MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. â€“ Quinn Ewers sent shockwaves throughout the Ohio State program when he officially reclassified to 2021 and chose to enroll in August.
The odds are stacked against the five-star prospect to be QB1 as he enters the race so late. And even though Ewers’ decision is most certainly a foundation-setting choice for his future, no one will have to convince Todd Dodge that Ewers can give the other quarterbacks in the competition a run for their money.
After setting a handful of program passing records as the Texas Longhorns starting quarterback, Dodge parlayed that into a head coaching career spanning more than 30 years. He coached for six different teams, winning six combined Texas high school state championships.
Heâ€™s either witnessed, coached or coached against dozens of the most special quarterback prospects to come out of the state during that time. Thatâ€™s a long list that includes Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Nick Foles, Chase Daniel and Greg McElroy.
The legendary coach, who is heading into his final season at Austin Westlake before retiring, is one of the sharpest quarterback talent evaluators in state history. He believes Ewers belongs in the same conversation as the greatest signal callers to come out of the state.
â€œMatt Stafford is probably the highest-ranked one that’s ever come out of Texas,â€ Dodge told Lettermen Row at the Elite 11 in July. â€œI’ve got one that’s still playing in the league right now, Chase Daniel, that’s fixing to start his 12th year as a backup quarterback. He’s still in the league.
â€œIn our state, we’ve been on about a 15-year run where we’re providing the nation with really top-notch quarterbacks. I don’t think these two (Ewers and Austin Westlake quarterback Cade Klubnik) are going to take a backseat to any of them, the other really good ones that came through.â€
Dodgeâ€™s son Riley is the coach at Southlake Carroll. The two were able to catch up during a round of golf on a California course before the final day of last monthâ€™s Elite 11. They had each taken in the prior two days of Pro Day competition and accuracy challenge in addition to some of the 7-on-7 portion of the event.
On the golf course, Todd couldnâ€™t help but tell Riley how much he admired his sonâ€™s quarterback.
Thereâ€™s a huge difference between being a thrower and a passer. Some guys have a rocket launcher attached to their arm but have no clue how to properly harness it and never figure out that part of the position. Accuracy, timing and anticipation are all out the window. That quarterback is a thrower.
The truly dynamic quarterbacks have that same type of arm talent but have the innate ability to carve up defensive backfields by putting the ball wherever they want and can make it rain out here.
That’s Ewers, and what Dodge has noticed is rare.
â€œHe’s a passer,” Todd Dodge said. “Quinn Ewers is special. That arm is special. I told Riley, it’s like halfway through ball flight, Quinnâ€™s ball accelerates.Â I’ve just, I mean, I’ve never seen that. Even when he was a rising ninth grader. He’s got such a strong arm, but he doesn’t get enough credit for being an outstanding touch passer.
“Most of the time, guys with that big of an arm just wanna throw everything hard through the wall. He’s got great anticipation.”
That July day wasnâ€™t the first time Dodge marveled at Ewers. In January, the two Dodges met up in the Texas 6A state championship game between Southlake Carroll and Austin Westlake.
Westlake had given up just 5.5 points per game throughout an undefeated run to the title game. That included six shutouts and a 24-21 win in the state semifinals being the highest point total it allowed.
It didnâ€™t matter for Ewers. Even after missing much of the season with an injury that required surgery, Ewers was a force against the stateâ€™s best defense, finishing 23-of-39 with 350 yards passing and three touchdowns against two interceptions. Thatâ€™s pretty much what Dodge expected after game planning for him all week.
â€œWe’re about halfway through the first quarter, and Quinn is lighting us up,â€ Dodge said. â€œWe’ve only given up [less than] seven points a game for the entire year, and he’s already got about 200 yards passing. My defensive coordinator is the best there is in the state of Texas. The only way to beat our defense is there’s certain places on the field that we absolutely give up. There’s just not many people that can reach them. Quinn Ewers can reach them.
â€œHe was making those hash-mark throws. I mean deep post, deep out moves where the ball’s traveling 45 yards in the air with just a little bit of air on it over the top of an outside linebacker. I mean, he was putting it on the money. He can reach parts of the field that most people can’t reach.â€
Now, Quinn Ewers will get his shot to do it as part of one of the most captivating quarterback depth charts in the country.