Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Texas’ revolving door of assistants hasn’t worked. Should Sark stand pat despite 4-6 mess?

QB Casey Thompson: ‘The more experience that we can have in one system and under one coach obviously the better’

Another lost season leads to the annual and now predictable question at Texas.

Who’s getting fired this year?

Few schools churn through assistant coaches quite like Texas. Charlie Strong had 17 assistants and three offensive coordinators from 2014-16. Tom Herman kept everyone after his first season in 2017 and then made wholesale changes two years later.

Now, Steve Sarkisian presides over a 4-6 mess in his first season, and UT fans will expect some kind of assistant coaching changes, no matter the cost. The Horns would be looking at $42 million in buyout money to dump the current staff, Sarkisian included.

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian walks his team onto the field for warmups prior to the 30-7 loss to Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. The Longhorns are now 4-6 on the season and needing wins against West Virginia and Kansas State in its last two games just to make a bowl game.

How about something different? Instead of paying coaches to leave, maybe the Longhorns could stick with the same lineup and develop some consistency.

What they’ve been doing just isn’t working.

Bijan out:Texas' Bijan Robinson to miss the rest of the 2021 football season with a dislocated elbow

Golden:Texas Longhorns are back to square one after latest Kansas shocker

“I’ve never really just had a consistent two years with a coach,” defensive tackle Keondre Coburn said Monday. “I've never had it, so I can't really tell you if it would have worked.”

Texas defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski speaks to players during an open practice at Royal-Memorial Stadium in August. His defense has come under fire during the Longhorns' five-game losing streak that's threatening UT's chances at playing in a bowl game.

Texas has two regular-season games remaining, beginning with Saturday’s tilt at West Virginia (4-6, 2-5 Big 12). It does Sarkisian no good to make any changes now, no matter how embarrassing last weekend’s 57-56 overtime loss to Kansas may have been. 

Asked Monday if UT officials have ordered him to make any staff changes, Sarkisian said, “No, no one’s told me that at all.” A high-ranking UT source told the American-Statesman that school officials “don’t expect to hear” any major discussion about staff changes. 

Fan reaction:'An all-time low.' Texas fans express disappointment, frustration after OT loss vs. Kansas

Fallout:Bohls: Texas loses again — to Kansas, of all teams — and must question Sarkisian's hiring

“When I got hired, I give our administration a lot of credit,” Sarkisian said. “They gave me the resources to go hire what, in my opinion, was arguably the best staff in the country. These guys didn't forget to coach overnight. They've been doing it for a long time at a very high level.”

Sarkisian pointed out there are staff members who have won national championships, guided All-Americans and performed at the college and NFL level.

Texas offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Kyle Flood speaks to players during warmups before the 2021 season opener against Louisiana. The need for added talent and depth on the front line has become apparent as this season has gone on.

“But hear me when I say this, and this isn't a negative,” Sarkisian said. “When the season comes to an end, I evaluate everything in our program. You ultimately do what's in the best interest of the university and the program.”

Punctuating his point, Sarkisian finished by saying, “No, I have not been told that I need to make changes.”

Of course, all coaches at Texas are paid handsomely in guaranteed fashion. The Longhorns still owe the current group of assistant coaches $15 million with some signed through 2022 and others 2023.

For example, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has two years remaining on his contract worth a remaining total of $3.4 million. Offensive line Kyle Flood also has two years left. His remaining contract is worth $3.525 million. Special teams coach Jeff Banks has $2.1 million remaining on his deal. Defensive line coach Bo Davis is still owed $1.825 million. Everyone else would be owed less than $1 million should UT make changes.

Texas assistant coach and special teams coordinator Jeff Banks followed Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian from Nick Saban's Alabama staff.

Sarkisian does not allow his assistants to speak with reporters during the season. Players have faced pointed questions every week, not the assistants.

In addition to keeping their jobs, the assistants want to develop some consistency, too. That only comes through time.

“If one of your toughest classes is trigonometry and you had three different professors during the semester,” former defensive backs coach Craig Naivar said in 2019, “if you’re familiar with everything, it’s a lot easier.”

Coburn acknowledged that players have little say in the matter because “at the end of the day, it’s business.”

“If something’s not working this one time, then you have to change it,” Coburn said. “I mean, it’s just like in the league. Some players, you probably won’t get the same coach for two years or three years. So I guess that’s given us a practice of what’s happening in the next chapter. But I would like to probably have a coach the whole time and know the system every year.”

Senior offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter is now on his third line coach in the last five seasons. Asked if the constant turnover was a major problem, Kerstetter said, “I don’t know. I think that’s obviously a question for the higher-ups. 

“For me personally, I’ve built relationships with them, but I’ve constantly had to learn their different philosophies. It’s kind of like I take something from here and I take something there and kind of mold my game on the different coaches.”

Quarterback Casey Thompson said he’s been on campus long enough to know the difference between good coaches and bad ones. “And I think Coach Sark is a good coach,” he said. “I think that his assistants are good coaches.”

Thompson said one of this current staff’s best traits is showing players on film when they perform something well versus when they don’t.

“I would just say experience is a big component in football and in life,” Thompson added. “The more experience that we can have in one system and under one coach obviously the better. But the people that run the program, run this university have to make the decisions that they feel is best for the team.”

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian congratulates quarterback Casey Thompson after the quarterback threw a touchdown against Texas Tech on Sept. 25. Sarkisian said Monday that there could be as many as 33 new players on next year's roster.

Experience in the same system cannot be overstated. “We’re still in the phase of, we’re trying to keep getting things taught,” Sarkisian said.

The players may feel comfortable in the current system to a degree. “But all of a sudden, we get a little different formation, or a different motion, or a little different way to run a play, and now there's a little bit of hesitation on our part, I'll be honest with you,” Sarkisian said. “We're hesitating, and not fitting things the way we’re capable of fitting them.”

Sarkisian still reserves the right to make any changes he deems fit, of course. Based on his comments Monday, no staff changes may be the right decision, too.

“I’ve got a lot of belief in our staff,” he said.

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.

Saturday's game

Texas at West Virginia, 11 a.m., ESPN2, 104.9