ARLINGTON -- Steve Sarkisian could have fumbled his words at the podium Thursday mid-morning. Being the new coach in the Big 12 comes with the licks.
Instead, Sark was honest in addressing a live crowd for the first time as Texas' head coach. He didn't shy away from the hardball questions and embraced the fact the history of Texas has been missing its winning ways.
That will be the first — and primary — goal for him as the season inches closer to the September 4 opener.
"I think at the end of the day when you think of the University of Texas, you think of resources," Sarkisian told reporters at Big 12 media days. "You think of great recruiting and recruitability, all those things -- big stadiums, great education.
"To get our team to buy into a team-first mentality, because through team success comes individual accolades, I think our players really understand that."
Texas saw success under Tom Herman. They also saw inconsistencies in his overall coaching. Herman went a perfect 4-0 in bowl games during his four-year span. He also was on the sour end of a loss to TCU.
The year before, it was to Baylor. The two years prior to that? Maryland.
Texas has seen its fair share of talent run through the Forty Acres. Over his four seasons, Herman produced three top-10 recruiting classes. Albeit the growth of Texas A&M under Jimbo Fisher, the Horns held control of the state.
It's an area Sarkisian knows he has to win, but a strong class won't define how the season will unfold.
"I know everybody here wants to name a national championship on signing day to whoever got the most four and five stars," Sarkisian said. "You don't get a ring for that. You get a ring for winning games, for winning tough games in November and December, in the fourth quarter, when you've got to have that drive."
Perhaps that winning starts with the battle under center. In one of the tightest races across the nation, Casey Thompson and Hudson Card look to replace golden boy Sam Ehlinger.
Sarkisian entered his first day in Austin making it a fair battle between the two. After 15 practices and the Orange and White game, Thompson might have the edge.
Of course, Card could be working this offseason with a new coach or trying to improve in areas of struggle. Who's to say he won't win the job when all is said and done?
"When I took over the job. I gave everybody a clean slate in our program,” Sarkisian said. “Clearly being the quarterback position — my opinion, the most important position in sports — we have two fantastic players, Casey Thompson and Hudson Card.
“Casey Thompson is a guy who's been in the program a little bit longer. Everybody remembers what he did the Alamo Bowl, throwing touchdown passes in the second half. Very athletic guy, very driven, very focused, high football IQ, great leader. Hudson Card, tremendous passing ability, great instincts, and of passing the football. So we're in a good position."
Sarkisian is leaving the battle open as August approaches. He said it'll be a gut call Week 1 against the Ragin Cajuns, but both could play.
That gut call will come in handy down the line when it comes to naming the full-time starter.
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"In this day and age of college football, to think you're going to go 13 or 14 games all the way throughout the season with one quarterback probably isn't realistic," Sarkisian said. "So we need to develop both of them. Both have huge upside. I love coaching them, and I think we're in good hands at that position.”
Texas had only two players named to the preseason All-Big 12 team — running back Bijan Robinson and cornerback D’Shawn Jamison. Defensive tackle Keondre Coburn could be a name to watch for in the final rankings.
So could Jordan Whittington at wide receiver or David Gbenda at linebacker.
Robinson could be the focus of Texas football entering Year 2. He certainly is the running back outside of Iowa State's Breece Hall that has gained national attention.
Three 100-plus games to close out the year and an Alamo Bowl MVP, that's something the fan base can get behind.
Robinson prides himself on his ability to make "magic" when the ball touches his hand. He'll be looking for a year similar to that of his childhood idol.
“When I get the ball, my first thought is score,” Robinson said of the way he approaches the game. “Every time I touch the ball, I want it to be exciting for people to watch. I want it to be a wow play like when Reggie Bush played at USC."
Sarkisian can see the comparison.
"I think the biggest thing Bijan resembles to Reggie Bush is the one-cut ability," Sarkisian said. You know Reggie, I hadn't seen that for quite some time the ability to make the full speed violent one cut not lose top speed and get vertical. Bijan has that."
Expectations are always high at Texas. They might be higher with the new head coach over the likes of Charlie Strong or Herman. Last season's offensive success in Alabama will be something fans want to see implemented right away.
With the right players, it possibly can.
Like every aspect of life, being the best is challenging. There's one winner and a mess of talented names that leave feeling downtrodden. Texas has seen the latter since 2009.
Strong never was close to bringing the Horns to the big dance. Texas only went once under Herman, and it was over by the start of the fourth quarter.
Fans and various outlets asked Sarkisian when Texas would be "back" for good. The answer was simple — however long it takes to get it right the first time.
Said Sarkisian: “Winning is hard. Winning takes work. It takes perseverance, it takes grit. It takes great teamwork and great leaders and great teammates and an awesome culture, and those are all the things that we're working on to make sure that we put ourselves in a position to be as successful as it can be, not even just for the short term but for the long term.”
CONTINUE READING: Around The Big 12: TCU "Won't Back Down" With QB-QB Coach Tandem
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