With the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences announcing the implementation of a conference-only schedule and several conferences canceling fall sports entirely, a canceled or postponed college football season is becoming more likely. Here are three Texas football players with the most to lose in the event of a canceled season:
Sam Ehlinger: Senior quarterback
A canceled 2020 season would deal huge blows to Ehlinger’s legacy as a Texas quarterback and his NFL draft stock.
Ehlinger, who ranks second in school history in career passing yards and touchdowns, has brought Texas out of a quarterback drought that has plagued the Longhorns since Colt McCoy’s departure for the NFL in 2010. The three-year starter will not join Texas football royalty McCoy and Vince Young if he cannot deliver Texas a Big 12 Championship, despite his individual accolades. This tentative 2020 season is Ehlinger’s last chance to bring Texas “back,” and he has the weapons to do it.
Ehlinger’s senior season will also determine his NFL potential. After flirting with declaring early, Ehlinger decided to listen to NFL talent evaluators and return to school to improve as a passer. Scouts recognize Ehlinger’s leadership and moxie, but questions of whether his physical style can translate in the NFL continue to circulate.
Caden Sterns: Junior safety
NFL scouts are drooling over Sterns’ ability in the secondary, but injuries hindered him in a lackluster sophomore season. Sterns’ junior campaign will determine if he can declare early for the 2021 NFL draft.
The Big 12 named Sterns as its Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2018 after he posted 62 tackles and four interceptions during his freshman season. Sterns, a highly-touted recruit out of Cibolo Steele, more than lived up to the hype when he also earned first team All-Big 12 honors.
The star safety was unable to perform at the same level in 2019 despite being selected to the preseason All-Big 12 first team. Sterns missed four weeks as a sophomore due to a sprained knee ligament after starting his first 13 career games. When Sterns was available to play, he was far less explosive due to the injury.
Despite last season’s shortcomings, Sterns has been projected as a first-round pick in multiple 2021 NFL mock drafts. These projections, however, are contingent on the assumption that Sterns will return to his 2018 form. Teams may be hesitant to pull the trigger on Sterns, a prospect who had two vastly different seasons, if the 2020 season is canceled.
Jordan Whittington: Redshirt freshman wide receiver
It feels like yesterday that Whittington was the most exciting recruit in Texas' 2019 class after he scored six touchdowns in the 2018 4A Division II State Championship game.
Whittington played one game in 2019 and recorded two catches for 17 yards before undergoing a season-ending sports hernia surgery. Switching back to his natural position at slot receiver in the offseason, Whittington has a chance to challenge fellow 2019 signee Jake Smith for playing time in 2020.
The redshirt freshman would be forced into another full year of no football and be even further removed from the hype he entered Texas with if the season is canceled. Whittington is talented enough to be a big-time contributor for the Longhorns, but another lost season could set him further behind the eight ball, especially in an already crowded receiver room.