Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) runs toward quarterback Shane Buechele (7) during warmups before an NCAA college football game against San Jose State in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, September 9, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BEVO BEAT

The Whys of Texas: Shane Buechele remains the starter, but why not even a little Sam Ehlinger?

Posted October 4th, 2017

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The quarterback usually gets too much praise and, subsequently, too much blame. That goes with the territory of the most high-profile position on the field.

In the Whys of Texas this week, a clear thread is emerging among the readers who sent in their thoughts. Most have minimal issues with sophomore Shane Buechele, but they’d like to see more of freshman Sam Ehlinger.

So far, both quarterbacks are 1-1 this season as starters. Buechele has completed 68 percent of his passes for 546 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Ehlinger has completed 54 percent of his throws for 520 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

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Both have similar rushing stats through four games as well.

“Shane’s got to get better. Sam’s got to get better,” UT coach Tom Herman said on Monday. “We’ve got to get better everywhere, especially on offense. But we feel like you can win with either one of those guys at quarterback.”

We’re a long way away from this becoming Simms vs. Applewhite II. Probably a million miles from that, really. It’s clear that Buechele is the one who holds the upper hand and needs to keep playing well to silence his doubters and keep Ehlinger on the sideline.

Welcome to the high-stakes world of major college football.

On to this week’s mailbag…

We won! The defense was great! Special teams for the most part was very good! The offense is embarrassing. Can’t run read option with a weak offensive line and weak QB. Shane is nice kid but not a playmaker nor a leader. He is David Ash-like and not a read-option QB. Also, he kept holding the ball and not throwing after some of the receivers had made their breaks and were open. Do not understand why Herman did not give Sam a chance to get the offense rolling? Collin Johnson had to be a mismatch and Shane never tried to make the throws. Sam reminds me of Colt McCoy (leader, confident, can run the ball, etc.) and Shane is more like Case McCoy. No brainer! Hook ’em! 

— Terry via email

Buechele proved last season he can be an effective game manager. He’s continued that this season. Offensive coordinators would crow about distributing the ball to 11 different receivers. To me, that’s good only to a point. Collin Johnson didn’t get many balls throws his way. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps didn’t get any action until the second half. Is this play-calling? Is Buechele afraid to pull the trigger?

Remember, a quarterback’s primary job is to protect the football. I’m not going to question his toughness. Did you see how Buechele hung in the pocket and delivered a perfect strike to Toneil Carter for a 22-yard touchdown and got whacked? It was beautiful.

Say what you want, but Buechele kept the chains moving against Iowa State. Texas had the ball 40 minutes, 31 seconds — more than two-thirds of the game! You have to believe Herman liked that. I expect Buechele to start against Kansas State, assuming he can get past an ankle injury.

Do you think it would be a benefit to ask the players what their best positions are and to ask them the best positions of the other players? As you said in your article, the players feel Sam Ehlinger is the better runner at QB. I’m not saying what the players say should necessarily be followed; however, sometimes we all need to be heard to know we are valued.

I sent this to you because I didn’t think if I sent it to the coaches, it would be taken seriously for several reasons. One, I’m not a coach. I’m not even an extremely knowledgeable fan, but I know good football when I see it and I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly at UT. I’m female. Believe it or not even in 2017, females aren’t always given their due.

— Rhonda, Texas Ex, ’72

First off, the Whys mailbag is open to all Texas fans — male, female or Martian. I’m hoping we get a letter from Pluto at some point. The reason why I said players feel Ehlinger is a better runner is because he’s tried to run over them in practice. “He’ll truck you,” P.J. Locke III said earlier this season. The players respect someone who tries to run through them. Now, does that make it smarter than running out of bounds? Not necessarily.

As for the players’ feelings, you have to remember they will never tell reporters what they really think. The players are coached to say certain things. The more vanilla the better. That’s nothing new, though. It’s become standard operating procedure at schools everywhere.

After seven tears of ignominy, I thought it looked pretty good.  Defense was lights-out again.  Good scheme, good execution.  Dickson is the team MVP at this point. The question on everyone’s mind is why there were no snaps for Ehlinger.  It looks to me that Buechele is taking a beating and will be knocked out again soon. Our offensive line is going to make life miserable for the QB and the running game.

— David in Pflugerville

Herman isn’t one who will give into the masses, but I’ll be surprised if we don’t see Ehlinger a few possessions against Kansas State. Mainly because Buechele does have a bum ankle. He’s likely not going to be at 100 percent. It just makes sense to get Ehlinger more game action in what should be a competitive home game before Texas faces Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

The Longhorns have problems on offense, to be sure. Frankly, it’s hard to pinpoint if it’s simply a mediocre run game, an inconsistent passing attack, spotty blocking or the play-calling.

And the answer is the play-calling. You put your worst back in the game when you trying to get off your goal line. You run a reverse with your biggest back in the game. Can’t you throw to the end zone with 6 seconds remaining?

— Nat via email

Man, I took all sorts of heat on Twitter last Thursday for implying that Texas should run the 2-minute drill late in the first half. The Horns took over at their own 2-yard line with 1:42 remaining. I would’ve liked to see the offense get aggressive. Maybe you get a field goal or more as well as receiving the ball to start the third quarter. Oh well. Instead, Porter rushed for no gain, 2 yards and then 3 yards after a Texas timeout. The Horns punted. The Cyclones didn’t get anything going because two plays later, Boyd made an interception.

I simply don’t see what offensive coordinator Tim Beck sees in Kyle Porter. I have a feeling I’m not alone.

Not from a negative point a few I just wonder WHY? Why is it so hard to get more players in the games? Sometimes the starters don’t get the job done, and when it isn’t working, put in other young men that might get something started for the team. I saw something that shouldn’t have been. Shane ran the ball very well, almost better that the running backs, but was shaken up three times. I realize this is college and situations are different, but the young man had been out with an injury prior a few weeks. Why didn’t the offensive just take him out long enough for him to catch his breath?

— Ed via email

Here’s the issue about rotating quarterbacks. If you expose both to regular beatings, you risk getting both hurt. If you stick with one, the other remains healthy on the sideline. Right now, Texas has only two scholarship quarterback options — Buechele and Ehlinger. There are two more pledged to join the roster next season, but that’s next season. Herman must operate in the here and now. So far Buechele has suffered rib, hand, concussion, shoulder and ankle injuries in his first nearly season-and-a-half. He’s tough as hell and keeps coming back for more. That alone deserves respect. But it’s also one reason why you can’t expose another quarterback to such a beating when the incumbent is playing well.

Keep trying to divide the fans. I’ve trained both quarterbacks, Shane is better and more prepared to give Texas an opportunity to win. Exclude San Jose State, Sam is easier to adapt to from a defensive mindset. As conference play continues teams will build their game plan to disrupt the QB. Right now, Sam is easier to stop as a whole. Shane brings more variety to the table notably in the passing game. He can stretch the vertical game and assist the running game. Sam is not quick side to side, he’s a monster that likes to run over linebackers. That’s a suicide mission. A healthy Shane is the plan.

— Will via Facebook

Ehlinger has only two game films available to defensive coordinators. That’s not enough tape to determine anything about anybody. I also doubt USC felt good about things in the fourth quarter and overtime in the Coliseum. Yes, Ehlinger had some mishaps in that game, although the two snap issues were more on the center hearing someone else clapping, not Ehlinger. The Westlake product does need to be smart with his body, no question. Ehlinger isn’t going to last too long if he chooses to run through people.

Let Carter loose. We have two losses and nothing to lose

— Austen via Facebook

Herman admitted on Monday that we’ll see more of freshman Toneil Carter against Kansas State and likely more going forward. His thoughts on the running backs were quite damning, I thought. “We’re not making very many people miss,” Herman said. “If it’s blocked for 4 (yards), we’re going to make 4. If it’s blocked for 6, we’re going to make 6. (With) the great backs if it’s blocked for four, they give you eight, and if it’s blocked to one, they give you three or four. So that’s been addressed. Not hit the panic button yet. Chris and Kyle know that everybody wants to throw — when you don’t run the ball really well, everybody wants to throw the offensive line under the bus, but it’s a collection of things. You’ll see Toneil play more, he played more against Ohio State and he’ll play more this week, too.”

Love, love, love Jerrod! Completely unselfish player! So proud that he is a lifetime longhorn! Hook’em!

— Susan via Facebook

Seriously, is there another player beloved like No. 13? Man, it’s amazing. Heard earned another level of respect in my book just for getting on the field against Iowa State. Turns out, someone stepped on his hand in practice and gashed it open. It required 19 stitches. Thus, he likely couldn’t grip the football and that’s why he didn’t get any quarterback snaps against the Cyclones. I’m not betting against Heard this season, now or ever.

Got a question for the Whys of Texas mailbag? Contact Brian Davis at bdavis@statesman.com.

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