There’s that old cliché saying that goes something like, “if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.”
There was some concern that the saying might prove true for the Texas Longhorns entering the 2021 season, as first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian announced redshirt freshman Hudson Card as his starter, but added that junior Casey Thompson would also play in Texas’ season opener against Louisiana.
Card started and Thompson played, as promised, but it wasn’t reminiscent of Tom Herman’s strategy of alternating series between Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger as he tried to solidify a starter, or anything else that could create unnecessary, ongoing controversy around the quarterback position. Card started and stayed behind center until he’d guided Texas to a fairly comfortable, 28-12 edge, completing 14-of-21 passes for 224 yards and three total touchdowns along the way before trading places with Thompson towards the end of the third quarter.
But why didn’t Sark wait until Texas was completely in control before making the change?
“I thought it was good to get Casey in there and get him some real plays, and he played well,” Sark said of Thompson, who led two scoring drives and completed 4-of-5 passes for 41 yards and a touchdown. “To get those kind of extended drives the way he did — I think he got three series — was really good for him. I think he operated really well.”
“The key for him is the same in-game, live reps in our system,” Sark added. “I’ve said this all along — that’s a real luxury.”
So, Sark’s intent is to essentially revise that old cliché to be something like, “if you have two quarterbacks, you have two.”
To that end, Sark reflected back to the how Alabama’s Nick Saban ultimately benefitted from making it a point to utilize backup Tua Tagovailoa behind Jalen Hurts in 2017.
“I was thinking back to even with coach Saban at Alabama when Jalen was the starter and Tua first got there,” Sark said. “He always made it a point to get Tua in the game to make sure he was ready, and ultimately that paid off for him, putting him in the second half of the national championship game.”
Of course, it was Tagovailoa who delivered the game-winning touchdown pass as QB2 to capture Bama’s national title over Georgia in 2018. The following season when the roles were reversed, Saban did much of the same with Hurts, and it helped net the Tide an SEC title.
“Sure enough, here comes the SEC Championship game. He puts Jalen in and Jalen goes and wins the championship for him,” Sarkisian said.
More or less, that’s Sark’s intent — to have not just one, but two competent quarterbacks who can be ready to go out and win a game, and maybe a championship, if the need arises.
“You’ve got to make sure your backup is prepared to play when his number is called at those critical moments, so we’ll continue down that road with Casey on our end.”
Card is QB1, and there shouldn’t be much question about that at this moment following his debut performance against Louisiana. But meanwhile, Texas needs Thompson to remain prepared to play, because Sark plans to play him.