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Leaner and lighter QB Quinn Ewers ready to lead No. 11 Texas against Rice and into 2023

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Quinn Ewers ditched the fried and fast food from his diet and shed about about 20 pounds. The once-flowing mullet hairstyle was shorn months ago.

Still attached is the mesmerizing talent in a right arm with an effortless release. Now it's time for the leaner, cleaner and lighter Texas quarterback to deliver on the promise that he can be one of the best in the country, and deliver the Longhorns back to the top of the Big 12.

Ewers and No. 11 Texas open the season Saturday at home against Rice in a long, lopsided rivalry the Longhorns have dominated. They are expected to do that again, but no final score will come without scrutiny of Ewers ahead of the next game at No. 4 Alabama.

“This time last year I was still trying to pick up the offense,” Ewers said. "This year I can be more me, play more freely."

The long locks of hair were the first to go back in the spring. Then came the gradual weight loss, making the 6-foot-2 Ewers look so lean he might me mistaken for a tennis player instead of a major college quarterback. Ewers is down to about 195 pounds.

Everything just feels better now, Ewers said.

“I laid off the Chick-fil-A that I was having a lot,” Ewers said. “I was focused on eating what the university provides. Higher doses of protein, less carbs. More vegetables. Just the healthy stuff ... I knew I had to change myself and eat more healthy. Me and coach (Steve Sarkisian) had a sit down and had a great conversation of what I needed to become."

Ewers' inconsistent season in 2022 saw him direct a demolition of Oklahoma before the season fizzled with a miserable home loss against TCU and a bowl loss to Washington. An injury against Alabama forced him out of three games. He finished last season with 2,177 yards passing and 15 touchdowns, then held off spring challenges from Maalik Murphy and super recruit Arch Manning.

This Saturday starts a new season of raised expectations for Ewers and the Longhorns, who are favored to win the Big 12. With Murphy and Manning waiting their turn, nothing less from Ewers will be accepted.

“Coming in to this prideful university and what they expect, and me being the perfectionist that I am, it was hard at times," Ewers said.

He seems ready now.

WELL TRAVELED

Rice quarterback J.T. Daniels has already played at Texas twice with two different teams. He was the top quarterback recruit out of high school when he signed with Southern Cal in 2018, but his career has been a cross-country road trip ever since.

After injuries sidelined him at USC, Daniels transferred to Georgia, then to West Virginia and now Rice. He lost at Texas with the Trojans in 2018 and with West Virginia last season.

FAMILY TIES

Daniels' top target will be Owls receiver Luke McCaffrey the brother of NFL All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey. Luke McCaffrey is a former QB who started his career at Nebraska. He has excelled as a pass catcher, and had 58 receptions and six touchdowns last season. His dad, Ed McCaffrey, was a wide receiver in the NFL and won three Super Bowls with San Francisco and Denver.

TEXAS BACKBONE

The Longhorns secondary got a tough, hard-tackling transfer in former Arkansas Razorback Jalen Catalon and he is expected to anchor the back end of the Texas defense if he can stay on the field. Catalon was outstanding as a freshman in 2020, but has played in just nine games since then because of injuries, including one that required reconstructive shoulder surgery.

REPLACING BIJAN

The only truly unsettled position for Texas is at tailback after the departure of Bijan Robinson to the NFL. Jonathan Brooks scored a touchdown in the bowl loss to Washington last season. Freshman C.J. Baxter was rated by some as the top running back recruit out of high school. Look for those two, along with speedy senior Keilan Robinson, to share the carries.

TOP TRANSFER

Texas' biggest pickup in the transfer portal on offense was Georgia wide receiver Adonai Mitchell, who caught two of the Bulldogs biggest playoff touchdowns in their repeat national championship seasons. Both were late game winners against Alabama and Ohio State. He joins an already deep wide receiver rotation.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll