Sarkisian’s coaching staff makes strides with veteran players

Carter Yates

The Texas football program entered spring practice with 12 total coaches on staff. Ten of them, including head coach Steve Sarkisian, were not with the team last year.

The Longhorns braced for massive growing pains with conflicting styles of teaching and playing between almost an entirely new coaching staff and a locker room chock-full of veteran players. Instead, the players have recognized the elite track record of each position coach and have chosen to take the criticism.

No pair exemplifies this relationship more than junior defensive lineman Keondre Coburn and defensive tackles coach Bo Davis. As a veteran leader in the locker room and one of the most productive members of Texas’ defense, Coburn has made tweaks to his game when asked instead of relying on his instincts. Davis’ coaching history with the Miami Dolphins and Alabama Crimson Tide garners respect from the players, Coburn said.

“We got a lot of coaches coming from winning programs and winning situations,” Coburn said. “Instead of just trying to talk back and think we know what’s better, (we realize) they know better. Coach Davis knows more than me. He was in the NFL.”

When the new coaching staff came aboard, everyone became freshmen in his eyes, Coburn said. That’s why Coburn and the rest of the upperclassmen have taken a leadership role while simultaneously accepting input from other players.

“I have tried to be that leader and that person in front to help out more people,” Coburn said. “But at the same time, I’m learning myself. I don’t want to be that person like, ‘I’m the captain. I’m the leader. Listen to me.’ No, everybody listens to each other because that’s how you win.”

Perhaps no one has experienced more turnover at Texas than senior tight end Cade Brewer, who was one of a select few seniors to use their free year of eligibility from the COVID-19 pandemic and return for a fifth season. After all the different coaching styles he’s seen, Brewer said he’s enjoyed Sarkisian and his staff’s approach thus far.

“It’s definitely a better vibe in the building. You can feel the energy that the coaches bring every day,” Brewer said. “I know the whole team is excited to play Louisiana in September, and we’re just getting after it right now.”

The Longhorns’ tight end room, recently a thin position, has satisfactory depth heading into the 2021 season. Juniors Jared Wiley and Malcolm Epps, as well as Brewer, provide a stable presence of experience, while young freshmen such as Gunnar Helm and Juan Davis adjust to the speed of the game.

The depth at tight ends bodes well for Texas because Sarkisian loves to utilize the position in the run game and passing game, Brewer said.

“There’s a big learning curve (and) a lot of new terminology in the offense,” Brewer said. “There’s a lot on our plates, especially at tight end, so we got to know a lot of stuff because tight ends do a lot in this offense.”

The difference between previous coaching staffs and Sarkisian’s group is brutal honesty, according to Coburn. And that’s what Texas needs if they want to win their first Big 12 Championship since 2009.

“The thing about this coaching staff, they tell (it to) you straightforward,” Coburn said. “They’re not going to sugarcoat … I like honesty. I don’t like nobody trying to sugarcoat.”

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 9 issue of The Daily Texan.