Sarkisian told reporters Monday that the status' of quarterbacks Casey Thompson or Hudson Card are in question against the Wildcats (7-4, 4-4 Big 12) at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Thompson (thumb) and redshirt freshman Hudson Card (lower body) left last Saturday’s loss to West Virginia in Morgantown.
Sarkisian said he expects Thompson to start if healthy, but that doesn't mean that Texas (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) won't be looking at all avenues this offseason.
“I think that we have to open that job up,” Sarkisian said. “I think we have to let these guys compete to see the development. We’re gonna tear this thing all the way down, and we’re gonna start this thing back at square one come winter conditioning and then into spring ball.”
Thompson has been the most consistent of the two quarterbacks this season, at least for the first half of games. The junior has thrown for 1,943 yards with 23 touchdowns, eight interceptions and four rushing scores in 11 games.
Then again, for all the dazzle and defying plays Thompson shows in the first half of games, it disappears in the second half. It's been part of the reason for the six-game losing streak that's occurred in Austin this fall.
Thompson, the Lake Travis prodigy, has seen his reps increase since losing the starting job in Week 3 against Rice. Last Saturday against the Mountaineers (5-6, 3-5 Big 12), he outdueled Thompson with 123 passing yards and a 56-yard touchdown to wide receiver Xavier Worthy.
For the season, Card has thrown for 590 yards with five touchdowns, one interception and one rushing score.
Sarkisian won't commit to Thompson or Card in 2022. Although he plans on recruiting the duo to come back for another year on the Forty Acres, he'll have at least one more option at QB with top prospect Maalik Murphy from Junipero Serra (Calif.) expected to sign next month.
Murphy will be a Sarkisian quarterback through and through unlike Thompson and Card, both of whom were recruited by then-Longhorns coach Tom Herman. Grading out as the No. 59 player on SI99's recruitment list, Murphy finished his season out west completing 66.3 percent of his passes for 2,341 yards and 17 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
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Thompson and Card both could elect to enter the transfer portal this offseason should they believe its the best move for their respective careers. Sarkisian, meanwhile, could also look to the portal to bring in competition to help the Longhorns get back on track after a down season.
“At the end of the day, that’s the era we’re in,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve created free agency in college football without long-term contracts. I think every case and scenario's going to be different. We’ve got to recruit other players to come in because clearly the situation we’re in right now, we don’t have the depth at that position that’s needed moving forward.”
Even if Card or Thompson is the answer for Sarkisian, the offensive line needs an open battle. This season has been nothing short of disappointing from Kyle Flood and the rotating unit of five up front due to injuries and inconsistencies blocking.
Currently, the Horns are expected to sign highly-touted offensive lineman Cole Huston from Frisco and Connor Robertson from Westlake (Austin). Former top recruit Hayden Conner (Katy Taylor) also is expected to compete for one of the starting tackle roles this spring.
Sarkisian, however, knows the quarterback position is about finding success when the chips are stacked against them. Neither Thompson or Card have been able to overcome the odds of injuries and playing from behind.
Does Sarkisian not believe in Thompson or Card? For now, that's not the case. That doesn't mean he can't look elsewhere to put Texas in the right direction on what seems to be a pivotal offseason in the program's history.
"Ultimately for the QB, probably more than any other position, is to get to the why," Sarkisian said. "Why we’re running that play, why we’re in this formation. Rather than just running the play, really dig into the whys.
"We need to play better and more consistently at that position if we want to be the team that we think we’re capable of being next fall.”
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