NCAAF

What Quinn Ewers’ decision means for future college football recruits

Quarterback prospect Quinn Ewers announced Monday that he is skipping his senior season of high school and will enroll at Ohio State, making him eligible this season.

A main factor in his decision to leave school early was the fact that Texas prohibits high school athletes from profiting off of their name, image and likeness (NIL). Ewers has had companies approach him about possible NIL deals, but was unable to sign anything due to the state law.

Ewers’ decision opens the door for questions about why he was able to leave, what it means for other Texas prospects and how this decision could change the landscape of high school associations across the country.

Why did Ewers do this?

Ewers was planning to enroll at Ohio State in January because he has enough high school credits to do so and quarterbacks are often encouraged to arrive on campus early. Once NIL rules, which allow college to profit off of their name, image and likeness, were enacted, that changed things for Ewers.

Texas passed a bill on July 1 regarding NIL and high school athletes stating, “No individual, corporate entity, or other organization, may enter into any arrangement with a prospective student athlete relating to the prospective student athlete’s name, image or likeness prior to their enrollment in an institution of higher education.”

Essentially, high school prospects in Texas are not allowed to profit off of NIL until they enroll in college. The University Interscholastic League, which governs public school athletics in Texas, is upholding that rule.

That didn’t sit well with Ewers, the No. 2 ranked prospect overall and the No. 1 quarterback in the class who wasn’t allowed to engage in any proposals or contracts despite potential NIL opportunities.

Ewers only needs one class to officially graduate from high school, so he’ll finish that class this summer and enroll at Ohio State once he is graduated.

Seeing others who have yet to play a down in college taking advantage of the new NIL rules played a part in Ewers’ decision. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who was the top quarterback in the 2020 class, has not yet started for the Crimson Tide but already has brought in nearly $800,000 in NIL deals.

Does he have an NIL deal in place?

Not yet. Ewers been in conversations with Holy Kombucha, a Texas beverage company. Theresa Pham, one of the company’s co-founders, said while they have had discussions, no deal is in place.

“There is no deal in place yet, and there’s been no back-and-forth yet,” Pham said. “It has just been their family in touch with us and saying that they would love to chat more. So we’re in a very early stage.”

A big value the company sees in partnering with Ewers has to do with their core mission and partnership with Hope Squad to bring financial support to the school-based peer-to-peer suicide prevention program. Ewers has expressed interest in mental health awareness, and the two sides are in alignment in how Ewers can help spread that message and help raise awareness about teen suicide prevention.

“Our mission is to help ensure that Hope Squad gets in to as many schools as possible,” Pham said. “So, if we’re attaching Quinn Ewers’ name to our brand, it’s really to help us pick this Hope Squad program off the ground and support them.”

What does this mean for other state high school associations?

This could be an isolated incident given the nature of Ewers’ situation, but it is likely to come up again for states and high school associations that prohibit high school athletes from profiting off of their name, image and likeness.

Whether a student-athlete has the opportunity to leave early for college or transfer to another state likely is irrelevant as many will want to at least have the opportunity to participate and earn money from their own brand.

There are two distinct differences, however, in what high school associations would be able to change going forward. Associations in states that have laws in place prohibiting high school athletes from profiting off NIL have no power over the state to change those laws.

Attorney Darren Heitner, who has been following NIL closely, says Texas, Mississippi and Illinois are the three states with laws prohibiting their athletes from NIL opportunities.

“If you look at Texas, Mississippi and Illinois, in particular, those three states go above and beyond what other states do,” Heitner said. “Florida’s law expressly provides college athletes with these NIL rights and restricts associations like the NCAA, conferences and schools from enjoying those rights. It does not in any way eliminate the opportunity for high school athletes, however if a high school athlete’s school is a part of the FHSAA, which currently does not allow an athlete to make money off of his or her athletic fame, then the athlete should comply with that regulation or else risk losing specific high school eligibility.”

In Texas, Mississippi and Illinois, high school athletes would have to lobby the state to somehow change the rule. Other options are to transfer to a different state or do what Ewers did and enroll at college early.

Because Florida and some other states do not have a state law, the rules regarding NIL can be changed through the high school association. Some states have started to get the ball rolling on changing their restrictions to allow high school athletes to profit off of NIL.

“The caveat to that is the state of California, which has allowed high school athletes, and continues to allow high school athletes, to benefit from their NIL as long as they’re not using their school’s [logo, school name, mascot, etc.],” Heitner said. “So that’s caused a state like New York and its high school athletic association to now review its restrictions on that subject. They are meeting in October to potentially revise it so New York is on an equal playing field of California.”

Heitner said he believes other high school associations will follow, but there are no reports of other states starting yet.

What does this mean for other top recruits in NIL age?

Not every state has the same set of rules for its high school athletes. Some are allowed to profit off of NIL, so it won’t impact them.

For the recruits living in states that prohibit signing NIL deals, it does provide for a unique challenge, but it likely won’t impact the majority of high school prospects. Only the top-level and highly sought-after prospects will have this type of opportunity and a big enough endorsement offer to take them away from their high school teams. Even then, they would have to be in a situation where they have enough credits to graduate high school prior to their senior year.

There are quite a few recruits who get ahead of schedule academically to enroll in college in January following their senior season, but not every prospect has the requirements to skip their senior season altogether.

Linebacker Anthony Hill is the top-ranked recruit in Texas in the 2023 class. Hill is ranked No. 5 overall in the class, only three spots away from where Ewers is in 2022. Hill said he doesn’t think it will become an everyday occurrence to see Texas recruits skip their final season.

“I do think some other people will do it, because some people have different situations where they might need that money, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again,” Hill said. “But I don’t think it’ll happen a lot, and I’m going to finish my senior year of high school. I’m graduating high school early anyway, so it wouldn’t make that much of a difference for me.”

Defensive tackle David Hicks, is the No. 2 prospect in Texas in the 2023 cycle, echoed Hill’s words, though he acknowledges he could see others following in Ewers’ footsteps because of the temptation from potential NIL deals.

“That’s a big deal, not that many kids get that type of money,” Hicks said. “It would be tempting, but I don’t think a lot of people will start transferring or graduating early. I’m going to stay my senior season, so I probably wouldn’t skip it.”

What does Ewers bring to the table?

Unlike most incoming freshmen, Ewers did not have the luxury of enrolling early as a mid-year to help acclimate and compete with C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller, or 2021 class signee Kyle McCord. Nor did he enroll in the summer to partake in classes and workouts, so Ewers is at the bottom of a four-man depth chart with less than a month to climb it.

Ewers is arguably the best natural passer in the Lone Star State at this stage since Kyler Murray. Ewers’ release is quick and fluid, and his anticipation and timing of throws is on a high college level. What separates Ewers is his ability to remain calm and collected with his mechanics when under pressure. He sees the field extremely well, doesn’t force throws, has touch and can add velocity when he needs to fit the ball into tight windows. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Ewers has elite physical traits as a passer, an ideal frame and the ability to also make plays on the ground. He’s as close to the total package as you can get as a junior in high school.

Ewers is talented, yes, advanced physically and older (18 already) which could make the learning curve less steep, but it isn’t his immense arm talent and physical attributes that will matter in the short term. It is all the other factors of being an incoming freshman that will determine whether he is in the mix or not.

The unknown variables and life adjustments include being away from home for the first time, having to be accountable for his time at all hours of the day, acclimating academically and socially, a rise in competition, a deep depth chart, lack of reps and many other factors that dictate the pace of his development. In all likelihood, he will not be in the mix immediately, and that is OK. This could take some time, so for those investing in Ewers from an NIL perspective, it would be wise to be patient. — Tom Luginbill

What does this mean for Ohio State in 2021?

The Buckeyes are replacing quarterback Justin Fields, who was selected in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

Stroud is seemingly in the lead for the starting role while competing with Miller and McCord. All three quarterbacks were ESPN 300 prospects out of high school and McCord was the No. 5 pocket-passer in this last recruiting class.

Once Ewers enrolls at Ohio State, he will be eligible to compete right away in fall camp. Stroud and Miller are both in their second year and McCord is only in his first, so there isn’t a big separation from those three to Ewers in terms of experience.

It wouldn’t seem likely that a high school quarterback who should be practicing for his senior season could come in and win the starting job at a place like Ohio State in a matter of weeks. The talent Ewers possesses, though, makes it at least possible for that to happen.

He still needs to learn the playbook and get acclimated to college life, but it isn’t out of the question that he comes in and plays at some point this season for the Buckeyes.

If he doesn’t play this year, however, it’s a redshirt season he can take with limited pressure to get adjusted to the college game and gain a season of experience he otherwise wouldn’t have had. If he does redshirt this season, he’ll have four years of eligibility remaining and would likely be in an excellent position to take over from there.

This move isn’t unprecedented. Cornerback Tony Grimes skipped his senior season to enroll at North Carolina in 2020. Grimes played in all 12 games for the Tar Heels and had 14 total tackles, four pass breakups and one interception. It took him a few games to get his feet underneath him, but once he did, Grimes showed exactly why most recruiting services had him ranked as a five-star prospect.

He recorded three tackles, two pass breakups and a sack in the Capital One Orange Bowl against Texas A&M and has garnered a ton of buzz headed into the 2021 season.

Cornerback and quarterback are two very different positions that require a different set of knowledge and a different learning curve, but Grimes showed that this process can be a success.

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