Yes, Sam Ehlinger will, barring injury, take the first snap at Maryland on September 1st at 11:00 a.m. He probably gives Texas its best chance to win. But make no mistake, Texas will need Shane Buechele in 2018. Tom Herman will have to turn on the Bat Signal and hope Beuchele shows up quickly.
Buechele gives Texas one of the best quarterback fail-safes in college football.
Last season Ehlinger couldn't stay off the field, a few quarters into the 2017 Maryland game, he was on taking snaps. Ehlinger started against San Jose State a week later and then in the Coliseum against USC. Ehlinger and Buechele went back and forth starting the remainder of the season.
Buechele completed passes at a higher rate, not unusual for a player in his second season vs. a true freshman (Ehlinger). He also achieved a higher QB rating. Where Ehlinger outperformed Buechele was in QB to interception ratio, rushing yards, and yards per game.
Ehlinger played very well for a first-year kid player, and he's on a track of stardom. Defenses also knocked him around. Ehlinger went through concussion protocol twice and plays with a reckless abandon that exposes him to hits. Buechele isn't immune from injury. He injured his shoulder against Maryland and his ankle against Iowa State.
Texas will need both to get to where they want to go this season, a Big 12 title. On most teams, Shane Buechele is a QB 1. He played well as a true freshman out of Arlington Lamar in 2016, famously starting against Notre Dame on National Television. Buechele threw for nearly 3,000 yards as a freshman with 21 touchdown passes.
Radar graphs of both Ehlinger and Buechele from 2017. The graphs compare the percentile ranks of both quarterbacks compared with all quarterbacks in 2017 with 100 or more attempts in six statistical categories.
Between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, a new coach arrived, bringing a new system. Buechele adapted. Longhorn fans became enamored with the new guy and found reasons to lose faith in Buechele. The TCU game was rough. He completed just 47% of his passes and Texas never found it's footing against a top ten ranked opponent. Placing that loss at Buechele's feet ignores Texas' putrid ground game that only mustered nine yards on 26 carries, the worst production in a season of rushing stinkers.
While he's not the athlete Ehlinger is, he's not a liability athletically. He's intelligent and adaptable. Buechele can adapt to a system, and his accuracy is the best on the team. His growth in year two of Herman's system should be positive. A lot of Power 5s would start him, and he would excel.
For Texas, however, he's essential. Herman knows that. Herman's well aware of that luxury. On Ohio State's run to the 2014 National Title, Braxton Miller's preseason injury created a void that J.T. Barrett filled. Then when Barrett when down, Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to the title (and fooled several NFL GMs along the way).
If/when something happens to Ehlinger, Herman's Bat Signal works and he'll have a more than competent quarterback taking the field.