdowns on 114 attempts.
Texas will open its season on the road against Maryland on Sept. 1. The Longhorns dropped last season’s opener to the Terrapins, 51-41.