New Texas coach Steve Sarkisian set to unleash multiple Alabama weapons vs. Ohio State
Alabama QB Mac Jones: ‘Future quarterbacks, I just say enjoy coach Sark. He’s a great guy.’
Steve Sarkisian stood at the podium Wednesday behind an Alabama logo and knew what type of burnt-orange questions were coming. So he took them head-on.
“Clearly I’m excited about the opportunity at Texas,” Sarkisian said. “It’s a tremendous one for me.”
The new Texas coach is still Alabama's offensive coordinator for at least a few more days, until after the national championship game against Ohio State. And there will be plenty of time to talk about the Longhorns, he insisted. Just not yet.
“Looking forward to get started there, but the commitment I made to coach (Nick) Saban two years ago is the same commitment I’ve made to these players,” Sarkisian said. “That’s focusing on this game.”
Well, since Sarkisian didn’t want to talk Texas, let’s examine what he’s done with top-ranked Alabama. It’s rather stunning and overwhelming.
Saban once hated the all-out assault that spread offenses led on college football. That was until he embraced it. Sarkisian took the Tide’s once ground-and-pound offense to another level.
The last two years with Sarkisian as offensive coordinator, Alabama has scored at least 30 points in 25 consecutive games. That includes scoring at least 50 points six times this season. One-hundred yard rushers and receivers are the norm week in and week out.
Last season, Alabama finished second nationally in scoring (48.2 points) and sixth in offense (510.8 yards). This year, the Tide was again second in scoring (48.2) and sixth in offense (535) as receiver DeVonta Smith won the Heisman Trophy.
Quarterback Mac Jones said that Sarkisian was into “calling cool plays, but at the same time we stick to our base rules and just follow what he wants us to do.”
The next generation of Texas offensive stars — like quarterback Casey Thompson, running back Bijan Robinson and receiver Troy Omeire — should be open and ready for anything.
“Future quarterbacks, I just say enjoy coach Sark. He’s a great guy,” Jones said. “You can learn a lot about being a great person. And then also applying things to your game and you know.
“He’s coached at all levels, NFL and college, so you can get a lot of different information from what he teaches you when you watch film,” Jones added. “And just learn how to think like coach Sark because he sees everything that a defense does. He’s going to put you in the best position to succeed as a quarterback in an offense.”
The biggest question would seem simple. How does Sarkisian spread the ball around? What’s the appropriate amount of carries for running back/tackle hurdler Najee Harris? When should Jones look for Smith or receiver John Metchie III or tight end Miller Forristall?
Metchie said Alabama’s offensive philosophy is that “the ball will always find the right person.”
“We’ve got a very high football IQ and offense, and they recognize when the run game looks good, they recognize when the pass game should look good,” Sarkisian said during a Zoom call organized by the College Football Playoff.
“So when those plays come in game, there's not much — I don't want to call it complaining, but I know some people deal with that — our kids really understand why we are doing what we’re doing,” he added. “I think that’s a tribute to all the coaches on the offensive staff of really conveying the game plan to our players so that they understand what we’re trying to do.”
Smith became the first receiver in 30 years to win the Heisman. He leads the nation in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,641), touchdowns (20) and all-purpose yards (1,912). The only two Texas receivers who have approached those numbers were Jordan Shipley in 2009 and Devin Duvernay in 2019.
“It’s everybody knowing that there's going to be some games where you're going to get all the touches, and some games, you're not going to,” Smith said. “I think that’s just everybody just buying into the process and just believing in the coaches and everything they do.”
As for the Alabama coaching staff, Smith said, “They’re going to put everybody in a great situation to do the right thing.”
Saban spoke numerous times this season about this Alabama team’s maturity. Sarkisian said the Tide had a “selfless” team. Are the Longhorns willing to act in similar fashion?
“I think they play with one another, they play for one another,” Sarkisian said of the Tide. “They celebrate one another with the successes that they have, because they recognize that is team success.”
Before he left, reporters took one more stab at Sarkisian and his future. He wasn’t having any of it. He’s laser-focused on third-ranked Ohio State.
Every Texas player on the roster has to ask himself if they can be as focused on the future as well.
“I'm excited about the opportunity to go to Texas,” Sarkisian said before leaving, “but you know my focus is on this ballgame.”