Texan Tuesday Football Talk: What to expect from Texas football as preseason comes to close

Matthew Boncosky and Nathan Han

Welcome to the first edition of the Texan Tuesday Football Talk, where The Daily Texan’s  football beat reporters Matthew Boncosky and Nathan Han discuss, of course, Longhorn football.

Nathan Han: We’re less than two weeks away from the season opener against Louisiana on Sept. 4, and it’s exactly at that point where head coach Steve Sarkisian said he would start focusing on the Ragin’ Cajuns and get out of training camp mode. 

But there’s still one question looming over the program before day one at starting quarterback. What have you seen this offseason from junior Casey Thompson and redshirt freshman Hudson Card, and when should Texas fans realistically expect a decision from Sarkisian?

Matthew Boncosky: After Thompson’s performance in last season’s Alamo Bowl against Colorado, I, along with many Texas fans, felt like this would be Thompson’s job to lose, but after getting a closer look at Card in the offseason, the decision doesn’t appear that easy anymore. 

Both Thompson and Card have shown the ability to sling the ball and have enough mobility that I think the decision will come down to who Sarkisian feels has a better grasp of the offense and playbook.

In terms of when that decision might come, Sarkisian doesn’t appear to be in any rush. Part of that might be not wanting to aid Louisiana’s game prep. He has said in a perfect world, he would already know who the starter is, but that doesn’t mean he has to announce who that is yet either. I wouldn’t be surprised if the QB1 decision doesn’t come out until game-prep week.

Outside of who will be QB1, perhaps the biggest storyline heading into this season is the arrival of the “All Gas, No Brakes” era. What are some reasonable expectations for Sarkisian and his staff in their first season?

NH: With the Vegas over-under for wins set at 7.5, I believe anything eight or over is a clear win for Sarkisian. Some folks might say that eight wins isn’t enough. But the upcoming slate of Big 12 conference games might be tougher than in past years, where former head coach Tom Herman has failed to get out unscathed.

Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas State stand out as three teams that could finish above Texas in the Big 12 conference rankings. How well the Texas defense fares against those offenses led with experience might be the deciding factor in those head-to-head matchups.

To me at least, outside of that quarterback position, the biggest question for this new coaching staff in year one is that defense. What is new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski’s scheme and style and which players on this defense are ones to watch?

MB: Kwiatkowski has said that his defense is all about technique and fundamentals first and that he likes to play an attacking style defense with his front seven to allow his defensive backs to have a better ability to read what’s going on and make plays. It starts with drilling in the fundamentals of tackling, which has been notably suspect at Texas in recent years, and leverage.

Luckily, Kwiatkowski has a solid defensive line and some impressive linebackers, including senior DeMarvion Overshown and LSU graduate transfer Ray Thornton, that I think will excel at attacking and applying pressure on opposing offenses.

With the defensive backs being able to focus on just reading the quarterback to force turnovers rather than creating pressure themselves, disciplined play from the secondary will be a key area to focus on. With Texas’ opening slate of games against Louisiana and Arkansas, there will be little time to waste in terms of settling in for the secondary. Who are some names in that group that you think can have an impact right away in those key games?

NH: Senior corner D’Shawn Jamison is a clear plus player. Anthony Cook, also a senior cornerback, has received heaps of praise from his coaches in the offseason. Josh Thompson is a fifth-year senior defensive back who impressed and got his hands on several balls in last Wednesday’s open practice. 

It’s a group of three seniors and heavily experienced cornerbacks, with Cook in nickel packages and in the slot, could really elevate Texas’s defense if they stay healthy and put together a complete season.

Will it be enough against Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler and some of these high powered Big 12 offenses? That’s still more than up in the air.

But we’re still going to try and predict it anyway. So without further ado, how many games do you think Texas is going to win this season? Are you over or under 7.5?

MB: I’ll take the over on 7.5 and predict that Texas finishes with eight wins this season on the back of sophomore running back Bijan Robinson.

NH: Give me 9 wins with an Alamo Bowl win.