9:00 AM ET
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ quarterback competition has entered the summer phase.
The battle is still undecided, as was coach Tom Herman’s plan all along. After Saturday’s spring game, he scoffed at the notion it’s time to name Shane Buechele his QB1 after the sophomore threw for 369 yards and scored three touchdowns on 23-of-39 passing.
No way, Herman said. No need. That’s just premature.
Buechele did have a clear advantage over true freshman Sam Ehlinger throughout the spring. It became obvious to Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck which of their two passers has 12 career college starts under his belt. Buechele is more comfortable running the show, and his accuracy has made a strong impression.
“I saw growth in him,” Beck said. “The things we require our quarterback to do and to be is different for him and for what he was asked to do and to be last year. It’s a process, and he’s in that process right now. He hasn’t arrived by any means, but he is growing.”
Shane Buechele threw for 369 yards and scored three touchdowns on 23-of-39 passing in the Texas spring game, but the sophomore did not sew up the starting job. Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP
Herman got where he is today by building a resume as one of college football’s finest developers of quarterbacks. He turned Chase Clement into Rice’s all-time-leading passer. Iowa State’s Austen Arnaud finished with the best completion percentage in school history. Herman took Braxton Miller’s game to another level and took J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones to a national title at Ohio State. He helped transform Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. into a superstar.
Now Herman has to work his magic at Texas and bring an end to an infamous seven-year QB rut. The truth is, this battle will likely be won behind the scenes. The upcoming summer session is an essential proving ground for quarterbacks hoping to impress Herman.
“Are you the guy that’s voluntarily setting up quarterback-wide receiver workouts on off days? Are you the guy who is the first into treatment and the last one out after weights?” said Arnaud, Herman’s starting quarterback at Iowa State in 2009 and 2010. “He looks for those qualities, and he’s got people that check up on you always. The candidate he chooses will be the guy who makes football a priority.”
One lingering concern for these quarterbacks, which makes sense when your only options are a sophomore or a freshman: leadership. Herman was asked Saturday to assess how Buechele and Ehlinger have come along in that area. His blunt answer: “Just OK.”
He’s pushed the fairly even-keeled Buechele to work on his on-field demeanor. “Shane, I think, took some steps this past week,” Herman said. “I saw him smiling more, and his body language was better. We’ve had a lot of conversations about that. He was a lot more positive.”
He’s urged the uber-confident Ehlinger to not take a back seat to Texas’ older players. “Sam, I think, needs to realize that just because he’s a freshman doesn’t mean he should acquiesce all the leadership to everybody else,” Herman said. “He’s got a lot of presence, a lot of natural leadership, and whether he winds up being the first, second, third, fourth-team quarterback, it doesn’t matter.”
Herman’s grading system for quarterbacks is pluses and minuses. If you miss a read, miss a signal or even take one wrong step, that’s a missed assignment, or an M.A. And it’s an M.A. even if the play results in big yardage.
“A lot of times I would have at least 20 M.A.’s in a game,” Arnaud said. “And I was not perfect by any means. I was an average quarterback. But he got the best out of me.”
That extreme level of precision and detail is the rigid standard in Herman’s system. Arnaud, who’s now living in Charlotte working as a medical sales rep, doesn’t know much about Buechele and Ehlinger. But he knows enough about Herman to know how to win the Texas job.
The No. 1 factor, he said, is always going to be ball security. Herman would tell his Iowa State quarterbacks they must treat the football like a briefcase filled with a million dollars.
“Take risks, but take calculated risks,” Arnaud said. “That’s what he always talked about. Whoever takes better care of the football will be the starting quarterback.”
Both Longhorns have big arms and bright futures. Both are well-liked by teammates. And