After an offseason full of speculation surrounding who will be the man under center for Texas come Sept. 1, against Maryland, head coach Tom Herman revealed who the first quarterback to take reps on the day one of fall camp will be.
“The guy that will take the first snap will be Sam (Ehlinger),” Herman said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “He’s earned that, obviously just going all the way back to the winter where Shane (Buechele) was hurt and rehabbing. The spring was pretty neck and neck. They both had great summers. The next time the ones go out, Shane will take that rep with the ones. That rotation will be there.”
Last season, Buechele began the season as the team’s starter before suffering an injury in Texas’ first game. Throughout the rest of the year, Ehlinger split time with Buechele after dealing with injury issues of his own at times, leaving the Longhorns without much long-term consistency at the position.
The trend continued all the way to the Texas Bowl against Missouri as the two quarterbacks both made appearances by taking turns on the field each possession.
As a result, another quarterback competition is officially underway as Texas hits the field for the first time since the spring game. Even though Ehlinger might be the favorite early on, he says that he doesn’t think it’s his job to lose.
“I would say it’s both of our jobs to lose,” Ehlinger said. “We’re going to go into it with a winning mentality like we always have. I don’t think anything has changed. Let the best man win.”
The pressure seems to be higher on Shane Buechele, the quarterback with the most experience, than it is on anybody else. According to him, though, the potential of not starting isn’t something that crosses his mind too often.
“You never want to think that way,” Buechele said. “I mean, in my opinion, you never want to be the guy on the sideline with the headset on. Obviously, it’s happened and I know what it feels like and I hate it so that drives you a little more to just get that in your mind and help it in the competitive battle that I have.”
The two quarterbacks, with their respective ups and downs, both bring something different to the huddle.
Buechele looked like he was going to thrive in a play-action passing game with a heavy focus on the running game just two seasons ago. Once former Longhorn D’Onta Foreman said goodbye to Austin and hello to the NFL, though, the quarterback’s fit in the offense became a lot more difficult due to a dramatic drop off in the ground game.
Ehlinger, on the other hand, who sometimes showed a veteran’s poise many times last season, also made decisions that more closely resembled the expectations of a true freshman.
Previous wins and losses aside, perhaps the most important factor that will define this quarterback competition is which athlete has shoulders broad enough to carry the level of leadership needed to propel the Longhorn offense.
“Being a leader means that you make others around you a leader and you make others around you better,” Ehlinger said. “It’s not a particular way to approach it or thing to say. It’s an aura about you. It’s the way that you walk, the way that you talk, the way that you blink. I think it’s something you’re born with.”