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Fall Camp Presser: Sarkisian talks team prep, quarterback battle, mental health

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University of Texas head football coach Steve Sarkisian met with the media on Thursday, ahead of the team starting Fall Camp on Friday.  Sarkisian, who is in his third stint as a head coach at the collegiate level, outlined his plans for camp and talked about the challenges related to the surge in COVID-19 cases and mental health of his players.

The Longhorns open their season on September 4th against Top-25 ranked Louisiana at Darrell K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium.

Notes from Sarkisian's press conference:

  • Sark opened by giving credit to the strength and conditioning staff and players for their hard work over the last eight weeks, putting themselves into position to have a productive fall camp.
  • He emphasized he believes that the team is not a finished product, and the remaining 5 weeks before the season opener to get the team prepared to play to the best of their ability
  • On the quartebacks Thompson and Card, Coach Sarkisian said both guys helped organize and run a total of 16 player-led practices of the summer.  He emphasized the leadership aspect and the ability to develop the trust and confidence of fellow players and coaches in situations like this.
  • REGARDING THE QUARTEBACK BATTLE - "At some point, like I've said before, you know I'm going to have to go with my gut here. I don't know if either guys is just going to relinquish the job to the other guy.  That it is going to be such a drastic gap.  At some point I'm going to have to do what's best for the team, but I do believe we are going to need both these guys this fall."
  • On the SEC, Sark says he has complete faith in the leadership at UT.  Says when the team gets to that point of playing in the SEC then they will worry about that.  He underscored the fact that Texas has unfinished business in the Big 12 that they want to take care of and this year is the start of it. 
  • When asked about the number of touches Bijan Robinson should get each game, Sarkisian said roughly 20.  He said he doesn't really have a set number but rather uses the flow and personality of the respective game to determine how many touches Robinson will get.
  • On expectations for the start of camp Sark says everyone will come out excited and fresh and he wants to see retention/ minimal mistakes.  Route running, coverage and technique should all be clean.  
  • Coach was asked about if he needed to share a message with his players about the reaction of fans on the road.  His response: "I didn't take this job blind.  When you take a job at The University of Texas, you know we are everybody's biggest game.  You have to recognize the elephant in the room."  He followed that up by stating that after everything that has happened, their bullseye got a little bigger.  It's one thing to recognize the situation and have awareness, but not to let it cloud your focus on executing and playing good football.
  • On the health of his players entering fall camp, RB Gabe Watson and LB Ben Davis will be limited at the start of camp.  Nothing serious but they will be monitored.
  • When asked about the linebacker corps, Sark says they are pretty deep at the position.  Credits the staff with solidifying the unit.  With Overshown back and the transfer portal additions as well as a healthy cadre of returning players who were injured last season, he is excited about the versatility at the position.  Says all linebackers will have a role on special teams.
  • When asked if he has a championship roster: "I think we are plenty talented to compete for a championship.  Now, what I need to recognize is are we playing at a level to compete for a championship and there's a lot that goes into that. I do believe we have the talent, I think we have the depth to do it, I think we have put in a lot of really good work over eight months and now we have to tie it all together."
  • On recruiting conversations with players and parents regarding the SEC, Sark says it's sort of like recruiting a bit to the unknown and trying to forecast the future.  Says its hard to sell it because you don't know when you will be playing your first game there and that they are focused on what they are doing now.
  • Sark says there is a real balance to the staff's approach when it comes to fall camp leading up to the season opener. Says the team will start preparing for Louisiana (Game 1) around a week and a half/two weeks before that game.
  • On what makes Texas different as a program.... Sark says UT is one of the best jobs in America. Says the biggest thing for him here is that there isn't a big competition for professional sports (like in LA & Washington). Says the Longhorns are "that team."
  • A question about support for the mental health of his players was asked.  Longhorn Network captured Sarkisian's answer which was spot-on (video is worth watching).
  • With COVID still being a factor, Sarkisian says the team is over 90% vaccinated as a team and hopes to have 100%.  The biggest shift for the team is when school starts back up and in-person classes begin.  He says he is encouraging the players to mask and be mindful of their spacing.  Mentions the testing of non-vaccinated players will continue.
  • Sark likes where the players and staff are right now.  Says this is a checkpoint in the journey and they will move onto another checkpoint which presents a new agenda  for them to attack during camp to prepare them for the season.
  • 'Horns will likely have two full scrimmages and then more of a situational scrimmage.
  • "The game of football is full of adversity. The team that responds better to that adversity is generally the team that comes out on top.  To be the team that we want to be, we have to be the more mentally tough football team every Saturday, and we have to capitalize on the mental weakness of our opponent." -- Steve Sarkisian
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