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Bohls: Sarkisian says next year's Texas quarterback position is up for grabs

  • Steve Sarkisian said next year's starting quarterback position is up for grabs.
  • Coach said he wants Casey Thompson and Hudson Card back, but no guarantee either will start.
  • "We're going to tear this thing all the way down and start at square one," Sarkisian said Monday.

Bijan Robinson said he’s coming back.

Xavier Worthy has said he’s coming back.

We presume Casey Thompson and Hudson Card are coming back, too, but Steve Sarkisian said he’s still “recruiting” both quarterbacks to return along with those other two star players who are among the best running backs and wide receivers in the nation.

But — and it’s a very large qualifier — the first-year head coach ain’t promising either one of them he’ll be trotting out for the first snap against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 3.

And that’s a good thing.

Not because they’re bad. But because they haven’t won big, haven’t been anywhere close to consistently good, and they haven’t been special. To win big, you need a special quarterback or a hellacious defense.

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Of course, some would say who would want them? I would not be in that camp.

They’ve both shown flashes of good if not brilliance, although Thompson tied for a school-record six touchdown passes in the overtime loss to Kansas and had five in the loss to Oklahoma, and Card’s play has been more negative than positive.

You see the theme, however.

Losses.

Lots of them.

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson has had some brilliant performances with a six-touchdown game and a pair of five-score games, but coach Steve Sarkisian said he isn't guaranteed to start next season.

In fairness, Thompson also threw for five touchdowns in the win over Texas Tech, but he passed for just 29 yards in the first half at West Virginia, 2 yards in four series against Iowa State and only 179 yards with a pick six versus Oklahoma State. Texas lost all three of those games.

Card’s been very unsettled and tentative in the pocket and mostly inaccurate. He had turnovers on back-to-back offensive snaps in the disturbing loss to Kansas, looked totally overwhelmed in the loss at Arkansas and lost his job after that.

And that’s why Sarkisian isn’t committing himself to either quarterback or redshirting freshman Charles Wright or walk-on redshirt sophomore Ben Ballard, who was taking serious snaps in Monday’s practice and might even get to play in the season finale Friday against Kansas State.

Not the regular-season finale. But the final finale, barring some crazy scenarios in which bowls run out of eligible teams.

With probably no bowl to play in this season for a severely disappointing 4-7 football team, which has lost six straight games, Sarkisian is already facing next-year questions. And none looms larger than quarterback.

And he said no job is secure. As he should.

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Redshirt freshman Hudson Card started the first two games of the season before being benched, and he had turnovers on consecutive plays in the loss to Kansas.

So when I asked him if he would be receptive to the possibility of starting at quarterback in 2022 a high school recruit (such as the committed Maalik Murphy) or a player out of the transfer portal this offseason, he said: “Potentially for sure. We’ve got to open up that position. We're going to tear this thing all the way down and start back at square one.”

There you have it. The 247Sports website lists 25 quarterbacks in the portal, 21 of them uncommitted anywhere.

Thompson needs to sharpen his game if the fourth-year junior wants to be a fifth-year starting senior. Same for Card, the highly regarded four-star redshirt freshman who so far just throws a nice incomplete spiral and has struggled mightily with very few uplifting moments like the touchdown bomb last Saturday. He needs a lot of work.

Asked if he’s making a pitch to both to return for next year, Sarkisian said, “We’ve created free agency in college football. Every scenario is different. Our plan is to not only recruit those guys to stay, but recruit other areas as well because we clearly don’t have the depth we need to move forward. Every guy wants to play, but we need to play more consistently and better."

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But if Sarkisian doesn’t fix the quarterback position and produce a starter who can consistently be relied upon to give a winning performance, all else is just filler. He remains hopeful.

“It’s the first time these guys were exposed to this offense. Hopefully there is some retention we can build off,” he said. “We need for the quarterbacks to get to the why, why we’re running this play and in that formation. We need them to dig down to the whys, and if we can get to that point …”

Then he’s got something.

It’s no secret that the best teams in college football are pretty well set at quarterback, especially the top four in the rankings.

Three of those quarterbacks in the top four of the Top 25 are in serious contention for the Heisman Trophy. 

Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder all have excellent chances to get to New York City for the ceremony, as could Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. Georgia’s Stetson Bennett is only 85th nationally in passing, but when the defense ranks No. 2 and has allowed only nine touchdowns in 11 games, Kirby Smart could run the single wing and be undefeated.

No. 10 Oklahoma had a shot at another Heisman before Spencer Rattler relinquished the job to freshman sensation Caleb Williams, who’s been wildly successful but not always consistent.

As for Thompson, who has started nine games and has a 4-5 record, he ranks just 83rd in passing with 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has wrestled with a thumb injury the past five games, but if he was that badly hurt, what does that say about Card?

Basically, it says quarterback will be an open battle with auditions starting in the spring. Until then, Texas might be portal-friendly.