Texas spring signals time for Ewers to slow down and enjoy football in 2024 before NFL draft

FILE - Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) is tackled by Washington safety Mishael Powell (3) as he throws the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, in New Orleans. The Longhorns wrap spring practice this week looking forward to Ewers leading them into the 2024 season and their move into the Southeastern Conference. The NFL remains Ewers' dream but can wait a year. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)


AP Sports Writer

AUSTIN, Texas Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers figured his football career had always been in such a rush that it was time to slow down.

Enjoy the spring. Enjoy the 2024 season, and Texas’ move into the Southeastern Conference. The NFL, which is still his goal and dream, can wait a year. And the payoff could be even bigger.

Texas, which made its first appearance in the College Football Playoff last season, concludes spring practice this week with an eye on Ewers leading the Longhorns into the SEC. The Longhorns’ annual spring scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday, unless bad weather in the forecast cancels it.

Not that he didn’t consider leaving. It took more than a week after last season’s playoff loss to Washington before Ewers announced he would return instead of turning pro.

“I feel like I’ve been rushing my entire life, so just take a year, slow it down and not rush things,” Ewers said in March in his only media availability of the spring. “I skipped my senior year (of high school), that went by fast. I was at Ohio State for a semester, so it all went by fast also. So just take my time throughout the whole process and enjoy being here and just being present and not looking too far forward.”

He likely would have been considered a top-10 quarterback in this year’s draft class.

“I had some people put together a pretty good chart on, obviously, the more you play and more experience you have, the better you end up playing and succeeding in the NFL. I just wanted to put myself in a better spot to be able to succeed at a high level once I hopefully get there,” Ewers said.

“I always kind of knew in the back of my head I was going to be back for another year,” he said.

Still only 21, Ewers has yet to play a complete college season. Shoulder injuries forced him to miss all or part of six games the last two seasons. He passed for 3,479 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2023.

Ewers lost weight and played at under 200 pounds last season. Quicker and more agile, he ran for five touchdowns, including sprints of 29 and 30 yards. But eyeing the NFL, Ewers wants to get back to around 210 by next season.

“Got to put more weight on. Was a few pounds too light last year,” Ewers said. “And it’s got to be good weight.”

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian has said he expects Ewers will make the most of what is likely his final season in college, with big dividends for the Longhorns offense.

“There’s nothing like having a third-year starting quarterback. We haven’t had that luxury in our time here,” Sarkisian said this week.

Ewers’ decision to slow down his career trajectory has done the same thing to the guy with the famous name behind him on the depth chart: Arch Manning.

FILE – Texas quarterback Arch Manning talks to reporters during media day for the the upcoming Sugar Bowl NCAA college football semifinal game in New Orleans, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023. Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers figured his football career had always been in such a rush that it was time to slow down. So he opted to return for the 2024 season instead of entering the draft. That decision also keeps Arch Manning waiting his turn to take over the Texas offense. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

The grandson of one former NFL quarterback and nephew of two Super Bowl-winning ones, Manning is biding his time behind Ewers with more patience than some might have expected in the open-transfer era.

Manning, too, had said he would be in no rush to develop into the best quarterback he can be. And has already enjoyed the benefit of one transfer that helped thin the lineup behind Ewers.

Last season’s No. 2, Maalik Murphy, started two games when Ewers was injured and won both, but then transferred to Duke. That immediately elevated Manning as the top backup, and opened the door to him getting valuable reps in practice and likely expansive playing time in Saturday’s scrimmage.

But make no mistake: this spring was not an open competition at quarterback. Ewers is the No. 1. And barring something unusual happening, he will be when Texas opens the season Aug. 31 against Colorado State.

“Quinn’s our starter,” for 2024, Sarkisian said when spring drills began.

“I’ve grown a whole lot in every aspect of quarterbacking. My first year, the wheels were turning pretty fast,” Ewers said. “Last year it slowed down. Now, I can really play the quarterback position how it’s supposed to be played.”