Texan Tuesday Football Talk: QB battle, tale of two Robinsons, and more

Nathan Han, Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporters

Welcome to the second edition of the Texan Tuesday Football Talk, where The Daily Texan’s football beat reporters Matthew Boncosky and Nathan Han discuss Texas football:

Nathan Han: I was going to make the classic “Texas is back” joke, but instead, let’s just jump straight into it: What did you think of head coach Steve Sarkisian’s announcement Monday that Hudson Card would start but Casey Thompson would also get reps in Saturday’s season opener against Louisiana?

Matthew Boncosky: I’ll be honest, it was a little surprising to me. Sark said in the offseason that he believes in having one starting quarterback and one backup, so this apparent departure from that philosophy is something I didn’t see coming. An important thing to note is that Sark offered little clarity Monday on when or how much Thompson would play, so a lot is still unknown about how much of a rotation this will be.

Sark obviously has his reasons for why he decided to go this route. To reporters, he’s said it’s about needing two quarterbacks to get through the season and having two capable guys is a luxury he wants to use. Do you think it’s as simple as that, or do you think there’s other motives at play in his decision?

NH: Of course he’d love to have two starting-level quarterbacks, but I really think Sark is still deciding between the two quarterbacks. The way he worded his decision, saying Card earned the right to start, but Thompson earned the right to play and that he would re-evaluate after the game, makes me think that this is still an ongoing quarterback battle that will run into Week 2 against Arkansas.

But Texas doesn’t have the luxury of figuring out the quarterback position during its first two games. No. 23 Louisiana and Arkansas are not your usual pushovers when it comes to early out-of-conference matchups. If the Longhorns do fall to the Ragin’ Cajuns Saturday, what went wrong?

MB: It would be easy to blame a loss on lack of focus stemming from the quarterback situation, a new coaching staff or whatever the reason may be. None of those are reasons I think would precipitate a loss. If Texas begins the season 0-1, I think it will be because of issues in the Longhorns’ secondary.

Like you said, Louisiana is no slouch. The Ragin’ Cajuns return many starters to an already potent offense led by senior quarterback Levi Lewis. If he’s able to torch the Texas secondary with ease, Texas could be in some trouble. This is no cake walk opener for sure.

We’ve heard all offseason about how much progress has been made on the defensive line and with the linebackers. With the Longhorns appearing to have good depth there, what are you expecting to see from the Texas front seven in the season opener? How much havoc can they create?

NH: You talked about the linebackers last week, so I’ll give the defensive line a shot. It’s been a group that Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski have raved about all offseason, including end Jacoby Jones and tackles Moro Ojomo and T’Vondre Sweat.

The defensive line might also be the deepest position group on the roster outside of the running back room. I’m expecting Kwiatkowski to sub in players in and out constantly to use that depth, whether it’s in the same drive or between drives, or even between games. Several players could see varied playing time this year based on their strengths and weaknesses.

On the flip side, though, the rest of the Texas offense hasn’t been discussed much outside of the QBs, so who’s one player Longhorn fans should know before Week 1 not named Bijan Robinson?

MB: I can’t wait to see how sophomore running back Keilan Robinson gets used in Sark’s system. Roschon Johnson was listed as the number two running back behind Bijan on the Longhorns’ first official depth chart, but I have a feeling the Alabama transfer could get some significant work, especially as the season goes on.

Sark is obviously familiar with Keilan from their time together at Alabama, where Keilan averaged 6.5 yards a carry in his freshman year in a crowded running back room. The former four-star recruit could become a significant contributor if he starts out strong. We also know Sark is a bit of an offensive guru, so I bet he has some creative ideas for Keilan.

NH: Way to confuse fans with another Robinson. To clarify for gameday, Bijan will wear No. 5 and Keilan will wear No. 7. I don’t know if many people will get them mixed up outside of their name, though.

The spread has set mostly at -8 in favor of the Longhorns after favoring Texas by two touchdowns. I’ll be optimistic this week in my prediction: Texas covers easily and wins 35-21 and Hudson Card has a standout first game, securing the starting job.

MB: I hate to rain on this parade, but I’m not sure this will be an easy win. I think Louisiana covers the spread, but since it’s at DKR, Texas pulls out a close win.