AUSTIN, Texas – The biggest position battle in the Big 12 is at Texas quarterback.
No position carries more expectations in pursuit of getting the once-proud Longhorns back to the top of the league. And none will be a bigger target of scorn if Texas can't get there.
That's a lot of pressure on Hudson Card and Quinn Ewers to win the job and keep it, and on coach Steve Sarkisian to make the right choice for the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 3, and a week later against mighty Alabama.
Spring practice kicked off the program's reboot after a 5-7 disaster in 2021, and it wrapped up this weekend with an open scrimmage for fans to see what all the fuss is about at quarterback.
Sarkisian gives no hints to who may have the edge, and says fans shouldn't read anything into who takes the first snap.
“Both guys have played really well, I've been impressed with their playmaking ability. When they are taking their shots, they are taking their shots,” Sarkisian said this week.
“Hudson, some of the game management comes naturally to him having been doing it with us. I think Quinn is a very quick study ... Both guys have earned a lot of respect from their teammates."
For Card, it's a second chance to earn a job that once was his. To do it, he'll have to fend off the mop-topped hotshot Ewers, a former five-star high school recruit from the Dallas area who barely played during one season at Ohio State before coming home.
The hoopla surrounding Ewers' return has many Longhorns fans assuming he will win the job.
“He can make all the throws,” Card said. “I believe I can, too.”
Card was the ballyhooed national recruit when he was at nearby Lake Travis, and he used to be the player of legendary throws in Texas practice. So many that he won the job over Casey Thompson to start the 2021 season.
It didn't last long. A blowout loss at Arkansas left some teammates describing Card as rattled in the huddle, and Sarkisian quickly went to Thompson for the rest of the season. Card barely had a chance to settle into the role when it was taken from him.
But with Thompson at the helm, Texas had its longest losing streak in 65 years. Sarkisian promised an open competition again in 2022.
Ewers arrived from Ohio State. Thompson left for Nebraska. Card says he never considered leaving.
Despite early endorsement deals in Ohio reported at more than $1 million, Ewers played only one snap of football last season as freshman C.J. Stroud led the Buckeyes to an 11-2 record. With little room to move on the Buckeyes' roster and the wide-open competition in Austin, Ewers saw no reason to stay.
“I grew up always watching the Longhorns play, wanted to be in that burnt orange,” Ewers said. “There was a little obstacle in between, but I ended up here. I’m very thankful for all the opportunities God has given me, and I’m just excited to be back in the home state.”
Ewers didn't want to say much about why he left Texas in the first place.
“At the end of the day, I ended up where I think I should be,” Ewers said. "And that’s all there is to it.”
Card, whose Texas career pinballed from starter to benchwarmer only to see Sarkisian court another hotshot like Ewers, opted to stay even though he is more than a year away from graduation.
“This is where I’ve always wanted to play. It’s been my dream school,” Card said. “There’ll be competition everywhere, so I decided to give it my best shot.”
Texas fans have already seen the good (two touchdown passes against Louisiana) and bad (a pick-six interception in a loss to Kansas) from Card.
They've been told how great Ewers can be and have seen his high school highlights. They've also made a celebrity of his foppish head of hair, a cross between a traditional mullet and '80's hair band singer.
Ewers seems a little mystified about that, although in the new era of name, image and likeness he could probably strike a deal with barber about getting it cut for cash.
“It’s just hair at the end of the day,” Ewers said.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25