Editor column: Steve Sarkisian is ready to leave 2021 behind

Christina Huang, Double Coverage editor

As year two of the Steve Sarkisian era approaches, the Texas head coach is looking forward to moving past his, at best, mediocre 5-7 first season. Sarkisian has every reason to believe that the 2022 season will be much better than his first year. 

Most of the 2022 roster is made up of “his” players. 57 out of the 85 scholarship players are either freshmen or sophomores. Some older players that were recruited during the Tom Herman era chose to stay with Sarkisian and have found their places in a new system, but many players who had less luck in adjusting to Sarkisian’s ways are no longer with the program. 

“This is a different football team,” Sarkisian said to media on Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot of new faces in that room. More than half the guys in that room weren’t even here a year ago. And the ones that are still here feel crappy already. So does that make me feel good making them feel bad? I just don’t believe in that.”

A few other notable head coaches found their rhythm during their second seasons. Baylor head coach Dave Aranda is one such example. Aranda led the Bears to a 2-7 season in 2020 and shocked the college football world in 2021 by taking the Bears to a 12-2 record and a Big 12 Conference title. Even Nick Saban himself had a rough first year at Alabama in 2007. That Alabama team went 7-6, but the official record is 2-6 after the NCAA vacated five wins due to violations. But, Saban followed his abysmal first season by taking the 2008 Alabama team to a 12-2 record. 

Much of the challenge that comes with heading an operation as large as a Division I football team is establishing the culture. Year one for any head coach is all about figuring out the type of program that the previous coach left behind. That’s exactly what Sarkisian did. While the 2021 record may not reflect the lessons that he learned, this season is exactly the time to see how Sark’s Texas team deals with adversity. 

Sarkisian and his staff addressed many needs in the offseason—freshmen offensive linemen Kelvin Banks and Cole Hutson are expected to make an immediate impact on an offensive line that struggled in 2021. Junior Ryan Watts followed Quinn Ewers from Ohio State to Texas and could be a major role player for the Texas defense. 

While the success of this season cannot be accurately determined until much later in the year, it seems like Sarkisian has built a solid base for his team to have a much better season. He’s made every effort in the offseason to emphasize that he is looking ahead to the future and not back at what happened in the past. 

“If I keep looking back at 5-7, then I’m going to run into a tree,” Sarkisian said. “We try to keep our focus ahead of us. I try not to belabor the point of what happened a year ago.” 

And while Sarkisian has let go of last year’s disappointment, he knows that if he wants to keep his job, then he needs to meet the high standards set in Austin. 

“The thing with me is I’ve never shied away from a challenge. I’ve never shied away from an opportunity,” Sarkisian said on Thursday. “You have to acknowledge what you sign up for. There’s a standard at the University of Texas. There’s a standard of excellence.”