After the NCAA declared the 2020 season an essential “free season” for all college football players, many key players have to decide whether or not they should return to their program for an extra season or move on with their lives and careers.
One of the most-watched names in the Big 12 Conference is Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
Ehlinger certainly has had an impressive career, ranking second to Colt McCoy in passing yards and touchdowns in Texas football history. There are plenty of other single-game records he ranks highly in as well. He’s also helped Texas reach a Big 12 Championship Game in 2018, which they lost, but then beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
What does Ehlinger think about returning. “I have given thought to it. I haven’t come to a conclusion yet,” Ehlinger said of his pending decision. “I want to try to enjoy these last few weeks. But I haven’t closed one door on anything yet.”
But just because Ehlinger would return as a veteran leader and established player for Texas doesn’t mean he should. In fact, I think it would be best for Ehlinger and Texas to both move on from each other.
I know the story of Sam Ehlinger, the local kid who grew up dreaming of being the UT quarterback, is a great story for College Gameday, but that doesn’t mean him returning in 2021 makes the most sense for the program moving forward.
The offense has been so reliant on Sam Ehlinger the last couple of seasons as a passer and a runner, and as a result, it feels like it hasn’t really progressed much. In fact it feels stagnant in many ways.
In an offseason where Texas nearly cleaned house by replacing Tom Herman with Urban Meyer, it still feels like a chance for Texas to wipe the slate clean in other ways.
Let’s be clear, the Longhorns weren’t held back by Sam Ehlinger. But sometimes new blood can do the trick. Heck, just look to the last game Texas played this season. After losing to Iowa State on Black Friday, several key Texas players opted out of the season.
The next week in Manhattan, Kansas? A 69-31 domination. Some new faces got more playing time, were hungry, motivated and gave this team a spark it didn’t show for much of the season.
The Texas Longhorns also have some players who are chomping at the bit to get their shot at quarterback, and if they don’t, Texas could lose them to the transfer portal.
Casey Thompson was part of the 2018 class and is closing out his redshirt sophomore campaign. He was the No. 11 dual-threat QB and No. 5 player in the state of Oklahoma. Thompson has played in just a handful of games in his three seasons on campus.
Then, there’s Hudson Card, who is finishing up his freshman season where he came in as a local kid from Lake Travis High School (Austin, TX) and was the No. 3 dual-threat QB in the country, according to 247Sports, and a Top 100 player in the nation.
Both players are itching for their turn to make their mark on Texas football.
And in college football, sometimes going with what you know and is “safe”, isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. In fact, sometimes it leaves you stagnant as a team and as a program.
I understand this may be viewed by some of knocking Sam Ehlinger and diminishing what he’s done for Texas. I reiterate, that isn’t the case at all.
But just like any relationship can get stale, with each side getting stagnant, it feels like that is where we are at with the Texas Longhorns/Sam Ehlinger relationship.
Texas won’t get itself to the next level as a program, and Sam Ehlinger isn’t going to vastly improve his game beyond where it stands right now. It’s been a relationship that certainly got Texas Longhorns football back on the map from the Charlie Strong era, but it’s time to see if someone else can give the team the QB spark it needs in 2021 and beyond.
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