Quinn Ewers named Texas starting quarterback: Why was the heralded redshirt freshman the only option to lead the Longhorns?

There are Friday news dumps, and then there’s Texas announcing, via a Director of Sports Information. during player interviewsnone other than Quinn Ewers, the Ohio State transfer and former No. 1 overall recruit, will enter the 2022 season as the starting quarterback. But while the timing of the message was unexpected, the decision is quite the opposite. In fact, it was the only choice second-year coach Steve Sarkisian could make.

Ewers served what was effectively a year-long apprenticeship with the Buckeyes after enrolling a year earlier from Southlake Carroll High School to capitalize on name, image and likeness opportunities. Ultimately, though, the former five-star prospect opted for a fresh start with the Longhorns as they try to bounce back from an embarrassing 5-7 season.

Since Ewers’ commitment, the Longhorns’ offseason hype has gone off the rails. Texas received an anonymous first-place vote in the preseason coaches’ poll and got another No. 1 quarterback — Arch Manning — in June. The Longhorns also ranked in the top five recruiting and transfer classes in the 2022 cycle and are ranked No. 2 in the 2023 rankings with three stars out of five stars already on board. Ewers even ranks in the top 10 in Heisman odds at Caesars SportsBook.

Following that kind of offseason by announcing 2021 Week 1 starter Hudson Card as QB1 would have been a wet blanket in lofty expectations. Card threw for 224 yards against Louisiana but lost his job after a miserable 61-yard outing against Arkansas the following week. After his two starts, Card completed just 29 of 47 passes for 305 yards in five game appearances.

Granted, Ewers is more of a lottery ticket than a sure thing. He hasn’t thrown a live pass since the 2020 Class 6A Division I State Championship Game for Southlake Carroll. However, his skill set gives Texas more of an offensive edge in a critical 2022 campaign.

“[Ewers is an] an elite improvisational quarterback who can spread plays and keep accuracy on the move,” Gabe Brooks, 247Sports Midlands Region recruiting analyst, wrote of Ewers. “He feels the pressure and knows how to react to it. He, too, is willing to stand and deliver under duress and will take a big hit if it means holding on to make the needed shot. He occasionally takes risks, but that’s also part of what makes him so good.”

Card struggled heavily under pressure, completing just 38.5% of his passes and earning a 29.1 out of 100 approval rating from Pro Football Focus in those situations. His efficiency also fell apart during action sequences, a staple of Sarkisian’s offense. Unfortunately, that weakness could be a critical flaw as Texas irons out what could be debilitating offensive line issues in 2022.

Lead starting tackle Derek Kerstetter graduated, along with collaborators Denzel Okafor and Tope Imade. Returning top lineman Junior Angilau suffered a season-ending knee injury during the first scrimmage of preseason camp. Center Jake Majors had a solid first year as a starter, but the only other key returner is Christian Jones, who led the team in rushing and sacks allowed by a wide margin. As many as three true freshmen could start against No. 1 Alabama in Week 2.

Of course, no one expects the Longhorns to withstand pressure from stars like Will Anderson and Dallas Turner this early in the year, let alone compete with one of the most loaded Alabama teams of all time. However, struggling to deal with pressure will be a fatal flaw for a quarterback in this offense. Texas needs a game-changing playmaker under center. Ewers is much more prepared to be that player than Card.

Ewers is only the second quarterback in the 247Sports draft era to earn a perfect 1.0000 rating on the composite ratings. The last? Vince Young.

If things go well in Austin, Ewers has two years to make an indelible impact on the Texas record books. There could be some growing pains in Year 1, but Sarkisian had no choice but to lean on near-unprecedented expectations for the new Golden Boy of the 40 Acres.

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