With less than three weeks left until the season opener, the eyes of Texas are certainly upon Sam Ehlinger. Between winning Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and being included on several way-too-early Heisman lists, how does Ehlinger stack up among the Texas quarterback greats? Today, we look at Sam Ehlinger by the numbers.
Sam Ehlinger by the numbers
Ehlinger has 23 career games with 20 starts at Texas. He currently holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback at Texas with 16. He also holds the current Big XII record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception at 308. His 41 touchdowns last year were second only to Colt McCoy’s 45 in 2008. Last year, he was the first Texas quarterback to start the season with four straight games of 200 passing yards. He is also the fifth player in school history with over 5,000 career passing yards. Ehlinger is the first player at Texas to pass for at least 25 touchdowns and rush for at least 15 touchdowns in the same season. He is the sixth player in a Power Five conference to do this; the other five have won a Heisman (Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, Lamar Jackson).
Vince Young held the single-season rushing touchdown record of 15. This was broken by Ehlinger with 16 as a sophomore. With 4,086 yards of total offense in 2005, Young became UT’s single-season leader in total offense; Ehlinger had 3292 in 2018. Young held the highest completion percentage by a sophomore at 59.2%; Ehlinger’s completion rate in 2018 was 64.7%.
Colt McCoy’s 45 victories are the most in NCAA history. He is the only quarterback in Texas history to post four seasons with at least 2,000 passing yards and 20 touchdown passes. His three Bowl wins are a Longhorn best and tied for the second-most by a starting quarterback in NCAA history.
Among the greats
For a total number of touchdowns in their first two years: Ehlinger had 54, McCoy had 57, and Young had 43. Additionally, Ehlinger has the fewest number of games played in his first two years compared to the others. Ehlinger is the clear winner at interception rate with 12 (25 for McCoy and 18 for Young). He averages an interception per every 58 attempts. Compare that to 29 for McCoy and 21 for Young.
Ehlinger has the most 300-yard passing games in his first two years at five. Last season, he became the first Texas quarterback since McCoy to throw for at least two touchdowns and rush for at least one in three straight games. Neither Young nor McCoy accomplished this in their first two years (keeping in mind that Young and McCoy both redshirted as freshmen).
The “It” Factor
Beyond holding school and conference records as a sophomore, Ehlinger also possesses that intangible factor. In addition to his on-the-field accomplishments, he has also developed into an obvious team leader and unofficial spokesperson for the school. Young recently stated, “Yeah, Sam is that guy. He has that ‘it factor.’ You can see him wiggling, dancing. He has that something you can’t coach…and I had that. I see that in him.”
While Ehlinger shows promise of being on par or better with previous Texas quarterback greats over the past two decades, there are certainly other factors that come into play regarding how far he can go (offensive line, receivers, injuries, coaching). McCoy and Young were able to achieve benchmarks in their junior and senior years, leading them to legend status. The question remains…will Sam follow in their footsteps into the Heisman finals and taking his team to a title appearance?