Give these Texas Longhorns their moment. Be happy for them. Let them believe the worst is over. Bless their burnt orange hearts, they’ve earned a few hours to dust off some of the old arrogance. Besides, toothless Texas wasn’t that much fun anyway.
The Longhorns believe they took a huge step back toward college football’s big stage with Sunday’s announcement that former five-star quarterback Quinn Ewers—once the nation’s number one recruit—will transfer from Ohio State to the Forty Acres.
“Hey Alexa play ‘Take Me to Texas’ by @GeorgeStrait #HookEm,” Ewers tweeted Sunday night.
If you’re a glass-half-full Texas fan, you might see this as a turning point for the program, with Ewers as the cornerstone player that can lead a turnaround.
First, he makes the Longhorns interesting again, and that’s important if you noticed the acres of empty seats at Darrell K. Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium near the end of this season.
At his best, Ewers could give UT a chance to win every game. That’s what great quarterbacks do. They compensate for their teams’ deficiencies in other areas. Beyond that, a star signal caller can infuse a roster with confidence. Considering the disorganized mess that Texas was for stretches of 2021, the program could use a bit of swagger.
Now here comes Mr. Glass Half Empty. He’ll remind us that it’s impossible to know how good Ewers is. He’ll be almost two years removed from playing competitive football when Texas faces Alabama in the second game of the 2022 season.
That said, his numbers are breathtaking. In 25 games at Southlake Carroll High School, he threw 73 touchdown passes and rolled up 6,445 passing yards. In an injury-shortened junior season, he threw 28 touchdown passes in just 8 games.
Ewers has been a hotshot prospect for years. Ohio State first offered him a scholarship after watching him throw during a summer camp in Columbus, Ohio, between his eighth- and ninth-grade seasons. He was the Buckeyes’ highest-rated recruit this century, after skipping his senior high school season over an NIL kerfuffle with the University Interscholastic League, the governing body of Texas high school football.
If nothing else, Ewers will offer hope to a Texas program that has fallen off the national map since quarterback Colt McCoy was injured in the first half of the 2009 BCS championship game, a loss to Alabama. That was the end of a stretch in which Texas won 75 of 85 starts by Vince Young and McCoy. (See the impact that great college quarterbacks can have?)
In twelve seasons since, the Longhorns have had four head coaches and have finished the season ranked higher than nineteenth in the Associated Press poll only once. In that time, UT is an astonishingly mediocre 55–51 in the Big 12.
Ewers is six foot three with a rocket of an arm and a glorious blond mullet that hints of a kind of cockiness that the Longhorns desperately need—assuming he can back it up. He also has enough speed and instincts to slip away from pass rushers and make plays with his feet.
Because he’ll enroll at Texas immediately, Ewers will have time to be ready to step in and play next fall when Alabama is second on the schedule, after Louisiana-Monroe.
As of now, UT plans to also bring back last season’s starting quarterbacks, Casey Thompson and Hudson Card, but head coach Steve Sarkisian had already promised to open up the job to off-season competition. Whether the arrival of Ewers will nudge the two incumbents into the NCAA transfer portal to seek greater opportunities elsewhere remains to be seen.
Sarkisian is sure to repeat the usual coachspeak about Ewers being handed nothing and needing to earn the starting quarterback job, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But Sarkisian also knows that Ewers offers a lifeline for a coaching career hanging by a thread, after Sark led the team to a sputtering 5–7 record in his first season, including a six-game losing streak that was the school’s longest in 65 years.
During his junior season at Southlake Carroll, Ewers committed to play for Texas, but he switched to Ohio State after UT fired former head coach Tom Herman. Ewers was poised for a huge high school senior year when his family approached the UIL with the news that he’d been offered more than $1 million in name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals.
The UIL said he could not accept the money and remain eligible to play high school football. Having already completed enough course work to graduate, Ewers enrolled at Ohio State.
After arriving in Columbus, Ewers did indeed sign an NIL deal with GT Sports Marketing that’ll pay him $1.4 million over three years for autographs and personal appearances. If he succeeds in resurrecting the Longhorns, that money will represent only the tip of the iceberg in endorsement riches available to him.
Ewers got on the field for just two plays with Ohio State last season, and with CJ Stroud entrenched as the Buckeyes’ starter, Ewers entered the transfer portal. He may have been tempted by conversations with Texas Tech’s new coach, Joey McGuire, and his hiring of Kliff Kingsbury disciple Zach Kittley to reinstall the quarterback-friendly air raid offense. But in the end, Ewers returned to his original commitment despite everything that has gone wrong in Austin. He’ll have four years of eligibility remaining, but will be eligible for the NFL draft after two seasons.
That’s a short window of opportunity for both him and the Longhorns. UT’s 2022 recruiting class is ranked fifth by the scouting service Rivals, but a lack of talent has never been an issue in Austin. Over the past decade, Texas coaches have signed top-twenty recruiting classes eight times, including four top-five classes.
All that talent hasn’t gotten Texas back into the national conversation. It has made it the nation’s number-one underachieving program.
“We’re going to tear this thing all the way down,” Sarkisian said in his end-of-season wrap-up news conference, “and we’re going to start back at square one come winter conditioning and then into spring ball.”
So after Texas failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2016, fans finally have something to hang their Stetsons on. It’s not as much fun as winning the Big 12, but it’s better than being a national punch line. It’s a step in the right direction.