“Longhorns Nation — we’re baaaaaaaaack!”
Texas hasn’t been “back” since the 2006 Rose Bowl when Vince Young ran in the game winning touchdown on fourth and five to defeat USC and capture the BCS National Championship.
Following the 2019 Sugar Bowl, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger announced this to Longhorn fans in his post-game interview after defeating #5 Georgia and taking home the MVP award.
Sam Ehlinger has a message for Texas fans 🤘 pic.twitter.com/zWmYYHCV5V
— ESPN (@espn) January 2, 2019
Longhorn fans erupted, and it was the cherry on top of the cake after knocking off the #5 team in the country heading into next season. It inspired the team, the coaches, and the entire fan base heading into the 2019 season.
And then reality checked in.
The College Football Playoff is impossible to get into as it is, so a team like Texas would probably require an undefeated regular season and a Big 12 Championship to secure a spot in the top four.
That didn’t happen in 2019.
The season following Ehlinger’s “we’re back” statement, the Longhorns finished 8-5 and won the Alamo Bowl. But hey, there’s always next year right?
While COVID-19 impacted the 2020 season in more ways than one, the Longhorns still put up a disappointing season regardless. They finished 7-3, with all three of those losses coming in the Big 12.
Sure, they took down then #6 Oklahoma State in overtime on Halloween, but the early losses to TCU and Oklahoma hurt their Big 12 chances early. Not to even mention the heartbreaking loss to Iowa State Thanksgiving weekend.
The Longhorns rolled over Colorado 55-23 in this year’s Alamo Bowl, but the program decided to fire head coach Tom Herman after going 32-18 in four seasons.
This vacancy was arguably one of the most intriguing in the country, and fans as well as the rest of the college football community waited to see who the Longhorns would hire. They wasted no time and hired Alabama coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
Let’s take a look at the Longhorns new coach.
While Sarkisian has been head coach before, going 46-35 across seven seasons with Washington (5) and USC (2), he’s most known for being an offensive genius the last few years.
Alabama called up Sarkisian to serve as offensive coordinator in the 2017 CFP National Championship, when the Crimson Tide fell to Deshaun Watson’s Clemson Tigers 35-31.
In 2018, he was hired as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons were still looking for answers after blowing the infamous 28-3 lead against the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and boy did they find one in Sarkisian.
Sarkisian turned the Falcons into one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses, finishing top 10 in pass yards, total yards and scoring. Quarterback Matt Ryan was third in the league in passing yards and threw 35 touchdowns. Julio Jones caught 113 passes for eight touchdowns, and led the league with 1,677 receiving yards. Rookie stud and Alabama alum Calvin Ridley led all rookies in receiving yards (821) and touchdowns (10).
Sarkisian returned to Alabama in 2019 as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. To no surprise, he turned Alabama’s offense into a juggernaut.
In 2019, the Crimson Tide averaged a school record 47 points a game and averaged 511 yards per game. Superstar quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went down with an injury in the regular season, but Mac Jones did more than enough to replace him.
The two combined for 4,449 yards and 49 touchdowns. Alabama’s 199.6 passing efficiency set yet another school record and was the second best in college football history.
And, of course, we all saw what happened this season in 2020. Sarkisian’s offense was led by Heisman finalists Jones and Devonta Smith, scoring 49 points a game and finishing as undefeated National Champions.
Impact on Texas
After reading all that, fans are probably thinking “yea but that’s at Alabama. Texas is not Alabama.”
And they’re absolutely right.
However, this hire will speak numbers for this football program. You have a guy who’s spent seasons with Nick Saban, and even transformed an offense at the professional level.
The Longhorns are expected to lose about 16 seniors, but have 22 juniors to keep the veteran presence in the locker room. One of those seniors is Ehlinger, who is entering the NFL Draft in April.
That being said, there’s no doubt Sarkisian’s biggest task is the recruiting. Texas hasn’t been atop the recruitment leader board the last few years, and that needs to change if Texas wants to build a better program going forward.
Well, Sarkisian seems to be on top of it already, as he already made offers to seven 2022 recruits from California alone. Sarkisian’s pedigree will be sure to draw in more top recruits and even some transfers in the years to come.
His other big task will be finding his quarterback. With Ehlinger gone, Sarkisian will be able to choose his own quarterback to build the offense around. Freshman Ja’Quinden Jackson announced in December that he’s transferring to Utah, so he’s out. But there’s still a few young, in-house options he can choose from.
The other signal callers on the roster are sophomore Casey Thompson, Red-shirt Freshman Ben Ballard and Freshman Hudson Card. Ballard and Card are Austin natives, so the hometown hero story is definitely there for those two.
We know Texas can win games. They only finished below .500 four times in the last 11 seasons. However, Texas is due for something better. It may not come right away, but Sarkisian is going to transform this football program. Fans should be excited about what the future holds.
Texas just might indeed be back. Keep Your Horn’s Up.
Lifelong sports fan fulfilling a childhood dream. I’ll talk sports all day. Passion and hot takes are my thing… there’s always a story. Yankees. NY Giants. Knicks. Texas Longhorns. Yes… being a Knicks fan is rough, but my time will come (hopefully). Senior at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.