There's a stunning stat about Texas' offensive players, and it all traces back to the QB issue
Vince Young stood atop the college football world with confetti blowing all around him. That confetti might as well have been dollar bills because when Young’s storied Texas career concluded with a BCS National Championship, it all but guaranteed his path to NFL riches. Young came off the board as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
And that, my friends, was the last time Texas had an offensive player drafted in the first round.
Yep. It’s been 15 years (and counting) since the Longhorns had an offensive player picked in Round 1.
That sentence was worth repeating because it’s truly stunning. The only other SEC team that hasn’t had an offensive player selected in Round 1 in the past 15 drafts was Kentucky, who we can all agree is held in a different regard in the college football world than Texas.
Fittingly, that drought began after one of the great quarterbacks in college football history left Austin for the NFL. If you’re trying to understand the “why” for that baffling stat, trace it all back to the quarterbacks. Specifically, the recruitment of the quarterbacks.
(Real quick. The stat that piggybacks off the “no offensive players in Round 1 in 15 years” stat is that from 2007-18, Texas signed 85 offensive players rated 4-stars or better, and not a single one of them turned into a first-round pick in the NFL Draft.)
Sam Ehlinger just became Texas’ first quarterback drafted since Colt McCoy in 2010. That was a 10-year drought. In Texas. Like, for the traditional powerhouse program in the state that produced these blue-chip quarterback recruits (4- or 5-stars) from 2010-18 (I stopped at 2018 because that’s the last class that was draft-eligible):
- Connor Wood, Texas
- James Franklin, Mizzou
- Scotty Young, Texas Tech
- Sam Carter, TCU
- J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State
- Matt Davis, Texas A&M
- Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
- Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
- Jalen Overstreet, Texas
- Ford Childress, West Virginia
- Cody Thomas, Oklahoma
- JT Barrett, Ohio State
- Kohl Stewart, Texas A&M
- Tyrone Swoopes, Texas
- Kenny Hill, Texas A&M
- Chris Johnson, Baylor
- DeVante Kincade, Ole Miss
- Jerrod Heard, Texas
- Foster Sawyer, TCU
- Kyler Murray, Texas A&M
- Jarrett Stidham, Baylor
- Quinten Dormady, Tennessee
- Shane Buechele, Texas
- Jalen Hurts, Alabama
- Dillon Sterling-Cole, Arizona State
- Sam Ehlinger, Texas
- Chris Robison, Oklahoma
- Shawn Robinson, TCU
- Avery Davis, Notre Dame
- Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State
- Tanner Mordecai, Oklahoma
- Matthew Baldwin, Ohio State
- Jalen Mayden, Mississippi State
That’s 33 blue-chip quarterback recruits from just Texas, and only one of them (Ehlinger) managed to go through Austin and become an NFL Draft pick.
That doesn’t even tell the story. Eventual Heisman winner Johnny Manziel (3-star recruit) picked Texas A&M in 2011. A year like 2014, some kid named “Patrick Mahomes” was a 3-star recruit, but Texas went with Heard instead of the future first-round pick and NFL superstar. Oh, and who could forget whiffing on Austin native Baker Mayfield twice? Texas told him he wasn’t good enough.
To recap, Texas missed out on Manziel, Mayfield (twice), Mahomes, Murray (twice) and Hurts (twice). That tells the entire decade-long quarterback drought story right there. Mayfield, Mahomes and Murray have already proven to be NFL stars. Hurts could be next. What a Mount Rushmore of Texas quarterback whiffs in the past decade that is. If any big-time program has had a tougher decade of misses at the position than that, I haven’t seen it. If Texas had signed one of those guys, we aren’t having this conversation.
That doesn’t even include guys like Kyle Trask, D’Eriq King (twice), Barrett and Stidham, all of whom turned out to be excellent college quarterbacks. Barrett, I’d argue, was a shade better player than Ehlinger, who also became Texas’ first quarterback to earn All-Big 12 honors since McCoy in 2009 (Barrett was a 3-time first-team All-Big Ten player while Ehlinger only earned all-conference honors in 2020).
The common denominator between Barrett and Ehlinger is that both signed up to run Tom Herman’s offense. At the time that Herman coached both quarterbacks, he was considered one of the elite offensive minds in the sport. And it’s not like Herman’s recruiting of quarterbacks should be seen as a colossal failure. Texas had a top-20 offense each of the last 2 years. The guys battling to replace Ehlinger are former 4-star Oklahoma native Casey Thompson (class of 2018) and 4-star Texas native Hudson Card (class of 2020), both of whom were Herman’s recruits. If one of them succeeds, however, it’ll be Steve Sarkisian who gets all the credit.
When you look at Texas’ overall struggles in the last decade — just 1 top-10 finish — and combine it with the lack of NFL Draft success, it’s pretty easy to see why the Longhorns gave Herman a $15 million buyout (it was $24 million to part ways with the entire staff) in order to make a $34 million splash to hire Sarkisian. All Sarkisian did was walk into Alabama and deliver the school’s top 2 offenses in school history, the second of which fueled a national title.
In the past 2 NFL Drafts, Alabama had 9 offensive players picked in the first round. That matched the program’s combined total from the 8 pre-Sarkisian seasons in Tuscaloosa. Compare that to Texas, who again, hasn’t had a first-round offensive player since Nick Saban arrived at Alabama back in 2007.
No Texas player on either side of the ball came off the board in Round 1 in the last 6 NFL Drafts (2016-21). Will Sarkisian turn that around? And if so, how soon? Sarkisian was seen as a major reason why Alabama was able to land California native and 5-star quarterback Bryce Young. Now, Young is set to lead the Tide without Sarkisian, and when he makes first college start, he’ll do so as a near-millionaire.
The Name, Image and Likeness era appears to have added an unprecedented layer to a story that Longhorn fans are plenty familiar with. Quinn Ewers is the highest-rated quarterback recruit since Trevor Lawrence. The Southlake Carroll (Texas) star was once committed to Texas, but he flipped his commitment to Ohio State last fall before Herman was fired. Now, it appears the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class has his eyes on cashing in early and shipping up to Columbus before Sarkisian gets a chance to swoop in at the 11th hour:
Yahoo Exclusive: No. 1 overall recruit Quinn Ewers tells @yahoosports he’s “leaning” toward skipping senior HS year and attending Ohio State. Ewers could then sign NIL deals worth nearly seven figures, which aren’t allowed in Texas for high school players. https://t.co/KFcXyafcQs
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) July 28, 2021
That would be seen as a brutal blow to Texas, though all signs have pointed to Ewers sticking with his Ohio State commitment. Will he join the likes of Manziel, Mayfield, Mahomes and Murray in the “ones that got away” department? It looks like it.
Within his first few weeks on the job, Sarkisian went back to his California roots and got a commitment from 4-star recruit Maalik Murphy. In case you were wondering, Murphy is on board with the move to the SEC.
If you’re Sarkisian, you’re hoping that all of your recruits are ready to embrace the challenge. Sarkisian is also hoping that the move to the SEC will elevate Texas’ recruiting pedigree even more.
In 6 of those 9 years (2010-18), Texas signed a blue-chip quarterback from the Lone Star State. With the exception of Ehlinger, it was a combination of picking the wrong guy and a lack of development that fueled the decade-long drought.
Is that about to change? Will Sarkisian develop a pipeline of quarterbacks similar to the one Lincoln Riley has at Oklahoma? Time will tell.
Before Texas can truly be back, taking care of those embarrassing footnotes should be priority No. 1.