Bohls: Texas' Steve Sarkisian sounds like Mr. Fix-It as Longhorns open training camp
- Steve Sarkisian met in person with the local media and couldn't have been more positive.
- With training camp opening Friday night, the Longhorns are 90% vaccinated and very healthy.
- The Longhorns may not have many great players yet but "enough talent" to contend for a championship.
The skies on another August day in Austin may have been gray and angry and dripping with moisture on Thursday, but the mood inside Bellmont Hall was anything but bleak.
With Longhorns football training camp opening Friday night, we’re here to report that it’s all good. Really good.
A relaxed, confident Steve Sarkisian met separately with the local media in person for the first time since Big 12 media days in Arlington in July. And I’m here to tell you the brand spanking new head coach who comes with Nick Saban’s blessings has it all going.
It’s all rainbows.
And, yes, we know it’s August.
Let’s recap Sarkisian's first fairly dry and unrevealing Bellmont press conference and the current status of the program as it seeks to win double-digit games for the second time since 2009 and maybe contend for a Big 12 title with the degree of importance starting from the top.
Here’s why everything is so rosy at this time.
Texas’ future is secure. Or SECure. In the foreseeable future. Only Texas and Oklahoma in a rapidly splintering league can say that.
Sark said the new culture he’s building didn’t foster total buy-in, but has to a very large degree, so much so that it’s even gone better than the coach thought it might.
Almost nobody’s hurt. Other than running back Gabe Watson far down the depth chart and linebacker transfer Ben Davis, who will be “limited” at camp’s start as a precautionary measure, Sark said his team is totally healthy. That deserves a wow.
Sure, he doesn’t know who his starting quarterback will be, but he’s very high on both junior Casey Thompson and redshirt freshman Hudson Card and reiterated that the Longhorns will need both to navigate this season. (In other words, please don’t transfer, odd man out.)
The team is 90% vaccinated with strong prospects that number will go up. Hello, herd immunity. The Longhorns had me at hook, line and needle. Congrats, guys.
Sark’s staff has 16 commitments with new ones pouring in every day. Hopefully not all of them will come from California or other states beyond Texas’ borders.
Bijan Robinson will roughly get in the neighborhood of 20 touches per game and sometimes more. “We’d be remiss not to get him the ball,” Sark said. Hallelujah. And hello, Heisman campaign.
There wasn’t a negative note in the entire 35-minute debriefing.
Heck, Sark’s already addressed the team about eliminating distractions, whether it will be extra hostile fans on the road or the rare Horns-down gestures that will likely occur only three or four million times starting in September.
As we said, it’s all puppies and kittens.
At least until Sept. 4 when loaded Louisiana comes to town to present a challenge that promises to be extreme. Think Maryland-size challenge.
Objective observers, of course, would point out negatives do exist as they do with every team, and Texas has its share.
Texas does not have a wealth of experienced talent up front in the offensive line, and that’s pretty critical.
Sark won’t have a quarterback who has started a single game, and no matter how strong Thompson looked in a dynamite second half against flawed Colorado in the Alamo Bowl last December, it’ll look different to him or Card when the opponent is more competitive this fall.
Nor does this coaching staff have a proven playmaker beyond Robinson, maybe on either side of the ball.
Oh, Texas has some good talent. Not Alabama talent, save for Robinson. Not Oklahoma talent. Probably not Texas A&M talent. Consider that the Crimson Tide won the national championship, then lost six players in the first round alone of the NFL draft and said goodbye to four assistants, including Sarkisian. And Saban’s bunch still is likely to show up as the No. 1 or 2 team in the country in the first Associated Press Top 25 poll.
And remember, of the 27 offensive and defensive players selected for the preseason All-Big 12 team, Oklahoma had nine chosen, Iowa State eight and Texas just two. That’s a very large gap.
If you believe in the authenticity of the summer college football magazines, it’s even worse. In the respected Phil Steele College Football Preview, Robinson is the only Longhorns player he lists on his top 48-player first and second All-Big 12 teams. That’s one in 48 in a 10-team league and doesn’t exactly breed confidence.
Steele does list four Longhorns on his third team and three more on his fourth team for what that’s worth.
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But make no mistake. Texas has good players.
However to this point only good players, hopefully with some poised to make that jump like one of the two quarterbacks and center Jake Major and tackle Christian Jones and the versatile Derek Kerstetter as well as nose tackle Keondre Coburn and a few others on the defensive line like Jacoby Jones and Alfred Collins.
DeMarvion Overshown, now healthy, should improve by leaps and bounds in his second year at linebacker, and cornerbacks Josh Thompson and D’Shawn Jamison have enough athleticism to advance their reputations in a big way. Is Xavier Worthy the next Devin Duvernay?
Clearly talent development will be huge, and that’s a big reason why Sark is the new coach, Texas’ third in the last eight seasons.
In fact, Sark went so far as to say, “We’re plenty talented to compete for a championship. Now I need to recognize (and ask) are we playing at a level to compete for a championship. We have the talent to do it. We have the depth to do it. But we have to put in a lot of good work and have to tie it all together.”
Sark isn’t near as candid or frank as his basketball counterpart Chris Beard, who the day before basically said he’s gunning for a national championship as soon as this season and who doesn’t shrink from the expectations or pressure.
Of course, Beard’s done it at a high level with Final Four runs and an overtime loss in the national championship game. Sark’s done much the same with four appearances in the championship game and a 2-2 record, but on the coattails of a Nick Saban and a Pete Carroll.
That said, Sark comes through bold and organized and confident. He’s no wallflower. He seems solid and pretty intense. He’s not a guy who’s going to back down from a challenge.
For now, he’s the latest Mr. Fix-It.
And for the moment, everything’s looking up.