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Sarkisian: Texas, gone ‘warts,’ on way to success

9: 19 PM ET

  • Chris LowESPN Senior Writer

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    • College football reporter
    • Joined ESPN.com in 2007
    • Graduate of the University of Tennessee

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said Wednesday he’s closing in on naming a starting quarterback and believes the Longhorns are better equipped as a team than these were this past year to handle whatever trials come their way in 2022.

Texas, in Sarkisian’s first season as coach, finished 5-7 and lost six straight games, marking the Longhorns’ longest losing streak since 1956.

“The youngsters knew nobody for the reason that locker room was all-in this past year,” Sarkisian told ESPN. “I believe they might feel it, plus they wished to weed out a few of the warts, a few of the bad apples. I believe they got a feeling of reality about a few of the things we were discussing and attempting to instill last offseason. I have no idea just how much they gave credence to it, and those same things reared their ugly head in-season.

“They returned in January with this particular mindset of, ‘We’ve surely got to take these exact things to heart since they will arrive again.’ They’ve made that investment and bought into every part of it, and you could feel it amongst we.”

Much like this past year, the Longhorns again have a quarterback battle this preseason. Redshirt sophomore Hudson Card and redshirt freshman Quinn Ewers, a former five-star prospect who spent the 2021 season at Ohio State, are vying for the starting job. This past year, it had been Casey Thompson and Card battling for the work. Card earned the beginning in the initial two games, but Thompson replaced him late in the 40-21 loss to Arkansas in Week 2 and remained the starter all of those other way. Thompson has since used in Nebraska.

“This past year was difficult in having two players which were not used to the [offensive] system, and that is always hard, particularly when one of these is not a returning starter who had really experienced the fire,” Sarkisian said. “This season, despite the fact that they’re new, Hudson’s got just a little experience, and Quinn is to arrive from another program. The truth is Quinn should be a freshman in college. He reclassified after preseason camp had started. It had been sort of a wash of a season for him.”

Sarkisian is heartened by the partnership between his two quarterbacks regardless of the intense competition and the truth that they “aren’t consumed using what another guy does.”

Sarkisian said both players have made some plays this preseason, while “both of these have growing pains, but that’s camp.”

He added he believes he “comes with an idea” who’s likely to function as starter and doesn’t desire to wait an excessive amount of longer before telling the team. Texas opens its season on Sept. 3 in the home against Louisiana-Monroe and faces No. 1 Alabama the next week in the home.

A very important factor Sarkisian doesn’t wish to accomplish is enter a situation this year where he’s rotating quarterbacks.

“I believe it’s hard for a quarterback to find yourself in rhythm this way, and I believe you play differently knowing, ‘Hey, I have no idea just how many throws I’ll get,’ and you also take way too many chances,” Sarkisian said. “I simply don’t believe the decision-making is great.”

This past year, Sarkisian said Card unfairly bore the brunt of the Arkansas loss once the Hogs jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead and led 33-7 late in the 3rd quarter when Thompson entered the overall game.

“The truth is that people didn’t play perfectly as a team, and I’m uncertain we ever recovered from that loss,” said Sarkisian, who stuck with Thompson because the starter as the Longhorns had more success finishing drives those first three games when he was on the field.

“Nonetheless it never got comfortable. It had been backwards and forwards over summer and winter, and we never found our rhythm. I’m a large believer that position may be the most significant position in sports for grounds, because see your face instills belief in everyone else in the business, the offense, the defense, the coaching staff, the fans, everybody. … And we never got that this past year. We just never got that mojo the correct way.”

Through the Longhorns’ six-game losing streak, they lost three of these games by eight or fewer points to nationally ranked teams. There is also a fourth loss in overtime to Kansas, with the Jayhawks winning in Austin for the very first time.

“The [quarterback situation] is really a much bigger deal to people beyond your program,” said Texas junior running back Bijan Robinson, who rushed for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and in addition caught four touchdown passes. “It’s on us round the quarterback to create him comfortable, make plays for him and become there for him the complete season and not simply parts of the growing season. The thing we have to get this done season is finish games, and that is not only on the quarterback.”

Because the losses mounted this past year, Sarkisian was careful to remind himself how important it had been for him “amid plenty of storms going on” to keep an even of consistency with the team, media, donors and fans.

“We were likely to stay the course using what we have confidence in and how we will do it as time passes, not panic, and we were likely to pop from another side where there’s that ray of sunshine,” Sarkisian said.

A large section of that sunshine are available in a 2023 recruiting class ranked No. 3 nationally by ESPN, one which includes the country’s top quarterback prospect in Arch Manning. It is the sort of recruiting momentum that was not lost on Texas’ current players.

“You start to see the players jumping onboard, and it’s really very important to us this season to help keep that momentum going on the field and put the program back where it’s said to be,” Robinson said. “You can view it, and you will feel it.”

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