Analysis: Quarterback battle appears wide open

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Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

It isn’t square one, but it might as well be.

As much as head coach Tom Herman and the Longhorns learned about their quarterbacks during the 2017 season, they still won’t have a starter when spring football rolls around. But the battle won’t be any easier this go-around — especially since two four-star quarterbacks committed to Texas and have already arrived on campus due to early enrollment.

Herman has never been one to jump the gun when it comes to announcing a starting quarterback, but here’s what each of the four scholarship quarterbacks must do in order to be named the starter come August.

Ehlinger has the highest ceiling with the lowest of basements

Longhorn fans’ emotions toward freshman Sam Ehlinger changed like the seasons last year. Whether it was due to his confidence, his Westlake High pride or his ability to run over Big 12 defenders, Ehlinger earned some love from Texas fans, but he never quite earned their trust.

Ehlinger’s performances remained fairly inconsistent all season, exhibiting game-changing plays — both good and bad. The 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound quarterback pounded his way to a double-overtime victory over Kansas State, only to throw a game-ending interception in overtime against Oklahoma State two weeks later.

If Ehlinger can eliminate those crucial mistakes throughout spring football, it will be no surprise if No. 11 runs out with the offense against Maryland at FedExField on Sept. 1.

Buechele has a shot, if he remains healthy

Sophomore Shane Buechele experienced multiple injuries last season. His injury woes began in the season opener against Maryland when Buechele sustained a bruised throwing shoulder. The sophomore missed the next two games before returning against Iowa State, only to sprain his ankle.

But Buechele’s injury bug didn’t stop there. On Jan. 17, the Longhorns confirmed Buechele was set to undergo surgery on a torn adductor (hip)/abdominal muscle that he sustained during the Texas Bowl against Missouri. However, after treatments and rehab, Buechele is still expected to return in time for spring practice.

Buechele’s first task is getting healthy and staying there. If he can do that, don’t count him out of this battle.

The new kids on the block

This is where the quarterback battle gets fuzzy. A pair of four-star quarterbacks in Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson both look to make an immediate impact in burnt orange.

Thompson, a dual-threat quarterback, appears to be the best rusher of the four guys competing. The Oklahoma native threw for over 2,500 yards and added over 1,000 rushing yards during his sophomore year of high school.

Rising, however, brings with him what many are calling the strongest arm in the 2018 recruiting class. The Californian threw for over 3,000 yards in his sophomore season and rushed for another 756. Rising signed with Texas despite receiving offers from Alabama, Miami and Oklahoma.

How these two highly sought after recruits adapt to the college game is yet to be determined, but not too many people in the state would be surprised if their talent outweighed their inexperience once the quarterback battle and spring practice begin on March 5.