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Gut Check Time: Where does Steve Sarkisian go from here?


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Steve Sarkisian is only 9 games into his tenure at Texas, but he has reached a critical crossroads where tough decisions are about to have to be made throughout his program. Sarkisian himself is in no jeopardy of losing his job anytime soon, but the Longhorns currently sit a 4-5 on the season and it is his job to fix what is ailing the Texas program.

The reality is there are 3 key components he will be evaluating throughout the final 3 games (and potential bowl game) and into the offseason as he attempts to set his team up for a successful 2022 season. Let's take a look at those components. 

Personnel

Steve Sarkisian made an interesting comment after Saturday's game when asked about his defense giving up a WR pass for a touchdown for the second consecutive week. Sarkisian said "We told the (players) the exact play that was coming and it worked for them, so that's unfortunate."

For obvious reasons, Sarkisian is not going to throw his players under the bus by saying they are not good enough but it becoming clear that the Longhorns are severely lacking talent-wise at several key spots. The areas Texas has been struggling at the most (OL, WR, LB), have been the positions Texas has recruited the most inconsistently for years.  Many point to the top 10 classes Texas has signed the last 5 years, but the hit rate for the players in those classes has been very low. The lack of production from the 2019 class, which is made up of guys who would be in their 3rd year in the program, is really hurting Texas right now.

So now the question is how is Sarkisian going to fill the roster holes that he has? Texas is set to return every starter on offense outside of Cade Brewer, Tope Imade and Derek Kerstetter, but the Texas defense could lose up to 7 starters. The obvious answer to filling these holes is through the transfer portal. Sarkisian tried to do this when he first arrived in 2021 but most of the transfers he took have been role players. Texas is going to have to attack the portal more aggressively this time around. The Longhorns could realistically be in the market for a quarterback, multiple wide receivers, multiple offensive lineman, a tight end, multiple edge rushers, an inside linebacker, a corner and a safety. It's unlikely Texas will be able to fill all those holes, but the majority need to be addressed.

Texas is also set to sign a big 2022 recruiting class that could have a few prospects ready to contribute as early as next year. The Longhorns have loaded up at defensive line, a spot that has underperformed relative to expectations entering this season. Wide receiver and safety are also spots where you could see some freshman make an impact early.

Finally, Sarkisian has to address the elephant in the room when it comes to personnel and that is the offensive line. The Longhorns have simply not been good all season up front and it is limiting the entire offense. Junior Angilau is the only Texas lineman who seems to consistently be playing at an acceptable level. If Sarkisian and Kyle Flood are unable to find solutions in this position room, it may not matter what other personnel moves are made.

Scheme

Despite some personnel limitations, Sarkisian has done some good things scheme wise on the offensive side of the ball. Texas has been able to consistently free up receivers down the field and find open space for Bijan Robinson and Xavier Worthy. It's far from perfect, especially considering the inconsistent quarterback play Texas is getting, but it's easy to see the direction the offense could be headed in if a few pieces fall into place. One thing scheme wise that Sarkisian needs to figure out is how Texas is going to attack drop 8 defenses because even if the QB play was improved, it does not appear he has found a solution for attacking defenses that spread the field. Iowa State and Arkansas owned the Texas offense with these schemes and the Longhorns are sure to see more of it in the future.

Defensively, Sarkisian is going to need to ask some tough questions to Pete Kwiatkowski about what the identity of the Texas defense is going to be. Scheme wise, Texas shifted from Kwiatkowski's 2-4-5 defense to a 3-4 about halfway through the season. Neither scheme has produced the desired results. Texas is getting run over in the second half of games. As mentioned earlier, the defensive line was thought to be the strength of the team heading into the year but has been a complete non-factor for a lot of the season. Are all these things scheme related? Personnel related? Coaching related? Fatigue related? These are the questions Sarkisian needs to be asking himself and his staff. The Texas defense has been left out to dry a handful of times this year, but they also seem like a unit that has lacked an identity dating back to the first game of the season. Kwiatkowski has made some adjustments as the year as gone on, but it hasn't worked so far. Is this a sign of things to come or can it be corrected?

Coaching

The last component Sarkisian will be forced to evaluate ties into the scheme component, and that is the job of his coaches. No one likes to fire coaches or talk about firing coaches, but it is Sarkisian's job to maximize his staff and do what is best for the University of Texas. He will need to evaluate if his position coaches are getting the most out of their players. Do the strengths of this position coach align with what the coordinator wants to do and the scheme we want to deploy? Is this coach a plus recruiter? Is he getting through to his players?  Do the players respond to him? These are all questions Sarkisian will be asking himself. 

One thing to keep in mind is every member of the defensive staff outside of Jeff Choate was hired before defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. If Sarkisian or Kwiatkowski choose to go in the different direction scheme wise or are unhappy with the play of an individual unit, they will have to ask themselves if the position coach is a good fit for what they are trying to do. 

Offensively, Sarkisian handpicked all his assistants, including two holdovers from Tom Herman's staff. Is he satisfied with the job the offensive staff is doing teaching his scheme or does he feel like he can upgrade at certain spots?

Final Thoughts

Steve Sarkisian is going to be in full evaluation mode the last month of this season and rightfully so. He mentioned during his introductory press conference back in January that he felt the roster he was inheriting had a lot of talented pieces to work with. While that may have been true, he appears to also be discovering some of the limitations he has and will now need to make adjustments on the fly. The adjustments he makes will determine how successful the Texas program will be moving forward under his watch.

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This TEAM will look very different next year, I still expect one of his QB's to test the transfer portal, but I think thats ok . I dont think anyone's except Bijan has a lock on their spot...maybe XW too

I suspect there will be some staff changes too

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Great write-up. 

I could see 3 OL, 1 WR, and maybe 1-2 safeties or LBs if they are the right fit to go with getting 2-5 recruits. This is truly a purge of getting the bad out and getting the right in. So, if we have another 8-13 players leave, so what at this point. We need to quit worring about those that leave and be happy about those that come in and are helpful in righting this mess from Strong and Herman.  If the portal is helpful in basketball and baseball, then be all means let it help this crap as we know it with football get righted.

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18 minutes ago, david ficken said:

Great write-up. 

I could see 3 OL, 1 WR, and maybe 1-2 safeties or LBs if they are the right fit to go with getting 2-5 recruits. This is truly a purge of getting the bad out and getting the right in. So, if we have another 8-13 players leave, so what at this point. We need to quit worring about those that leave and be happy about those that come in and are helpful in righting this mess from Strong and Herman.  If the portal is helpful in basketball and baseball, then be all means let it help this crap as we know it with football get righted.

The portal could work to our advantage, because incoming players know they can play right away. We may lose a QB and maybe even a RB but the purge has to happen

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Seems to me we've had the same problems for the past few years. No previous coach has done what it was needed to correct it. So the question is will Sark do what is needed. Which means tear it down and rebuild. That could mean another year or two of 5-7/6-6 before it gets better. The pressure to win could be too much for any coach.

I think we've seen what happens when we use the band-aid approach. 🤢

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Texas is ranked again. #7 in Coaches Hot Seats. Well that escalated quickly.

 He's going to have a very short leash with expectations for a bowl game being critical. At the pace he's on he won't make it through next season.

 Sark is going to be an OC coordinator again somewhere, not that he will need to work after his Texas payday.

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30 minutes ago, Johnny Depp said:

Texas is ranked again. #7 in Coaches Hot Seats. Well that escalated quickly.

 He's going to have a very short leash with expectations for a bowl game being critical. At the pace he's on he won't make it through next season.

 Sark is going to be an OC coordinator again somewhere, not that he will need to work after his Texas payday.

So, you're a proponent of the band-aid approach. Win now or be fired. Don't fix the problems, just win with the roster you have. How many more coaches are we going to go through with before that happens. 

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2 minutes ago, hookemhorb said:

So, you're a proponent of the band-aid approach. Win now or be fired. Don't fix the problems, just win with the roster you have. How many more coaches are we going to go through with before that happens. 

 We already tried that with Mack. Won a national title and got all the rope he needed, to get his guys. 

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Rebuilding Texas Must Take A Look In Mirror Come 2022

https://www.si.com/college/texas/football/texas-longhorns-football-reality-check-iowa-state-cyclones-steve-sarkisian-news

Sarkisian can dial this season up as a lost one. Maybe to ease the pain, they call it a "rebuilding" year. The 2022 season must see better results should Sark plan on being the guy for the future. 

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6 hours ago, david ficken said:

Great write-up. 

I could see 3 OL, 1 WR, and maybe 1-2 safeties or LBs if they are the right fit to go with getting 2-5 recruits. This is truly a purge of getting the bad out and getting the right in. So, if we have another 8-13 players leave, so what at this point. We need to quit worring about those that leave and be happy about those that come in and are helpful in righting this mess from Strong and Herman.  If the portal is helpful in basketball and baseball, then be all means let it help this crap as we know it with football get righted.

I want players that want to be here and are going to play with some pride and passion. If a player doesn't want to be here and can't play with some heart, leave. Purge away.

Gail The Snail GIFs | Tenor

Edited by longhorn_mig
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2 hours ago, Johnny Depp said:

 We already tried that with Mack. Won a national title and got all the rope he needed, to get his guys. 

Mack did well and knew when to stay out of the way. The 05 title wouldn't have been won without Vince Young. For that, you can thank Tim Brewster.

Mack's first year would have been about as bad as Sark's if Mack had not recruited Ricky Williams to return. Ironically, Sark will likely have to recruit Bijan to return next year.

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4 hours ago, Johnny Depp said:

Texas is ranked again. #7 in Coaches Hot Seats. Well that escalated quickly.

 He's going to have a very short leash with expectations for a bowl game being critical. At the pace he's on he won't make it through next season.

 Sark is going to be an OC coordinator again somewhere, not that he will need to work after his Texas payday.

you are delusional if you think Sark is in the hot seat after ONE year....Del Conte and the BMD's knew they bought into the TH hype (actually can lay that on Mike Perrine) and to some extent Mack B...TH also sold himself very well, but when you look back at his resume, from grad assistant to the HC on the 40 Acres in how many years, hey I admit I drank the kool aid too..but Sark has been on National Champion staffs, he learned at the foot of Nick S. He knows what it takes to build a winner...As long as CDC is in charge he will give Sark time to either produce or hang himself...CDC has shown that he is a very good evaluator of coaching talent, look how quickly that the baseball and hoops teams have become National powers without his meddling...I think he will do the same with FB

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2 hours ago, Sirhornsalot said:

Mack did well and knew when to stay out of the way. The 05 title wouldn't have been won without Vince Young. For that, you can thank Tim Brewster.

Mack's first year would have been about as bad as Sark's if Mack had not recruited Ricky Williams to return. Ironically, Sark will likely have to recruit Bijan to return next year.

Had the same thought, but instead it was before last season convincing Ehlinger to stay. 

Sam had his struggles in the passing game, but no one doubted his leadership and will to win. We really could've used that this season. Also it would've have been interesting to see him play in a different system. 

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36 minutes ago, Captain Hookem said:

Had the same thought, but instead it was before last season convincing Ehlinger to stay. 

Sam had his struggles in the passing game, but no one doubted his leadership and will to win. We really could've used that this season. Also it would've have been interesting to see him play in a different system. 

We likely lose one of our QBs through the portal if Sam stays but I'd bet we would have at least 2 more wins at this point if he had. May not be as explosive but I believe he would have offered another threat that would have force defensive away from keying solely on Bijan. Still would have only aided in masking the black hole that is the OL.

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3 hours ago, Sirhornsalot said:

Mack did well and knew when to stay out of the way. The 05 title wouldn't have been won without Vince Young. For that, you can thank Tim Brewster.

Mack's first year would have been about as bad as Sark's if Mack had not recruited Ricky Williams to return. Ironically, Sark will likely have to recruit Bijan to return next year.

 Nine 10 or more win seasons in a row for Mack earned enough goodwill to last 4 more years after that with no more 10 win seasons and a 5 win season after the last BCS Championship appearance. 

 In retrospect that level of mediocrity looks pretty good. It wasn't good enough to keep his job, and it won't be good enough for any of his successors either long term. The length of the new coach tryout will correspond with results, not potential.

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2 hours ago, Hiwood said:

you are delusional if you think Sark is in the hot seat after ONE year.

 It's not a delusion, it's fact according to this report (not my opinion). The Honeymoon is over.

https://coacheshotseat.com/

1. Nebraska-Scott Frost

2. Florida-Dan Mullen

3. FIU=Butch Davis

4. New Mexico State-Doug Martin

5. South Florida-Jeff Scott

6. Virginia Tech-Justin Fuente

7. Texas-Steve Sarkisian

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just because some reporter(s) put Sark on a hot seat list does NOT make it a fact...its an Op Ed click bait website....they like you have an axe to grind when it comes to Sark and their opinion, much like yours has no fact to back it up, whatever contempt you have for Sark from Day 1 has lost you all objectivity on the troubles that plague UT football...either learn to deal with it or move on, because you have a real tendency to kill the vibe in what should be a UT fan friendly site...

 

You can hate Sark all you like, but fair weather fans like yourself that want to get the rope and string him up and run him out of town after 8 games are part of the problem with UT athletics, thats the culture that needs to be changed

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  • 2021 Texas Football Schedule

    Week
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    Louisiana
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    Rice
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    Texas Tech
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