It’s been 617 days since Quinn Ewers originally committed to Texas, but the five-star recruit finally made his public debut in burnt orange Saturday night at Texas’s spring game.
The format hardly resembled a game in the true sense of the word, but after a nearly two-year saga intertwined with a changing NIL landscape, the mulleted quarterback is back to doing what he’s known for—playing football.
There’s just one thing left to do: Win the starting job.
Just over two months after Ewers committed to the Longhorns in August 2020, the Southlake, Texas native backed out on that promise, quote a rushed recruitment due to the pandemic. Tom Herman’s 3–2 start to that season didn’t provide much stability at Texas, and other schools like Alabama and Ohio State were still wooing one of the most coveted quarterback prospects ever.
Ewers quickly decided on the Buckeyes less than a month later and ended up skipping his senior year of high school to enroll early at Ohio State, where he could capitalize on the NIL revenue that the state of Texas restricts high schools athletes from receiving.
It was a business decision, and one that paid off. Ewers reportedly signed an autograph deal with a sports marketing company for $1.4 million, but he was buried on the depth chart behind freshman CJ Stroud. With no clear path to the field, Ewers entered the transfer portal in December 2021. Days later, he announced his transfer to Texas.
“I feel like I kind of committed more emotionally,” Ewers said Aug. 14 about his stop in Columbus. “But at the end of the day, I ended up where I think I should be. And that’s all there is to it.”
Waiting for him in Austin was Hudson Card, a former four-star recruit who battled with fourth-year quarterback Casey Thompson for Texas’s starting job in 2021. Ewers has the arm to make all the throws, but Card committed to Texas in 2018, has a year in second-year coach Steve Sarkisian’s system under his belt and has experienced a quarterback competition already.
“Everyone has different tangibles to bring,” Card said. “Obviously for me, I have a little bit of experience, and I’m just going to try to use that to my advantage.”
Sarkisian has emphasized all spring that the position is up for grabs. He’s said both have impressed him with their playmaking abilities and effectiveness in third-down scenarios. Game management comes more naturally to Card, per Sarkisian, but Ewers is a speedy learner, quickly grasping new situations faced in spring practice.
The ongoing competition set the stage for a spring game battle between the two quarterbacks. But Sarkisian neutralized the game’s format, turning it into much more of a typical spring practice rather than a game that fans might be used to.
With Sarkisian citing a lack of depth on the lines, rather than split into two separate teams, the game featured about 100 plays from scrimmage with the two quarterbacks and other personnel swapping in and out from drive to drive. No score or stats were kept, ensuring that as little as possible could be taken from the performance of either quarterback.
Card led a touchdown drive on the opening series of the game, and Ewers responded by completing one of five pass attempts on his drive. But on his next try, Ewers connected with wideout Isaiah Neyor, a newly acquired transfer from Wyoming, for a roughly 60-yard touchdown.
The ball traveled about 50 yards in the air and solicited more than a few gasps from the crowd. “I think that’s one of many, many touchdowns [to come] by those two,” junior wideout Jordan Whittington said afterwards.
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On his next drive, Ewers threw right into the arms of the defense with the safety sitting on a deep crossing route. From there the two quarterbacks continued trading drives, running vanilla concepts and chucking deep balls until both were swapped out.
There was no official winner or stats to judge Ewers by, just a reassurance from Sarkisian after the game that the competition between his quarterbacks will continue into the summer.
“Both guys really had some flash plays,” Sarkisian said. “Whether it’s throwing down the field or orchestrating drives in the red area. And we saw some plays I think both guys would love to have back.”
Texas didn’t make either quarterback available for comment Saturday night.
It’s been a wild stretch for Ewers, having left his home state to ride the bench at Ohio State before returning to Texas. He’s been the talk of the recruiting and NIL worlds for a couple years now, but hasn’t had the chance to display his talents on the field yet. And now he’s in the midst of a quarterback competition that has a chance of not going his way.
“I try not to focus on all that,” Ewers said Aug. 14. “I try to just keep tunnel vision and focus on what’s ahead.”
What’s ahead—at least in the dreams of Texas fans—could be anything from leading Texas football back to relevance, NFL draft projections, millions in NIL benefits or some combination of them all. But before he can get there, Ewers has a job to win, and dwelling on the past two years won’t help him get there.
Sarkisian doesn’t want to rush his young quarterback, who still has four years of eligibility remaining. Ewers is going to miss some throws like he did Saturday. It won’t be smooth; it already hasn’t been. But that’s all part of Sarkisian’s plan for Ewers, one he hopes to continue developing this offseason.
“Sometimes he can be too hard on himself,” Sarkisian said. “Human error is human error. Sometimes you miss the throws. That’s okay. We got to move on.”
With spring football having now come and gone, Sarkisian will meet with each of his players individually to discuss areas of improvement as they break for the summer. “Quinn’s no different,” Sarkisian said.
Consistently equipped with an appropriate metaphor, Sarkisian has been helping Ewers move into the next chapter of his career since his arrival at Texas.
“Coach Sark once told me, ‘That’s why the rearview mirror is so small, and the windshield is so big,’” Ewers said earlier this spring. “You kind of put the past behind you and just focus on what’s ahead. And I’m super excited about what’s ahead for sure.”
He’s only spoken publicly once since his arrival in Austin, but if it was any indication, Ewers is ready to move on and get back to playing football. The past is in the past. Now, he has a job to win.
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