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Golden: A game manager at quarterback? Sark likes it

First-year coach has difficult decision to make between Thompson and Card.

Cedric Golden
Austin American-Statesman
Casey Thompson, left, watches as Hudson Card throws during an open practice session for fans last week. Texas coach Steve Sarkisian is expected to announce one as the starter for the Sept. 4 season opener against Louisiana.
  • Sarkisian on how he approaches coaching a first-year starter: "“I think the one thing we really try to do is find the things that he does well and we have to identify that throughout camp and throughout practice."
  • Late Texas football legend Cedric Benson's trust is partnering with the Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy to provide mentorship and educational opportunities for its students.

Steve Sarkisian has plenty in common with coaches who are entering the season with a new starting quarterback.

While fans cringe at the game manager tag, it’s just the tonic this offense will need, though Sark has already promised that he'll be taking the training wheels off Casey Thompson or Hudson Card for the season opener.

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If preseason projections mean anything, running back Bijan Robinson will be getting fitted for a tux for Heisman weekend in four months, but the Longhorns aren’t going anywhere as a one-man band. Robinson has the look of an All-American, but he will need help. 

It’s why the upcoming decision is the biggest Sark will make in his first season. Will he go with the institutional knowledge of Thompson or the bigger-armed upside of Lake Travis’ Card?

Sark said both had a good week, including improved play in Saturday’s scrimmage, a positive sign, though it needs to be mentioned that the media isn't watching scrimmages. Draw your own conclusions.

Since Sam Ehlinger isn't walking through that door this fall, Sarkisian will have to figure out what works for an inexperienced man behind center.

“I think the one thing we really try to do is find the things that he does well and we have to identify that throughout camp and throughout practice,” Sarkisian said, “then put them in position when it comes time to scrimmages, and ultimately games, to have success.”

More:Guided by faith, DT Moro Ojomo following his athletic, educational passions at Texas

It was interesting that he didn’t avoid the game manager tag, correctly noting that all quarterbacks manage a game on certain levels. With that said, recent national champions have mostly been about superstar quarterbacks leading the way to special places.

In 2020, Alabama’s Mac Jones threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns in the title win over Ohio State, won the O’Brien, Unitas and Manning awards and also was a Heisman finalist.

In 2019, Heisman winner Joe Burrow had a dream season for national champion LSU with a ridiculous 60 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. His shootout win over Texas was one of the top games of the season.

In 2018, Clemson freshman Trevor Lawrence threw for 320 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-16 demolition of Alabama, handing coach Nick Saban his worst loss as a head coach.

In 2017, Jalen Hurts went 27-2 as a starter at Alabama before freshman Tua Tagovailoa replaced him in the second half of the title game and powered the Tide to a 26-23 win over Georgia with a 41-yard pass to Heisman winner DeVonta Smith.

In 2016, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson shredded Alabama’s top-ranked defense in the title game win with 420 yards and three touchdowns, including a late game winner to Hunter Renfrow.

More:Our annual Big 12 of the Big 12: A dozen conference standouts to follow this season

Today’s game lends itself to a quarterback not blending into the attack, but with Robinson poised to put up freakish numbers, Texas' starter will go in knowing he won’t be playing lead in this band.

The aforementioned quarterbacks are the polar opposite of the days of yesteryear when some teams actually rode running backs to championships. Longhorns fans remember that brutal 2010 night in Pasadena when Colt McCoy went down with a shoulder on that goal-line run against Alabama in the title game.

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Colt was the centerpiece and his loss was too much for freshman Garrett Gilbert to overcome. Meanwhile, Alabama won with a game manager at quarterback. Greg McElroy completed only 6 of 11 passes for 58 yards in the title game and spent most of the night handing off to Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and his backup Trent Richardson, who combined for 266 yards of offense and four touchdowns.

In his final two seasons, McElroy averaged only 23.6 pass attempts per game and threw only 37 touchdowns in 27 games.

As for the Horns, the good news is progress is apparently being made. A straw poll of the Texas media at Wednesday’s practice viewing revealed an overwhelming consensus —  including yours truly —  who believe Card will be named the starter.

Either way, it will be interesting to observe how Sark navigates the handling of an unproven at the position.

The late Cedric Benson's trust has announced a partnership with the Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy to provide mentorship and guidance for young men of color pursuing higher educational opportunities.

Benson's mentoring: Texas legend Cedric Benson left us much too soon, but his legacy will live on, not only in Longhorns football lore where he's the only Big 12 player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons, but also off the field in the area of mentoring.

We respected Benson in the media because he always shot straight, giving honest answers to all questions, from those about his greatest accomplishments on the field to the off-field legal issues that were also part of his story. Through the good and the bad, he never lost a real passion to help young people.

His mother, Jackqueline, was on hand at Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy last Friday to announce a partnership between the academy and the Cedric Myron Benson Trust to mentor young students of color in STEM, reading and social justice while they pursue advancement in higher education. In the years between his final game in 2012 and his death at age 36 in a motorcycle accident in August 2019, Benson was no stranger to civic service.

For years, his NUFCED charity provided aid to underprivileged families in Austin and across the state in his years after football and also assisted local families whose homes were damaged by the terrorist bombings of 2018. 

More:Longhorn Confidential 2019 on the loss of Cedric Benson

Benson is gone, but the works of his organization will continue through his mom, who raised him as a single parent. His No. 32 jersey will occupy a permanent spot in the school's trophy case.

“I want to give young men of color a chance to see the future through the eyes of someone who believed in them,” Jackqueline Benson said in a statement. “I am grateful to the organizations that will band together to help make this program a life-changing experience.”

Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, wipes his eye at a news conference after his loss to Yordenis Ugas, of Cuba, in a welterweight championship boxing match Saturday in Las Vegas. The 42-year-old Pacquiao's loss has likely cost him a major payday with Errol Spence, who pulled out of a scheduled matchup with an eye injury.

Manny loss was Spence's loss: It’s rare when boxing super fights come to pass and we nearly had one over the weekend, but Dallas’ Errol Spence suffered an eye injury and had to pull out of a welterweight clash with the 42-year-old fight legend Manny Pacquiao.

In stepped 35-year-old WBA champ Yordenis Ugas, who outworked the Filipino senator for a unanimous decision after 12 rounds.

The worst storyline coming out of the fight was boxing fans alleging the fix was in the works.

To benefit whom?

Ugas couldn’t draw flies if he bathed in honey, whereas a fixed outcome in favor of Pacquiao would have made more sense because it would have pressured a mega fight with Errol Spence or Terence “Bud” Crawford.

Typical boxing narrative. The sport is so crooked, its fans can’t even get its conspiracy theories right.