System supersedes personnel in Herman’s QB preparation

Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele (Will Gallagher/IT)
Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele (Will Gallagher/IT)

With any football team, any uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position becomes one of the oft-discussed storylines. There’s uncertainty for both Texas and Oklahoma State as to who will take those first snaps under center, but for Texas head coach Tom Herman, that uncertainty does little to change how he prepares.

Oklahoma State currently has former walk-on Taylor Cornelius as the starting quarterback, but noise has been growing over the last several weeks for Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy to give Hawaii transfer Dru Brown or true freshman Spencer Sanders opportunities under center.

“Unless the skill sets are completely different — one guy’s 6-6 290 and can throw it through a brick wall but can’t run out of sight in a day and the other guy’s 5-7 and runs a 4.3 but struggles throwing the football — you’re defending an offense, and understanding the different strengths of the guys and what your opponent may try to do if that guy’s in the game,” Herman said. “We dealt with it at Kansas State.”

While there is a discrepancy in size between Cornelius, Brown and Sanders, there’s no chasm of skillsets akin to the one described by Herman.

Quarterback might be a position to watch for the Longhorn defense, but it doesn’t seem like one to be concerned about now that last year’s Cowboy starter Mason Rudolph is in the NFL. The position group that does stand out to Herman are the Oklahoma State receivers.

“I don’t know how they do it but it seems like every year you go from James Washington and Marcell Ateman to now the crew that they have there this year and it’s like they’ve got a wide receiver factory somewhere up there in Stillwater,” Herman said. “It is impressive to see what they have done and they’re a notch above at home as well.”

When the questions for Herman began to center on his own quarterbacks, including the status of sophomore Sam Ehlinger’s sprained throwing shoulder, he started out by saying that his starter was “on schedule.”

Ehlinger threw a limited amount with both a Nerf and regular football Sunday while still participating in the running portions of practice. He was scheduled to throw 25 fully-padded throws Tuesday before bumping that number up to 50 later in the week.

Herman mentioned he probably won’t know Ehlinger’s status for the game until Thursday at the earliest, but did say that “if he’s healthy and he’s himself, then certainly he’ll start.”

If Ehlinger’s recovery does not advance quickly enough for him to start Saturday in Stillwater, the starting duties will fall to junior Shane Buechele. Buechele received his first snaps of the season against Baylor. He struggled with some areas and performed up to par in others.

Buechele and Ehlinger have different strengths and weaknesses. Herman said they had no plans to vastly alter the offense. Instead, they would key in on what works for whoever ends up under center.

“I don’t know any quarterback room that has two clones,” Herman said. “Do they have certain strengths and weaknesses? Yeah, but I think our offense, it’s very easy to plug and play.”

Similar to when he was speaking about Oklahoma State QBs, Herman repeated his familiar mantra of only really preparing for two when there is a disparity in skill set. He didn’t feel like that disparity existed, citing Buechele’s release and ability to move.

A new game plan is probably not in the cards, but Herman plans to find what works for Buechele and use it within the scope of the Longhorn offense.

“As far as our offense goes, all four of those guys in that room, there’s not enough of a gap in their different skillsets to merit different ‘game plans,’” Herman said. “It’s just what are you going to maybe use a little bit more if one guy’s in versus another.”