Is 2023 the year of Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers?
It feels like just yesterday that Texas Longhorns fans were theorizing that former Ohio State quarterback Quinn Ewers would transfer to Texas where he was once committed.
The former No. 1 overall recruit who held a rare perfect rating skipped his senior year of high school to enroll early at Ohio State before eventually landing in Austin.
By the time he arrived in Columbus it was far too late for Ewers to truly compete for the starting job, so he essentially spent what should have been his senior year at Southlake Carroll learning what it meant to be a student athlete and college student.
Despite having just a couple handoffs under his belt during his time as a Buckeye, the hype around him never fizzled. When his name entered the transfer portal, Texas fans instantly began hoping and praying that Ewers would fulfill their prophecy as the prodigal son that can save the program.
They got their wish of landing Ewers after subpar quarterback play from Casey Thompson and Hudson Card in 2021, but in his first season as a starter Ewers’ performance didn’t match the hype.
Obviously the expectations are always magnified at a place like Texas who has been clawing and scratching for over a decade to return back to the glory they once experienced, but if there was a phrase to describe his first season it would be “left wanting more.” As a recruit, Ewers was viewed as the picture perfect prospect, he had a huge arm and could scramble around and throw from every arm slot imaginable.
He matched the rankings of Texas legend Vince Young and held a higher ranking than Trevor Lawrence who was viewed as the best prospect since Andrew Luck. Most notably, he was ranked above players such as North Carolina’s Drake Maye, Michigan’s JJ McCarthy, and USC’s Caleb Williams.
How could fans not expect a lot from Ewers? The three aforementioned quarterbacks are all tearing up college football, with Maye and Williams already being viewed as locks to go No. 1 and No. 2 in the next NFL draft.
Ewers’ immediate impact didn’t replicate that of his classmates. In fact, after a stellar first half against Alabama in Week 2 that ended with him going down with a shoulder injury, he was unable to perform at the level he appeared to be on again. Ewers hit a major wall after blowing out what turned out to be a horrendous Oklahoma team.
Defenses were doing their best to take Bijan Robinson out of the equation, and were daring Ewers to throw. The young gunslinger who went viral for a 70+ yard pass in high school couldn’t connect on the deep ball. In Texas’ 41-34 loss to No. 11 Oklahoma State, Ewers had 14 overthrows which was the most for a Texas quarterback in the last 10 years and the most at the FBS level in three years. In that same game, Ewers also became one of only three quarterbacks since 2000 to attempt over 49 passes in a game and complete less than 20.
It wasn’t just one bad game either, as Ewers and star receiver Xavier Worthy struggled to connect on deep passes in ensuing weeks. Following a three-week stretch that saw Texas play Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and TCU, Ewers struggled against three defenses that didn’t rank within the top-60 in total defense with two of them ranking No. 90 or worse. Ewers was essentially faded out of the game plan. For the final couple games of the regular season, he threw just 38 total passes compared to the 70 combined he had thrown in the two weeks prior.
With time off prior to Texas’ bowl game against Washington, Ewers showed much improved accuracy, footwork, and overall confidence in the loss to the Huskies. Outside of the Oklahoma game it was the only game all season where he completed at least 60% of his passes on over 30 passing attempts.
With an offseason headlined by Texas landing five-star Arch Manning, Ewers cutting his mullet, and the Longhorns being viewed as a legit contender, all eyes are now on the starting quarterback. He showcased his command over the job during spring, silencing all of the nonsensical quarterback battle debates between he and Manning. Now he needs to carry that momentum over to the regular season.
Texas hasn’t had a path this clear to contending nationally since Mack Brown was on the sidelines smiling as he watched Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley dismantle opposing defenses. While much of the pressure is on Steve Sarkisian to be the coach to finally bring Texas back, when you have a quarterback as highly ranked as Ewers was, he needs to be just as responsible. If he is able to stay consistent with his footwork and accuracy, there is no reason that Texas shouldn’t be contending.
Ewers has a prime chance to have a bounce back season and show to the world exactly why he held a perfect rating. If everything goes right for Ewers, Texas should win the Big 12 and be in the playoff picture while he solidifies himself as a first-round draft prospect.
Last year was the year of Caleb Williams, 2023 could be the year the monster is unleashed in Austin and the college football world sees why Ewers was viewed as the better recruit.