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Casey Thompson is Longhorns’ Man in the ‘Arena’

Steve Sarkisian sees the progression of Thompson’s skills as the lights are on in Big 12 play

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson put a stranglehold on the starting job after his performance against Rice last Saturday. He threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the 58-0 win and seemed to set the Longhorns right on offense — for a week at least.

As the Longhorns enter Big 12 play this Saturday against Texas Tech, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian was asked on Monday whether he was impressed by Thompson’s ability to take it up a notch in a game-time situation. You know, that term ‘gamer’ that many people like to use.

But Sarkisian said one doesn’t become a ‘gamer’ overnight, a quarterback that seems to turn their game up when the lights come one, which Thompson seems to have done since he took over the job in the second half against Arkansas.

That progression starts has several steps and begins far away from the stadium lights, Sarkisian said.

READ MORE: Longhorns Recruiting Tracker: Texas Offer Elite 2024 LB Colin Simmons

“We throw individual routes and then we throw one-on-ones and then we throw seven-on-seven and then we work our scout team and then we work our team periods, and then we work our good-on-good,” Sarkisian said. “And then there's a scrimmage and then there's the game. Ultimately, the thing I like to look for is that trajectory that the player continues to get better as the competition, you know, rises.”

Sarkisian then said that one of the challenges to evaluating quarterbacks is that, in some cases, the quarterback can ‘plateau’ at some point, or level off in their improvement. In Thompson’s case, Sarkisian said, he doesn’t see that leveling off from step to step.

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“I think Casey is a classic example of his level of play continuing to rise based on the arena that he's in,” Sarkisian said. “That's a really cool quality to have because we don't play quarterback in T-shirt and shorts, you know? It's still a physical game. You still have to deal with the pressures of playing the position, which I think the best quarterbacks embrace that pressure and kind of flourish in it. And I think that he's got something about him that kind of feels comfortable in that arena of a real game.”

Now the question, Sarkisian said, is whether that comfortable feeling can last. If it does, then Thompson might be more than just a short-term answer at the position for Texas.

READ MORE: Big 12 Rankings: A New Team Leap Frogs OU For Top Spot

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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