AUSTIN, Texas – Quinn Ewers’ mullet is gone. The big arm is still there.
So is the competition that comes with the big name of Manning behind it.
Texas wraps spring practice Saturday with the Longhorns' annual scrimmage, allowing the first real look at the biggest quarterback battle in the Big 12 between Ewers, early-enrolled freshman Arch Manning of the famed football family, and second-year reserve Maalik Murphy, a top recruit who spent his freshman season of 2022 on the sidelines.
Coach Steve Sarkisian has revealed little about the competition, but noted this week that Ewers' experience from 2022 has given him an edge so far.
“Quinn, naturally, is kind of a step ahead of everybody with his experience that he has. I think that we’re now getting a full dose of Maalik, feel good about him. And, I think Arch, you know 13 practices into college football, is performing well,” Sarkisian said. "I feel very comfortable about where we’re at. I feel good about it.”
Ewers started 10 games last season, throwing for 2,177 yards and 15 touchdowns with six interceptions. He missed two games with an injury, struggled badly at times but finished strong with 116 consecutive passes without an interception as Texas finished 8-5.
And when the season was finished, Ewers cut the golden locks of his signature mullet hairstyle that flowed out of the back of his helmet. Some saw it as a sign Ewers of getting more serious and sharpening his game with Manning coming to campus.
Sarkisian sees an overall maturity blooming in Ewers.
“One thing we had talked about is sometimes your appearance/perception precedes you and then you almost have to overcome yourself,” Sarkisian said when spring drills started. “So all of a sudden now the guy gets a haircut and he cleans his beard up a little bit. And everyone thinks Quinn’s real serious right now. But that’s human nature, right?”
Manning's first spring with the Longhorns promised to be a whirlwind as soon as he landed on campus as one of the hottest recruits in the country. The grandson and nephew of three former NFL quarterbacks carries the burden of astronomical expectations at Texas.
A Manning can't help but be great, right?
“He’s a kid. He’s a college kid,” Sarkisian said, noting Manning twice lost his student ID in a week. “I think, so many times, you see the Manning name and you think he’s this perfect, in a box, like nothing’s wrong with him. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with him, but he’s still a kid. I love that about him.”
Sarkisian said all positions would be open when practice started, including quarterback.
“Quinn has an entire year of a head start, but I don’t want to hold Arch back,” Sarkisian said of Cooper Manning's son. "I want to see how far he can take this thing and what it can look like.”
And along came Murphy, who forced his way into the conversation about the competition.
One of the nation's top recruits out of California two years ago, he was the No. 3 last season behind Ewers and Hudson Card and didn't play. His development was hindered by nagging injuries that started in high school and continued into the early part of spring drills.
But Murphy returned with a flourish and may have even pushed his way to the No. 2 spot.
“Ultimately, can Maalik push Quinn? Of course he can. How far can he take it? Quinn’s job is to keep raising his level of play so he (Maalik) can’t catch him. And that should be at every position across the board.”
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