Texas coach Steve Sarkisian unveils most of Longhorns’ new coaching staff
Sarkisian: ‘I love the experience. I love the youth. I love the energy.’
New coaching staffs are just like recruiting classes. Everybody’s a future All-American on signing day, but it takes time to see who’s going to stick.
Charlie Strong loved his first staff in 2014. Then it became a revolving door of new assistants year in and year out.
Tom Herman brought along trusted allies and close friends when he arrived in 2017. He desperately wanted to win with those who helped him reach a major Power Five job. But Herman blew up the staff when it wasn’t working and hired seven new assistants for 2020.
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian formally introduced the bulk of his new staff on Friday, but like his predecessors, it’ll take time to see how it all goes. At first glance, it’s an impressive bunch with deep Power Five experience. And no, Sarkisian is not worried about the repercussions of poaching three members of Alabama’s staff.
“I'm sure coach (Nick) Saban, he's going to be OK,” Sarkisian said Friday on a Zoom call. “He’s going to hire some great coaches like he always does.”
Change is constant at Texas. Sarkisian is walking into a situation where some upperclassmen will be on their third position coach in three years.
“I'm not expecting immediate buy-in,” he said. “If we get it, that's great. If not, we will get there.”
No financial information on contracts was disclosed, but Texas is now in the business of giving out guaranteed multiyear deals. Several of these assistants are likely to get more than $1 million annually. All contracts must be approved by the UT System Board of Regents.
Sarkisian has stressed the importance of relationships from the beginning and hit that theme again Friday. The coach said he writes a simple message on his board: “Trust equals time plus consistency. And we have to develop trust, right?”
“We are a relationship-based operation. And that starts with me," Sarkisian said. "It starts with being authentic. It starts with really trying to develop a genuine relationship with our players.
"Not just on the football level, but really getting to know them as people and letting the players understand and having some real-life examples of how we are there for them on every level, to try to put them in the best position to be successful, so they can continually build their brand and build the brand of Texas.”
By unveiling his new staff, Sarkisian got his first chance to talk about new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. He said that “this guy has really been kind of a thorn in my side over the past decade” as a defensive coach at Boise State and Washington.
Kwiatkowski — pronounced quit-COW-ski, or just P.K. — had a strong track record against Mike Leach’s Air Raid offenses at Washington State. That should translate well to the Wild West nature of the Big 12. Sarkisian noted how offenses go from pass-happy Texas Tech to the three tight-end formations of Iowa State.
“The multiplicity of offenses that you see has allowed him to grow as a coach to make sure that he has enough multiples on defense to defend all of the variables that you get,” Sarkisian said.
Defensive line coach Bo Davis was here at Texas under Mack Brown in 2011-13. He’s been working in the NFL in recent years with the Detroit Lions.
Terry Joseph, the defensive pass game coordinator, comes from Notre Dame. Blake Gideon, a four-year starter for the Longhorns and a two-time team captain, gives the staff a shot of youthful adrenaline. Joseph and Gideon will manage the defensive backfield.
The only question remaining about the defense is who will coach linebackers. Kwiatkowski will coach outside linebackers, but Sarkisian is going to hire another coach at that spot. NCAA rules permit 10 on-field assistants.
AL.com reported late Thursday that Texas was set to hire Mike Stoops, the former Oklahoma defensive coordinator who had been serving as an analyst at Alabama. Once word leaked, Texas fans went berserk on social media.
However, Sarkisian told the American-Statesman early Friday that the report was not accurate and that he had someone else in mind.
The 10th assistant was not named in UT’s press release at midday Friday.
Offensively, most fans aren’t likely to track the coordinator position as closely because Sarkisian will be his own play-caller. Still, Kyle Flood was named offensive coordinator and will be the offensive line coach.
Flood has head coaching experience, worked in the NFL with Sarkisian and just came off two strong years with the Crimson Tide. He’s inheriting a group that might have several starters returning, but Texas has not done well in recruiting more linemen to Austin lately.
“I think Kyle is a great addition to what we do,” Sarkisian said. “He and I work really well hand-in-hand together in understanding what we're what we're trying to get done offensively.”
Sarkisian retained running backs coach Stan Drayton and receivers coach Andre Coleman. Those two can provide friendly faces as players learn the new staff, and they can obviously help Sarkisian catch up quickly on recruiting.
Tight ends coach Jeff Banks is known for being an ace recruiter. “He’s also in my opinion the premier special teams coordinator in the country,” Sarkisian said. Banks spent time at UTEP (2004-12) and Texas A&M (2013-17) before coaching the past three with Alabama.
“So we get a fantastic coach there and we get a fantastic recruiter with ties to the state,” Sarkisian said.
A.J. Milwee is also a young up-and-coming assistant who will work with the quarterbacks. He has already served as the offensive coordinator at Akron. Now, Milwee will be primarily responsible for managing Casey Thompson and Hudson Card going into a pivotal offseason and spring.
As for the quarterback battle, Sarkisian said he’s looking for two major things — leadership and how coachable they are. Everything else, such as arm talent, accuracy and throwing under duress, will show itself later.
“It's very early,” Sarkisian said. “And it’s probably too early even to say all that, but we’ve got a long way to go with the position.”
The other key hire announced Friday was Torre Becton as UT’s strength coach. With almost two decades of experience, Becton has been the strength coach at California the past four years. Offseason workouts will run through February and into March, and Becton will be the key figure watching over the Horns during that time.
“So all in all, I really love the staff,” Sarkisian said. “I love the experience. I love the youth. I love the energy. I love the recruit ability factor that they bring. I love the ties to the great state of Texas. And most importantly as well, I love the development piece that they bring for our current roster and the current players that we have now.”