Saturday, March 6

Steve Sarkisian gives the most interesting Texas branch of Nick Saban’s coaching tree

Texas made the first bold coaching move of 2021.

The Longhorns fired Tom Herman after four seasons, and immediately announced Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, 2020 Broyles Award winner as the best assistant in the nation, as their next coach.

With That, Sarkisian becomes Nick Saban’s most interesting assistant and head coach, 12 in total, after emerging as the best offensive coordinator during Saban’s tenure in Alabama. That is not debatable.

MORE: Conclusions from Alabama’s win over Notre Dame

Crimson Tide averaged 47.2 points per game last season. Alabama increased That mark to 48.2 points per game this season, and DeVonta Smith, Mac Jones and Name Harris finished in the top five in the Heisman Trophy voting. Sarkisian filled in as Saban’s interim coach at the Iron Bowl this year, leading Crimson Tide to a 42-13 victory. He followed up with another masterful game in a 31-14 victory against Notre Dame in the CFP semifinal at the Rose Bowl.

That outweighs Sarkisian’s last two stops as head coach, where he compiled a 46-35 record through seasons at Washington and USC. Sarkisian was involved in multiple alcohol-related incidents That contributed to his dismissal from USC. His time with Saban, however, has restored his image. That should be the focus now. Sarkisian has been brilliant the last two seasons, and he deserves credit for That.

Smith told Sporting News why Sarkisian’s plays are so successful.

” It’s a lot of movement on offense,” Smith said. “We have a lot of changes. People move and move. They just give defense a lot of different looks and make it adapt.”

Sarkisian is a brilliant offensive mind who deserves another shot. That worked for Lane Kiffin, who was best known for his previous coaching stops at Tennessee and USC before assuming the role of offensive coordinator for Alabama. Kiffin bounced back with a successful stop at FAU, and Ole Miss averaged 40.7 points per game this season.

Sarkisian is not as flashy as Kiffin, but the pattern is the same. In fact, Sarkisian took on the offensive coordinator role when Kiffin left for the FAU prior to the 2017 CFP championship. If it weren’t for Shaun Watson’s heroic deeds late in the game in a 35-31 victory, Alabama also wins. That. Sarkisian could have been on this track before.

What can Sarkisian give the Longhorns That Herman couldn’t provide? After all, Texas averaged 42.7 points per game this season, and talent on the ball side was not the problem. Herman has a higher winning percentage as a head coach.

The fact That Texas went here after publicly flirting with Urban Meyer showed how much the school wanted to leave Herman. The purchase is huge too.

Perhaps it is the well-documented close-game struggles That outpaced the gains Texas made on the recruiting route. Alabama took advantage of That by bringing in three of the top 10 Texas recruits into the 2021 recruiting cycle. Can Sarkisian have That success down the recruiting path? That will determine whether he can have long-term success in Austin and break through as Saban’s best former assistant yet.

Without a doubt, it is the most interesting story when you consider the other attendees.

MORE: Tide drowns Irish to win CFP semi-final

Kiffin, Kirby Smart and Jeremy Pruitt go after Saban at the SEC. Jim McElwain tried it in Florida, but is now in his second season at Central Michigan. Butch Jones is back after being hired by Arkansas State. Billy Napier will likely be the next SEC hiring, provided he’s ready to move out of Louisiana. Mario Cristobal, Geoff Collins, Mel Tucker and Mike Locksley also have Power 5 jobs. Cristobal could have a shot at Saban if Oregon can break through to the Pac-12 and be more than a New Years Day 6 team.

Sarkisian’s is the most important job of those coaches. He will face even more pressure than Smart, who is tasked with trying to win Georgia its first national championship since 1980.

That leaves an assistant, Saban’s most successful to date. Jimbo Fisher won a national championship with Saban as LSU offensive coordinator in 2003 and a national championship at Florida State in 2013.

Fisher had a great season at Texas Am in the third year. The Aggies are still chasing Alabama, but Fisher had the agenda in the conversation for the last spot in the playoffs (the Aggies were the first team out). The Longhorns haven’t been anywhere near That playoff discussion in the last seven years. Maybe That’s what Texas was looking at all along.

Can Sarkisian change That? That’s the big question now, and a good one. He handled the tightest coordinator job at FBS. Now, arguably, he inherits the most pressure-packed head coach job in all college football. It’s a bold move from Texas, and perhaps an even bolder move from Sarkisian.

They both seem more willing to bet on Sarkisian’s future than his past.

It is always a good start.

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