Football in Austin, Texas will be looking a lot different next season. For the past four years the Quarterback/Head Coach combo of Sam Ehlinger and Tom Herman have had the nation following the burnt orange very closely each Saturday. The two came in together in 2017 for Herman's first year as Head Coach and Ehlinger's freshman campaign. The ultimate goal of bringing Texas football back to elite level status and a National Championship was cut short and unsuccessful. However, these two definitely left the program in a much better place than where they found it. Ehlinger was the feel good story of America and especially for the state of Texas. Born with burnt orange in his blood and growing up in Austin, Ehlinger dreamed of playing QB for the Longhorns. A four star recruit out of Westlake HS, Sam would go onto break records held by Westlake alums and NFL stars Drew Brees and Nick Foles. In July 2015 Ehlinger would announce his verbal commitment to the University of Texas at Austin.
This was well before Tom Herman was even in the picture at UT. In fact Herman was just beginning his two year stint at the University of Houston when Ehlinger made his commitment. Little did he know the dual threat gunslinger from Austin would be his main man in just a few short seasons. The 17 year old true freshman would get his chance to shine on September 9, 2017 when Shane Buechele was sidelined with injury and Ehlinger never looked back. 11,436 Passing yards, 96 Passing TDs (both 2nd in school history behind Colt McCoy), 1,907 rushing yards and 33 rushing TDs later its safe to say he left his mark on the program.
2020 was a make or break year for Herman and Ehlinger. Sam knew it would likely be his last year year in Austin even though the NCAA was allowing all athletes an extra year of eligibility. Likewise, Tom Herman knew that culture of Texas football is to win and win big time games. A 1-4 record against rival Oklahoma isn't going to cut it and neither was back to back Alamo Bowl victories. The Longhorns would take care of Colorado 55-23 in San Antonio on Thursday night. A game in which Sam Ehlinger left in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. Texas fans got a nice look at future QB Casey Thompson who played nicely in the second half. But it was bittersweet as one era had come to an end. By Friday afternoon the rumors were spreading like wildfire. And on Saturday, Texas made it official that Tom Herman would not be returning. The Longhorns have since announced they will will hire Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian.
Herman finishes his tenure with a 32-18 record at Texas and 22-13 record in Big 12 Conference games. He led Texas to 4 consecutive bowl game victories. The 2017 Texas Bowl, 2018 Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia was the peak for the duo, and 2019 and 2020 Alamo Bowl victories. The Longhorns reached the the Big 12 Title game once in 2018 but lost to Oklahoma 39-27. Although Texas never got back to national championship contention, it stills seems like a strange move. Four winning seasons, four bowl victories and a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia? The Longhorns have finished in the top 3 in each of Herman's seasons. I think Texas is an above average Top 25 football team. No coach could have brought this team to Top 5 finishes these past four years.
To put the icing on the cake Sam Ehlinger made his decision official on Sunday afternoon just about 24 hours after his favorite coach was let go in an emotional video.
You have to wonder if Ehlinger, who never redshirted, would have came back for a 5th year and gotten his masters to play one more season for his favorite university if his favorite coach was still there. Ehlinger is a likely Day 3 Round 6 or 7 pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.