All eyes this fall will be on how the former Ohio State Buckeyes freshman transfer quarterback and elite five-star recruit Quinn Ewers fares as the potential starter leading the way for the Texas football offense. Ewers is definitely the most hyped-up addition for Texas out of the NCAA Transfer Portal so far this offseason.
In fact, you could validly argue that Ewers was the biggest addition by way of the transfer portal or recruiting trail for second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns so far this offseason.
Yet, there’s still a plethora of question marks looming large over Ewers and the Longhorns ahead of this coming season. Ewers definitely has the talent to be one of the best quarterbacks in the Power Five for the next couple of years, but he hasn’t proven himself at the collegiate level yet.
And there will be a ton of pressure on Ewers’ shoulders to take the reigns for the Texas offense and find at least some level of sustained success right away. That’s a lot for someone that will essentially be in his third semester of college to deal with.
Ewers appears to be dealing with the pressure pretty well by most accounts so far this offseason, though.
Moreover, an issue that could be starting Ewers and Sark right in the face of this fall is the fact that some of the fate of this new potential starting quarterback could be out of their hands for the most part. A major factor that could contribute to the success, or lack thereof, that Ewers finds on the field this fall is likely to be the play of the offensive line.
There’s no doubt that the Texas offensive line has to make some pretty massive strides this year if Sark and his staff want this offense to reach new heights in 2022. And it won’t be easy to improve this group given some of the struggles and lack of addition of impact players for this position group out of the transfer portal so far this offseason.
The offensive line was easily one of the most problematic position groups for Sark and the Longhorns on either side of the ball last fall. And considering the fact that Texas will be relying on mostly the same group of linemen, along with some incoming true freshmen, there aren’t many reasons for optimism on the surface for this group.
If offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Kyle Flood and the Longhorns can’t find a way to resolve some of these issues ahead of the 2022 campaign, it will definitely hurt Ewers’ production. That could also stunt his growth from him as this will be a big season for Ewers in terms of learning how to effectively lead this offense.
Will Steve Sarkisian and Texas football figure out a way to protect QB Quinn Ewers in 2022?
Ewers is going to need some time in the pocket game in and game out to go through his reads and understand the progressions he needs to make. He obviously won’t be able to do that if the offensive line is as problematic as it was in front of Casey Thompson and Hudson Card last season.
Just to illustrate how ineffective the offensive line was at times last season, there are a few key metrics worth looking at. Texas ranked among the 30 worst teams in the FBS last season in terms of standard down sack rate (7.5 percent) and sack rate (7.2 percent).
Texas so frequently allowing pressure on the likes of Thompson and Card last season prevented this offense from finding any sort of balance and rhythm. It was easy for some of the better opposing defenses that Texas faced last season (ie Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Arkansas) to make this offense one-dimensional by getting pressure on the quarterback and loading up the box against star running back Bijan Robinson.
An even more illustrative example of the issues that the offensive line had last fall is the responsibility that fell on this position group for any pressures allowed on the quarterback. In terms of the percentage responsibility on particular position groups for quarterback pressures allowed last season, Card and Thompson had the highest frequency of OL fault of all the signal-callers in the Big 12.
That essentially means that the offensive line was at fault for quarterback pressures allowed on their starters last season more than any other team in the Big 12. You can’t blame the likes of the quarterback for holding the ball for too long, other position groups missing their blocking assignments, and/or receivers running bad routes.
In order for the Texas offense to really open up and allow Sark to dig deep in his bag of tricks, the offensive line will have to keep the pocket clean much more often. If the offensive line can even moderately improve in terms of sack rate this fall, that could mean a world’s difference for the rhythm that Ewers could get into this fall.
If the offensive line can improve in terms of the frequency of quarterback pressures allowed that are their fault this fall, Ewers should be able to help this passing game make some pretty massive strides. A good example of that is the fact that three of the four highest-graded quarterbacks in the Big 12 last season had the lowest rate of offensive line responsibility for quarterback pressures.
Essentially if the offensive line can do their job at even an average level of effectiveness compared to the rest of the Big 12 this coming season, then Ewers will have the ability to make the needed impact on this offense as a whole.
In terms of how Flood and the Longhorns can actually make this happen is a much different and much lengthier conversation. Simply put, though, Texas needs to get the right personnel in place in order to improve in blocking for the passer ahead of this coming season.
Some simple ways to make that happen will be getting back a healthier and more consistent Junior Angilau anchoring the O-Line, starting impact-ready true freshmen in problem areas in the trenches, and drawing up some quicker passing plays to get honest opposing defenses.
I personally believe Angilau (who is the most experienced and proven offensive lineman returning in 2022) is the biggest x-factor of any one player in this position group this year. Yet, Angilau registered the lowest pass-blocking grade of his career by far last season. He needs to bounce back in 2022 to help this group move forwards as a whole.
Replace senior offensive tackle Christian Jones with one of the incoming freshmen such as Kelvin Banks or Malik Agbo to see if Texas can sure up that side of the line. Jones was the lowest-graded pass blocker that was a regular starter for Texas last season.
And considering the fact that Ewers has a different caliber of arm talent compared to the likes of Card and Thompson. Sark should be able to draw up some quick-passing plays that will be more effective with Ewers behind center compared to either Card or Thompson last season.
All in all, there is cause for concern in terms of the offensive line play in front of Ewers for this coming season and how that could impact his progression in his first year as the starter (assuming he does win the starting job over Card).
But knowing that Sark and the Flood had an entire offseason to get the offensive line right, along with bringing one of the most highly touted offensive line recruiting classes in program history, brings some level of optimism to the table for this group.
Texas has all the weapons necessary for Ewers to succeed in 2022. Skill position stars such as Bijan, star sophomore wideout Xavier Worthy, senior running back Roschon Johnson, redshirt junior elusive wideout Jordan Whittington, etc., will provide an insanely talented supporting cast for Ewers. The offensive line has to be the position group that makes massive strides ahead of this fall.