The last time Hudson Card was in a quarterback battle was during his sophomore season of high school.
Head-to-head with senior Matthew Baldwin, Card was asked to be QB2, but play at wide receiver to keep his wits. Baldwin went on to join Ohio State. Card entered for Lake Travis and became an All-American passer before committing to Texas.
Entering his sophomore season in college, a quarterback battle ensues once more. This time it's between Card and veteran Casey Thompson. It's nothing new, but the stakes certainly are higher.
"I'm excited for this chapter and this journey," Card said Thursday following the Longhorns' final practice before the Orange-White game on April 24. "Like I said, I just take it day by day and things will work out."
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Card's resume at Texas is limited for new head coach Steve Sarkisian to name him the front-runner. In his first season with the program, he went 1-of-3 passing for five yards, two attempts coming in the fourth quarter of the Alamo Bowl victory over Colorado.
But when looking back to high school, the former Cavalier gunslinger had a knack of creating plays deep down the field and consistently connecting with his targets. He threw for 5,831 passing yards with a 67.0 percent completion rating and 74 touchdowns against nine interceptions.
All that's great, but he must get past Thompson to show he's still the same quarterback.
"I think you grow and you learn in opportunities like this," Card said. "I'm excited for what the future holds and again, I'm just focusing on the present and doing that will take care of the future."
Thompson's case to land the QB1 role isn't just due to experience, but rather production. Card watched from the sideline for most of the second half in San Antonio as the Oklahoma City native made mincemeat of the Buffaloes' defense.
Thompson finished 8-of-10 passing for 170 yards and four touchdowns with a jaw-dropping 354.8 quarterback rating.
"He's a great dude, a good player, and we make each other better at the end of the day," Card said of the junior quarterback. "We're there for each other but at the end of the day, it's a competition and we push each other. That's how it should be."
Should Tom Herman still be calling the plays, Thompson might have the battle won. He elected to go with him in the bowl game despite having Card's upside as a passer.
That's not the case with Sarkisian. He entered Austin with a clean slate, letting the production in spring ball do the talking in the battle for shotgun sets.
“I mean, clearly they’re both very athletic young men," Sarkisian said earlier this month. "They throw the ball well. I think they’ve got a good grasp of what we’re trying to do. Now it’s just getting into the flow of, of letting things happen naturally, and not playing quite as robotic. And that comes with reps and getting into different situations and scenarios. But I think, all in all, I’m pleased with where we’re at that position.”
Card believes that while he has progressed as a quarterback, there's still much to learn. It's a new offense, new coaching staff and a ton of new talent added to the mix.
Relationships like that don't form overnight. Neither does the decision on who should be starting games in 2021.
Spring practice will conclude Saturday in front of fans at DKR. All will be hoping that when the final whistle blows, the heir to Sam Ehlinger will emerge from the shadows.
Card isn't sold just yet on if the battle is over, but he hopes fans will walk away with a positive feeling entering May. For years, Texas has tried to be "back" to days or Vince Young and Colt McCoy.
With the roster at hand, that glimmer of glory is ready to shine through.
"They're going to see a lot of excitement," Card said. "Pushing the ball downfield, taking shots — keep taking shots over and over because that's what we like to do.
"It's a really exciting offense with a great coach calling the plays and getting the ball to our playmakers in space and have them go to work."
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