Sarkisian’s Quarterbacks

Tua Tagovailo and Mac Jones were the quarterbacks of Steve Sarkisian’s offenses at Alabama. Both were first round draft choices and are starters in the NFL. Both are very accurate pocket passers. They are not threats to run and they rarely do.  As my favorite NFL analyst Greg Cosell says, they’re not second reaction quarterbacks. They each won National Championships at Alabama where they threw from the pocket to NFL first round draft picks Jaylen Waddle and Devonte Smith and were protected by future NFL offensive lineman.

In college football, it’s rare for top 10 teams to have pure pocket passers. Most are dual threat quarterbacks who make second reaction plays running and passing. Tagovailo, Jones, and Joe Burrows at LSU in 2019 are exceptions to the rule. Trevor Lawernce at Clemson was a dual threat quarterback who made many big plays running by design and scrambling.

In 2020, Clemson, Ohio State, and Notre Dame made the College Football Playoffs with dual threat quarterbacks Trevor Lawernce, Justin Fields, and Ian Book.

Texas has lost to Oklahoma the last three years to dual threat quarterbacks Kyler Murray, Jaylen Hurts, and Caleb Williams.  Arkansas’ K.J. Jefferson ran 10 times for 75 yards against Texas a few weeks ago.

Steve Sarkisian prefers to run an offense that features a pocket passer. That worked out well for him at Alabama. It’s not working very well this year at Texas. Yes, Texas’s defense is bad, but they’ve played well in the last two games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the first halves when the offense was performing well. In the second halves, when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State keyed on Bijan Robinson, the offense sputtered and the defense broke down.

Texas has been outscored in the second halves of the last two games 54-17. Texas has had 13 possessions in the second half of these games that ended with seven punts, two turnovers on downs, one interception, two touchdowns and a field goal. Second halves like these are going to result in losses to good teams almost every time.

Would Texas have won these games with a dual threat quarterback? Maybe. With the current offensive line, it’s going to be hard to sustain a good offense for four quarters against good teams relying on quarterbacks that aren’t a threat to make plays scrambling or on designed runs.

Can Casey Thompson make plays scrambling or running by design?  Not like Caleb Williams or K.J. Jefferson but I think he could be somewhat effective scrambling. He was the #14 Dual Threat Quarterback recruit in the 2018 class. Hudson Card was #2 in the 2020 class. Has Sarkisian coached Thompson and Card to stay in the pocket and try to find a receiver and disdain scrambling? It sure looks that way. I’m not sure Sark has any designed quarterback running plays in his playbook right now.

Maybe during the bye week Sarkisian can put some quarterback running plays in Texas’ arsenal and encourage Thompson and Card to scramble when they see opportunities to make a play. It couldn’t hurt.

Steve Holstead and Joel Klatt

Willie Earl reader Steve Holstead and Fox lead college football analyst Joel Klatt agreed that it was a major error for Texas defense to be playing a Cover 2 defense late in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State. Cover Two is not the defense to play when you need to sell out to stop the clock-killing run game. Steve posted his observation on Willie Earl Saturday after the game and Klatt talked about it on the Colin Cowherd show Wednesday of this week. Maybe Klatt reads Willie Earl!

Sam Ehlinger

The Indianapolis Colts have waived Jacob Eason and have elevated Sam Ehlinger to #2 on depth chart behind Carson Wentz. Given Wentz’s injury history, there’s a good chance Ehlinger will play this season.

11am Kickoffs

Texas will play its fourth straight game starting at 11 am next week at Baylor. Evidently, lots of fans don’t like 11 am kicks. Other than the fact that being selected for an 11 am start probably means the Longhorns aren’t having a great season, I kind of like 11 am starts. It gives me less time to kill on a Saturday before the Longhorn game and it still leaves time in the afternoon for golf or other recreational outings.

Willie Earl’s Songs of the Week

“I Get by with a Little Help from My Friends” – “Turn Turn Turn” and more.

I grew up in the suburbs. I guess most people think of the suburbs as a place with all the disadvantages of the city and none of the advantages of the country and vice versa. But in a way, those really were the wonder years for us there in the suburbs. Kind of the golden age of kids.

Fun fact. I graduated from high school in the same year as Kevin Arnold, Winnie Cooper, and Paul Pfeiffer.

Hook ‘Em,
W.E.

4 Comments to “Sarkisian’s Quarterbacks”

  1. Since I’m winding down my career as a Landman, maybe I’ll apply to become a network analyst? 🙂

  2. Willie Earl-This was one of your best write-ups ever. The QB situation leaves me perplexed, but I believe Sark will figure it out. And the Wonder Years part…. How nostalgic. And who didn’t have a Winnie Cooper in their life? Mine was Debbie Parker, who dumped me for Lars Ely.

  3. Bill,

    Great observation. I did notice that Casey was hurried on every pass play and seldom got outside the pocket. It will be hard for him to stay in pocket from now on unless offensive line improves, because other teams will have picked up on this too.

    In my opinion, the problem is strength and conditioning. How else can you explain it? They play up to their potential the 1st half when they are fresh, but when they get tired they lose their mental focus. We all think better when we are physically fit. If Shark wants the team to be mentally focused and not lose their fundamentals in the 4th quarter, they simply need to be in better shape, to be better conditioned.

What Say You?