New Texas football coach Steve Sarkisian attacked his staff hiring process in a manner indicative of his new mantra: “All Gas, No Brakes.”
Just over two weeks after he was officially hired as head coach, Sarkisian finalized all but one coach of his 2021 football staff and announced the arrival of seven new assistant coaches Friday. The last opening available in Sarkisian’s new-look coaching staff is a linebackers coach.
Of the nine assistants on staff, only two — offensive run game coordinator and running backs coach Stan Drayton and wide receivers coach Andre Coleman — were retained from former head coach Tom Herman’s staff. Three new members of the staff, including offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Kyle Flood, won the 2020 National Championship with Sarkisian at Alabama.
Despite the heavy pull from the Crimson Tide, former Alabama offensive coordinator Sarkisian said his staff search was no spoils system.
“It wasn’t necessarily about hiring people that I knew or hiring people that I was close to,” Sarkisian said. “It was about trying to assemble the best staff I could hire. Some of those guys have worked with me in the past, some of them I have competed against.”
One of his most high-profile hires, in fact, used to give Sarkisian fits coaching on the opposite side of the field. Pete Kwiatkowski, the new defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach, spent the previous seven seasons in the same role at the University of Washington. During Washington’s dominant three-year run from 2016-2018, Kwiatkowski’s defenses ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defenses.
Sarkisian said Kwiatkowski’s experience as a Pac-12 coordinator will bode well for his transition to Big 12 football.
“There (are) a variety of offenses that you face throughout the years in that league,” Sarkisian said. “Whether it was the Oregon (teams) when they were going really fast, the Washington State (teams) with the Air Raid … to the Stanford (teams) who (lined) up in the two and three tight end sets. The multiplicity of offenses that you see I think has allowed him to grow as a coach.”
Sarkisian hired multiple coaches who have connections to the state of Texas. While he retained two members of Herman’s staff, Sarkisian also hired two former Longhorns: safeties coach Blake Gideon and defensive line coach Bo Davis.
Gideon was a four-year starter and two-time team captain as a safety for the Longhorns from 2008-11, and Davis was a defensive tackles coach for the Longhorns under former head coach Mack Brown from 2011-13.
“(The Texas connections) can broaden my horizon and quickly get me caught up to speed with the lay of the land,” Sarkisian said. “To make sure that I’m putting my best foot forward for everybody involved that I come into contact with for the state of the program.”
Sarkisian also welcomed Torre Becton, a 19-year veteran strength and conditioning coach, as the new director of football performance. Becton spent the past four seasons heading the strength and conditioning program at the University of California, and he also worked with Sarkisian when he was the head coach at Washington.
This familiarity between the two men will help with continuity from football staff to weight room training, Sarkisian said.
“He deals with our players as much or more than I do, especially during the offseason,” Sarkisian said. “The fact that you have somebody there that I’ve worked with before, that I know can really support our messaging and reiterate our messaging from a weight room standpoint was really big to me.”