Steve Sarkisian’s patience as an offensive game caller was only matched by his patience last year when other schools would call.
After Sarkisian was hired in Texas to replace Tom Herman, who was fired on Saturday, his patience is tested by a job that is often as dependent on off-field challenges as the ones he faces on Saturdays.
“The X and O part is a minor thing in this place,” said a former Texas assistant coach on Saturday. “Almost everyone who comes in there is a good football coach. It’s the rest of the things that make it difficult.”
Sarkisian took an already explosive Alabama crime to another level. The Crimson Tide set a school record of 47.2 points per game in Sarkisian’s first full season as Alabama Offensive Coordinator in 2019. This season, Alabama has topped that mark with an average of 48.2 points per game, ranking second nationwide.
As Alabama’s coach Nick Saban recently told ESPN, good defense doesn’t beat a good offense, and Sarkisian’s crimes over the past two seasons have been a stark reminder of that – making him one of the hottest goods in college football and ultimately the Texas coach power stepped in to bring the Longhorns back to an elite level.
“There is a lot of talent in this team,” Sarkisian told reporters on Saturday night. “I think this team has championship talent. Of course there is still a lot to be done or no change would be made.”
Herman went 32:18 in Texas in four years, including a 10-4 record in 2018. Overall, he’s 54:22 as head coach, including two seasons in Houston. Sarkisian is 46-35 as the head coach for five seasons in Washington and part of two seasons at USC. His best season as head coach was at USC 9-4 in 2014 before his career was marred by problems off the field. In August 2015, Sarkisian sought treatment after saying he mixed alcohol and medicine before a school event. In October of that year, he said goodbye after sources said he had arrived at the team’s facilities, which appeared to be drunk. He was released later that week.
After training at the Saban Coaching School in rewriting the record books in Alabama, Sarkisian was at the top of the search lists of several schools a year ago and turned down the job as head coach in Colorado. He also had SEC applicants a year ago and turned down Auburn overtures about his job as head coach last month.
Sarkisian, a former head coach at USC and Washington, could afford to be selective. After all, he made $ 2.5 million a year as the Alabama offensive coordinator, coaching great players, and playing for championships.
In a word, Sarkisian waited for a big one before venturing back on the head coach’s path, and Texas qualifies as a big one.
While the resources and recruiting base in Texas make the job alluring, these factors don’t always lead to success. Since winning the first Big 12 title in 1996, the Longhorns have only won two more in 2005 and 2009. Oklahoma has just won its 14th, including the sixth in a row, one of the reasons the Longhorns are hiring their third head coach since Mack Brown stepped down in 2013.
Charlie Strong left 16:21 in three seasons and was fired in 2016. Herman won more often, but his 32:18 record included a 4-1 mark against Oklahoma and home losses that season to TCU and Iowa State.
“We all want Texas to come back,” said Sarkisian. “We all believe Texas should be back. That’s why I’m taking this job. But the reality is we have to do the work. And then when you do the work, you get the results you want.”
Off-field controversy over football players who stayed on the field for “The Eyes of Texas” threatened to overshadow their season, particularly after losing to Oklahoma when quarterback Sam Ehlinger was the only player on the field for singing Feld remained an alma mater. Sporting director Chris Del Conte made a statement not long after, expecting the players to stand together for the song.
For years, coaches from Darrell Royal to Brown have spoken about the importance of keeping all boosters in line. Both repeat a popular royal analogy: open a box of BBs and let them scatter all over the place, then try to get the BBs back into the box.
It is easier said than done.
“The BBs were ready to use as soon as we got here” Brown told a UT publication in 2018. “We got them back in the box. Then they came back out of the box and this place is so crazy with attention and rumors that some people don’t necessarily want you to do it, so it’s a lot more difficult.” “”
The dysfunction returned this season with a very public flirtation with former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, followed by reports that Meyer had turned down the job. On December 12, Del Conte released a statement saying he would “reiterate that Tom Herman is our coach” before sacking Herman three weeks later after beating Colorado at the Valero Alamo Bowl 55:23 Texas 7-3 ended on the season.
Sarkisian’s résumé suggests that the Longhorns can expect the kind of explosive offense that defined the Big 12.
A rival SEC defensive coordinator told ESPN that Sarkisian’s penchant for mismatches is one of the things that sets him apart as one of the best attackers in football.
“He’s a great formulator of mismatches, whether it’s mismatching with staff or something as simple as moving in one direction and sucking everyone in and then taking game action,” said the defense coordinator.
“It could be schematic or just cause actual physical staff mismatch and then set it up. He’s a master at it.”
Another defense coordinator said Sarkisian’s patience as a caller was a lost art.
“Most people come before themselves and can’t set it up, however [Sarkisian] is very methodical in the way he dissects you, “said the defense coordinator.
One of the things that all programs are looking for, especially in this time of high octane football, is a trainer who can develop quarterbacks. Mac Jones, once an afterthought in Alabama while waiting to take turns behind Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, led the country in passing this season, throwing 36 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. Jones is a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
For years, Texas struggled to find the next great quarterback. Ehlinger, who has started in Texas for four seasons, stabilized the position and allowed the Longhorns to rebuild the quarterback space, but has not officially announced his intentions for the next season. He has the option to return in 2021 under a blanket waiver that the NCAA has made available to all players allowing them to compete this season without counting towards their eligibility due to the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.
His backup, sophomore Casey Thompson, played a nearly flawless game at the Alamo Bowl on Tuesday evening to relieve an injured Ehlinger and completed 8 out of 10 passes for 170 yards and four touchdowns. Hudson Card, a second kid next season, was a high-profile recruit ranked 40th on ESPN 300.
While Ehlinger was good, he wasn’t Colt McCoy or Vince Young. Southlake, Texas, Carroll quarterback Quinn Ewers, the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class, was tied to Herman at one point but no longer signed and is now promised to the state of Ohio. One of Sarkisian’s challenges will be to throw Ewers back to Austin or find another elite quarterback recruit.
“One of the things he’s so good at is that he’s had three quarterbacks doing their best when they played for him and that’s hard to do,” said the SEC’s first defensive coordinator.
Granted, Sarkisian had an elite talent on the offensive in Alabama, as evidenced by two of this season’s Heisman Trophy finalists – DeVonta Smith and Jones – who are part of this Crimson Tide offensive.
“He has some really good tools to work with, but don’t take that away from him as a designer and a caller,” said the SEC defensive coordinator. “It’s not his fault that he has all these players because this guy can call a game.”
Sarkisian’s skill level is documented. But Herman’s crimes as coordinator in Ohio State and Houston have also been productive. Herman also had a decade of recruiting experience in smaller schools in Texas and was an assistant in Texas under Brown, and it still wasn’t enough.
What Sarkisian has learned about managing a program in Alabama since his tenure in Washington and USC will be the biggest factor.
When Brown was hired in December 1997, Longhorns’ then sporting director DeLoss Dodds spoke about the need to reunite the broken fan base.
“We need to put our alumni constituencies back together,” said Dodds. “You have to draw for the University of Texas in good times and bad. You have to understand the importance of having all of us behind the football coach and the football team together because that means something to us in terms of recruiting and the players.” the field.”
That is Sarkisian’s greatest challenge.
Sam Khan Jr. contributed to this story.