Thursday, August 18, 2022

Texas QB battle: Steve Sarkisian ‘excited’ as Quinn Ewers, Hudson Card gear up for high-profile competition

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian met with reporters on Tuesday as the 2022 season rapidly approaches, and of course he addressed the high-profile battle under center entering fall camp for the Longhorns. Sophomore Hudson Card and redshirt freshman Quinn Ewers will be duking it out for the starting job, and Sarkisian expressed his excitement over the two viable options to lead his high-powered offense. 

“I’m excited for both of these guys,” Sarkisian said. “They’re both great teammates, both are really coachable, both highly competitive, highly driven young men that both would love to take the field when the team takes the field on Sept. 3.” 

Sarkisian went on to admit he does not have a timeline to name a starting quarterback, though he did play coy when asked the question. 

“I think I have an idea in my head,” Sarkisian said. “But I’m not going to tell you guys.” 

At some point, however, either Ewers or Card will emerge as the winner and ultimately take the first snaps when the Longhorns face off against ULM to begin the season. This program desperately needs a shot in the arm after Sarkisian led Texas to the worst season for a first-year coach on the 40 Acres since Dana X. Bible in 1937, and selecting the right option would provide just that. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the Longhorns’ quarterback battle as Ewers and Card gear up for the competition this month. 

Ewers is the golden child

Before Arch Manning committed to the program over the offseason, Ewers was the program reset that Sarkisian desperately needed after a 5-7 season. Ewers ranked as the first perfect 1.0000 quarterback recruit since Vince Young and ranked as the best player in Texas during his time at Southlake (Texas) Carroll High School. He led his Dragons to the Class 6A Division I State Championship Game in 2020. 

Losing Ewers as a recruit to Ohio State spelled the end of the Tom Herman era at Texas. However, Sarkisian reeled Ewers in as a transfer after a redshirt season at Ohio State. Ewers’ commitment helped lead a top-five transfer class with four pass-catchers joining the fray. 

Ewers has a perfect quarterback profile. His arm is one of the strongest and most powerful of any quarterback recruit in recent memory, and he’s comfortable throwing off-platform and delivers passes with poise and accuracy. There’s only one problem: Ewers has never thrown a college football pass, having last thrown against live competition as a high school junior in 2020. 

Landing Ewers was a get-out-of-jail-free card for Sarkisian after his miserable debut season. If Ewers doesn’t live up to his lofty expectations, the Longhorns are in a tough spot heading into 2022. 

Card, however, has system experience 

With all the hype around Texas’ quarterback acquisitions under Sarkisian, it’s easy to forget that Card was a big-time recruit who chose to stay home. Card ranked as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in Texas and top player in Austin after a standout career at Lake Travis and surprised people by beating out upperclassman Casey Thompson for the starting job out of camp. 

However, Card struggled in his second game — a crushing 40-21 loss to Arkansas — and didn’t play much after Thompson wrested away the job. He completed 61.4% of his passes with five touchdowns and just one interception but only threw more than 20 passes in one Big 12 game. 

Card has a year in the system under Sarkisian’s tutelage and the staff knows his potential. He played wide receiver while waiting his turn under center at Lake Travis, so he provides a dynamic running threat that Ewers can’t quite match. Card winning the job might come down to whether he can gain poise and confidence in the pocket under pressure, a big step for a young quarterback playing behind a spotty offensive line. 

A critical decision awaits

Quarterback play was not why the Longhorns went 5-7 last season. While Texas bulked up the receiver room, many of the biggest issues from 2021 — offensive line and defensive depth issues first and foremost — remain in 2022. Improved quarterback play will have to carry Texas in 2022 if it hopes to go from below .500 to competing for the Big 12. Texas is a co-favorite to win the Big 12 at Caesar’s SportsBook with +220 odds. 

Last season, Sarkisian did not name a starting quarterback until a week before the first game. Even then, Card only lasted one game before Thompson took the job after the Arkansas loss. Even if Sarkisian names a starter, it might not be permanent. But in a season where Sarkisian needs to show life to maintain the commitment of the No. 1 quarterback in the class — and what is projected to be a top-five group after a number of commitments — Texas can’t afford to get the answer wrong. 

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