What is Texas football getting in new coach Steve Sarkisian? Some answers from his time at Alabama

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Texas has officially named Steve Sarkisian its next head football coach, a job he’ll take on full-time after vying for a national championship as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

Sarkisian is taking over a Texas program that has won four straight bowl games, gone 22-13 in Big 12 play over the last four seasons and fired coach Tom Herman for it. Sarkisian will face high expectations in Austin, and these traits give reason to predict success.

Quarterback master

Just in his Alabama tenure, Sarkisian played a role in a big start to the 2019 season for Tua Tagovailoa and the 2020 breakout to Heisman Trophy candidacy of Mac Jones, plus the successful recruitment of five-star Bryce Young and four-star Jalen Milroe — ironically, a former Texas commit.

A Texas quarterback has not led the Big 12 in passer rating since 2009. Sarkisian’s continued success at that position would be a welcome change of pace for the Longhorns.

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws against Arkansas in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Saban chose him to run things in his absence

Nick Saban had two absences in the 2020 season due to COVID-19, one for three days for a false positive and another for nearly 10 days and the Iron Bowl against Auburn for a confirmed case. In both instances, Saban selected Sarkisian to run operations in the building while Saban worked remotely; and in the Iron Bowl, Sarkisian was the acting head coach for in-game decisions Saban typically makes.

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Sarkisian reached that stature with Saban quickly and in contested company. UA also had former head coaches Kyle Flood, Major Applewhite, Butch Jones, Charlie Strong and Mike Stoops on staff this season, and Sarkisian is in his second season as offensive coordinator after a brief stint as an analyst.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian against Arkansas at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday October 26, 2019.

A track record of feature ballcarriers

Bijan Robinson was the win of the 2020 recruiting class for the Longhorns, who secured the No. 1 running back in the nation. His freshman season was underwhelming from a usage standpoint, averaging only 9.56 carries per game, but that shouldn't be an issue under Sarkisian.

In Sarkisian's two seasons at UA, Najee Harris has been an unquestioned feature back despite quality depth in the form Brian Robinson Jr., Keilan Robinson, Roydell Williams and Jase McClellan. His track record as head coach at USC and Washington show the same tendency.

Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) is all smiles as he leaves the field following Alabama's 48-7 win in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

No stranger to big jobs

Sarkisian is still four years from his 50th birthday, yet he has been the primary play-caller at Alabama, the Atlanta Falcons and at USC twice, once as an assistant and once as head coach.

His head coaching experience includes being fired by USC, but his tenure at Washington gave reason for optimism, with a winning record in conference play in four of his five seasons and a Top 25 finish in his final season. His one full season at USC ended with a Holiday Bowl win and a top 20 finish.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson