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The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

In wake of Nick Saban’s retirement, Steve Sarkisian takes full advantage of transfer portal

Lorianne Willett
Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian at the game versus Alabama on Sept. 9, 2023.

“All y’all come to Texas.”

On Sept. 9, 2023, Texas senior running back Keilan Robinson yelled this to Alabama’s recruits after Texas defeated Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Robinson himself transferred to Texas from Alabama in 2021, and now three players have followed in his footsteps. 

But there was one key event that led to this: Alabama head coach Nick Saban retiring. 

After 17 years and six national titles with the Crimson Tide, the legendary coach announced his retirement on Jan. 10. 

At least 10 Alabama players entered the portal following Saban’s retirement and Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian swooped right in. With the loss of several starters to the NFL draft, Sarkisian has used the portal to fill the missing holes. 

Sarkisian has signed several additions to the 2024 roster including the Alabama trio of sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Bond, junior linebacker Kendrick Blackshire and sophomore tight end Amari Niblack. 

“As the portal shapes itself out you never know what happens there,” Sarkisian said on National Signing Day in December. “When we go to the portal we’re trying to fill immediate needs. How do those needs occur? A variety of reasons, it could be injury, it could be our own attrition from the guys leaving our program.” 

All three players have the chance to make an immediate impact at Texas. 

Bond was second in total yards of all the Alabama receivers in 2023. On a team high 48 receptions, Bond had 668 yards, four touchdowns and averaged over 13 yards per catch. In 2022 he caught just 17 passes for 220 yards but averaged over 12 yards per catch. 

Niblack caught 20 passes for 327 yards, had four touchdowns and averaged over 16 yards per catch in 2023. Blackshire had 16 total tackles with nine solo runs, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. 

Even though Sarkisian has heavily recruited Alabama players out of the portal, he also added another asset with wide receiver Silas Bolden from Oregon State. In his junior season, Bolden led the Beavers with 54 receptions for 746 yards and five touchdowns, averaging over 13 yards per catch. 

At the wide receiver position, Sarkisian has added two speed players after the break with Bolden and Bond. At the tight end, he added Niblack as a versatile player and added depth to the linebacker room with Blackshire.

According to 247Sports, junior defensive back Andrew Mukuba, sophomore wide receiver Matthew Golden and sophomore edge Trey Moore, a trio of transfers Sarkisian added on National Signing Day, are all rated as four-star or above transfers. 

Sarkisian is no stranger to recruiting high power players and has brought star-studded rosters to Texas. 

Before he took the head coaching position at Texas, Sarkisian was Saban’s offensive coordinator for two seasons. In 2023, his third season at Texas, Sarkisian handed Saban his final home loss and loss to a former assistant. Sarkisian also referred to Saban as one of his mentors, even saying that Saban is the reason that he’s still coaching.

“The University of Alabama, Nick Saban, Tuscaloosa, changed my life,” Sarkisian said after beating Saban on Sept. 9. “At a moment in my life when things weren’t going great, he extended me an olive branch. Everyone here supported me coming here and then bringing me back a second time to having that open heart surgery while I was here. These people here mean a lot to me. I’m very grateful to everyone here in Tuscaloosa. So to come here and play the way we played, it’s humbling because life kinda goes full circle on that stuff.”

With all of the craziness in the college football world since the National Championship, Sarkisian has used the transfer portal to reload the roster with stars before Texas’ first season in the Southeastern Conference. 

Now, according to 247Sports, Texas has the No. 8 transfer portal class ahead of the 2024 season.

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About the Contributor
Lorianne Willett, Photo Editor
Lorianne is a Journalism and Global Sustainability junior from San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is the Photo Editor. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis.