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Quarterbacks: Where Does Texas Stand?

The Tom Herman era got off to a hot start. On the third play of the regular season, Maryland QB Tyrrell Pigrome threw a pass that was intercepted 31 yards for a touchdown, giving Texas a 7-0 lead. It only got worse from there.

The two teams duked it out last weekend at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium, and the 18-point underdog Terrapins won their first game versus a ranked opponent since 2010, 51 – 41. And as great a performance it was for the Terrapins, it left the Longhorns and their fans with more questions than answers.

One of the most critical takeaways from the season opener was the injury to sophomore QB Shane Buechele. The second-year starter was hoping to improve upon his breakout freshman year, throwing for 2,985 yards with 21 passing touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions.

His sophomore campaign didn’t start in amazing fashion, as he completed 34 of his 52 passes for 375 yards, 2 touchdowns through the air and one on the ground, and an interception to accompany that. While that’s just fine and dandy, he bruised his throwing shoulder during the game and is being further evaluated.

What does this mean for the Longhorns? Shane Buechele did not practice on Tuesday and Coach Herman has yet to rule him out for the home game this weekend against the visiting San Jose State Spartans.

What are the Longhorns’ options at the quarterback position? The only 2 QBs on the depth chart are injured starter Shane Buechele and true freshman Sam Ehlinger. The only other option that Texas could explore would be former quarterback turned wide receiver Jerrod Heard, who started 10 games during the 2015 season.

But is Heard a legitimate option? While he did have a moderately successful year – throwing for 1214 yards – he had the same number of touchdowns as interceptions at 5. And while that may not be great, it was Heard’s running ability that made him a legitimate threat, rushing 139 times for 556 yards and 3 touchdowns. He did upset Oklahoma, a top-10 team at the time, but only passed 11 times in the upset. It was the running game that got the Longhorns the upset over their bitter rival, as they rushed 58 times. But that is not a precedent for success in this day and age of spread offenses, and Heard has not started at quarterback since November 14, 2015 in a loss to West Virginia. Coach Herman once considered Heard the “nuclear option,” but being that Buechele is potentially out for the game versus the Spartans, Heard is taking second team snaps during the week.

What this program needs is a sense of stability, but that might be out of the question as the Texas varsity squad could be starting their 3rd freshman quarterback in 3 years if freshman Sam Ehlinger gets the start on Saturday.

Sam Ehlinger is from Westlake High School in Austin and was recruited heavily as a dual-threat quarterback, ranked #4 of all players from the 2017 class and the #19 highest rated player in the state. Whether he is ready to take the reins of such a team is up for debate. It’s a sigh of relief that Ehlinger gets to test his abilities and get a feel for live-time action at home instead of next week, when the Longhorns travel to Los Angeles to take on USC in a prime-time matchup.

Ehlinger will be able to test his abilities on Saturday, as the Longhorns look to bounce back against San Jose State at 2:30 PM at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium.

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Ross Labenske is a student at the University of Texas studying journalism with a focus in sports. He graduated from Allen High School and has a passion for his hometown teams in the Dallas area; the Mavericks, Rangers, and first and foremost, the Dallas Cowboys.

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