Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers was on the minds of NFL teams and football fans long before he attempted his first pass in college.
He was the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2021 class, a group that also featured USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Ewers’ arm talent was evident early on — in strength, distance, velocity and all of the above. It was only a matter of time before he'd be putting up highlight-reel throws in college for big gains.
But even as Ewers became the starting quarterback in 2022 as a true sophomore for the Texas Longhorns, the coveted deep ball aspect of his game was all of a sudden a major work in progress.
Following a big road win in Tuscaloosa against Alabama this past weekend, in which Ewers went 24-of-38 for 349 passing yards, three touchdowns and three big-time throws, that progress has evolved into promise.
Ewers brings a unique throwing motion and style. He has a high release and an unorthodox follow-through, and even throw-to-throw examples can look different in the aspects of where and when the ball releases from his hand. Because of this, his ball placement and accuracy on deeper throws proved to be unstable, at times.
That was, until this past weekend. Here’s a look at some of Ewers' numbers on passes of 20-plus yards against Alabama.
|Career Before Playing Alabama||vs. Alabama (2023)|
|Adj. Comp. %||32.8%||50%|
Ewers’ first deep shot against Alabama came on the first play of the second quarter in a tie game. From his own 25-yard line on first-and-10, Ewers tried to split a deep pass to wide receiver Xavier Worthy, but the coverage was too tight.
Three plays later, on first-and-10 of a new set of downs, Ewers looked Worthy’s way again.
EWERS WITH A ???? BALLpic.twitter.com/pCib8Ata6M
— Max Chadwick (@MaxChadwickCFB) September 10, 2023
This time, Ewers was reading the strong safety versus an NCAA concept (in-breaking post route from one side and an in-breaking dig route plus a shallow route from another). The safety did not retreat deep and instead took the inside dig from the No. 2 on the left side, likely part of a bracket technique. You could also call it a Mills concept variation where the post and the dig are coming from the same side.
Here’s another look.
Texas WR Johntay
Cook II went full Lane Kiffin on this Quin Ewers TD toss… pic.twitter.com/ESYp76MMqS
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) September 12, 2023
You can see from Ewers’ eyes on the end-zone angle that once he saw the safety come down, he let it rip. He also put a ton of air under the ball, which is a savvy way to always give his receiver a shot to run and get under it. When a quarterback puts that much air under it, their receiver has to have top-notch hand-eye coordination and balance to look over their shoulder and track the ball down. Xavier Worthy did.
Let’s look at another deep pass from Ewers later in the game. Fast-forward to the fourth quarter, with Texas up 27-23 and 8:30 left in the game.
quinn ewers going 0/7 on deep passes last week was a smokescreen so he could have multiple 20+ yard passing touchdowns tonight pic.twitter.com/dNCDOw6LC0
— Tej Seth (@tejfbanalytics) September 10, 2023
Texas was taking over after Alabama just hit a big pass for a touchdown with a two-point conversion to make it a three-point game. The Longhorns needed to control the clock and the ball to salt away the game. In a perfect world, they would also get some points. Their play calls before this deep shot were somewhat conservative, including two screens and two runs for minimal gains. But after one of their rushes went for no yards, they dialed up a deep shot on second down to put the game away.
Here’s another look.
mills concept x texas longhorns
the dig pulls the safety, Ewers throws the post to seal the game pic.twitter.com/dMnhUSwT7A
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) September 10, 2023
The traditional Mills concept (a combination of a post route and a dig route from the same side) was able to open up the deep middle of the field for that pass to connect. Ewers was again watching the safety, and once he saw that play drive down on the inside dig route, he knew his receiver, AD Mitchell, would have an angle to space against the outside cornerback.
Teams love when arm talent shines in the form of game-changing plays like the ones above — that’s why we call them “big-time throws.” But hitting those big shots is more than just having the arm to do it; you also have to have the eyes to know when to unleash such passes. Ewers is showing he’s on that path.
Ewers' consistency in hitting those deep shots is trending up, and if he continues to show he can truly stretch a defense far and wide, he’ll keep his case strong to be a top quarterback picked in this loaded 2024 draft class.