Longhorns Tracker: Sarkisian Brings in Another From SEC As Chief Of Staff

The Texas Longhorns have found their chief of staff in yet another hire from the SEC by Steve Sarkisian
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AUSTIN - In early January, the Texas Longhorns pulled the trigger on a coaching change by firing coach Tom Herman and replacing him with former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. This shakeup brings back a sense of optimism and excitement that the Longhorns have not seen since early October.

Texas believes it is hiring a new and improved “Sark” who has learned from his mistakes and is fresh off a national championship win. 

While preparing for his masterful show during the national championship, Sark hit the ground running as he began to lure the elite staff he is currently building at Texas. In that time Sarkisian even found time to call a few key recruits, one of whom was top 100 receiver Armani Winfield, who became his first commitment to UT during halftime of the national championship.

READ MORE: 'Ruthless': Does Urban Meyer to Jags Equal Jimmy Johnson to Cowboys?

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As mentioned, Sark is currently in pursuit of putting together a championship-caliber support staff at Texas, something Herman failed to do with his initial hires and staff overhaul at the end of the 2019 season. Most roles have been finalized, but there are still a few key positions that have yet to be filled, including defensive coordinator.

The staff as it stands right now, with updates as they occur ...

JANUARY 26 11:45 AM UPDATE: Vanderbilt's Jason Grooms, who had been with the program since 2014, has been lured away from Nashville by Steve Sarkisian to become the Longhorns new chief of staff of football operations. 

Grooms replaces the departed Fernando Lovo, who is expected to join Urban Meyer with Jacksonville Jaguars. Per the Vanderbilt athletics website, Grooms oversaw day-to-day operations including budget control, team travel, player development, and more.

JANUARY 25 NOON UPDATE: After being let go by the University following the hiring of new head coach Steve Sarkisian, former Texas offensive line coach Herb Hand looks to be in line to take over as the offensive line coach for the Charlotte 49ers of Conference USA.

Hand coached the Texas offensive line from 2018-2020 under Tom Herman, who was fired following another disappointing season in 2020.

JANUARY 22 7:10 PM UPDATE: Texas may have found its next linebackers coach after reports surfaced that former Montana State head coach Jeff Choate emerged as a strong candidate for the Longhorns on Tuesday night. 

The report came just 24 hours after rumors that Mike Stoops would be Steve Sarkisian's choice to fill the role. Those reports proved to be inaccurate. 

Choate was a candidate for the Boise State head coaching job, before the job when to former Oregon defensive coordinator, Andy Avalos.

JANUARY 20 8 AM UPDATE: According to reports, former Texas cornerback's coach Jay Valai is expected to be on his way to the University of Houston, where he will once again coach in the secondary. 

Houston dismissed defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen on Tuesday and promoted safeties coach Doug Belk into his position. 

The Longhorns had already planned to move on from Valai, hiring Notre Dame's Terry Joseph as its new cornerback's coach on January 8. Valai spent one season with the Longhorns under former defensive coordinator Chris Ash. 

JANUARY 19 8 AM UPDATE: With rumors still swirling on who Steve Sarkisian could pick to succeed Chris Ash as the leader of Longhorns defense, a new name surfaced overnight in the form of Washington defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski.

Known as one of the top defensive minds in college football, Kwaitskowski spent four years as the Boise State defensive coordinator under Chris Peterson, before following Peterson to the Huskies in 2014.

During his time with the Peterson and the Huskies, Kwiatkowski's defense's ranked as a top-13 team in the country in scoring defense in five of his seven seasons, including a three-year stretch in the top-10, and back-to-back years in the top-five.

In eight seasons at Washington, Kwiatkowski helped the Huskies to an overall record of 55-26, as well as a college football playoff appearance in 2016, where the Huskies fell to Nick Saban and the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

JANUARY 18 3 PM UPDATE: Upon his exit from the Tennessee Volunteers on Monday morning, now former Volunteers head coach Jeremy Pruitt's name has already been rumored to be connected to the Longhorns defensive coordinator position in Austin. 

Pruitt, who served under Nick Saban at Alabama in multiple roles from 2007-2012 before leaving to pursue defensive coordinator roles at Florida State and Georgia, was named the Tide's defensive coordinator and inside linebacker coach during the 2016-17 seasons. In those two seasons, Pruitt helped Saban's team to a 27-2 record, as well as an SEC title and a National Championship.

In 2016, Pruitt's defense ranked first in the nation in scoring defense, second in the nation in total defense, and was the best in the nation against the run. In 2017, his unit was once again at the top of college football, ranking second in the country scoring defense, and first in total defense.  

JANUARY 17 10 AM UPDATE: Reports have surfaced that incumbent defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who Steve Sarkisian had spoken to about returning to Austin to reprise his role, is expected to join Urban Meyer's new staff in Jacksonville with the Jaguars. 

Ash worked under Meyer at Ohio State as his co-defensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015, helping the Buckeyes to a Big 10 title and a national championship in 2014, and a Fiesta Bowl win in 2015. 

After taking the head coaching job at Rutgers following that successful run, Ash joined Tom Herman's staff in Austin as an analyst in 2019, before taking over as the full-time defensive coordinator this past season. 

NFL name Raheem Morris is also a Meyer consideration with the Jags, likely as the D-coordinator.

JANUARY 16 930 PM UPDATE: Tosh Lupoi, who served as the defensive line coach and running game coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons this past season, is reportedly under consideration for a position at Texas under Sarkisian. Lupoi has been a candidate for the defensive line coach position with the Dallas Cowboys but could consider a return to college football, given the right opportunity. 

Before moving to the NFL with the Cleveland Browns in 2019, Lupoi spent five years under Nick Saban at Alabama, where he was not only known as an up-and-coming star in the industry but as one of the best recruiters in all of college football as well. 

TE Coach/SPC - Jeff Banks

Bringing on Jeff Banks from Alabama might be Sarkisian’s most monumental move yet. Banks is regarded as one of the best recruiters in the nation and is largely responsible for all of the talents that Alabama has lured over the years from the state of Texas. 

Aside from his elite recruiting talents, Banks has had proven success on the field at every stop, namely with his development of tight ends and his creation of nationally recognized special teams.

OL Coach/OC - Kyle Flood

Kyle Flood was previously the offensive line coach at Alabama, where he put together one of the best offensive line groups in the country for the past two seasons. His coordinator position is a title; Sarkisian will manage all play-calling duties at Texas.

QBs - A.J. Milwee

Milwee earned Sarkisian’s trust while he was an offensive assistant at Alabama. While Sarkisian will be credited with the development of future Texas QBs, Milwee will be with them behind the scenes reviewing film and running QB drills in practice. 

Sarkisian will likely seek Milwee’s input on the offensive, much like he did at Alabama.

RBs - Stan Drayton

One of Sark’s first staff moves was retaining one of Tom Herman’s few staff superstars, Stan Drayton. Retaining Drayton also keeps Texas well in the mix for 2021 back LJ Johnson and 2022 back Jaydon Blue.

WRs - Andre Coleman

Recent reports confirmed that Sarkisian will retain Texas’s current wide receivers coach Andre Coleman. This move has been questioned the most due to an up-and-down year for Texas’s receiving core. Also, the jury is still out on his recruiting capabilities due to his inability to meet recruits at Texas during the current NCAA dead period.

DC - Pete Kwiatkowski

Known as one of the top defensive minds in college football, Kwaitskowski spent four years as the Boise State defensive coordinator under Chris Peterson, before following Peterson to the Huskies in 2014.

During his time with the Peterson and the Huskies, Kwiatkowski's defense's ranked as a top-13 team in the country in scoring defense in five of his seven seasons, including a three-year stretch in the top-10, and back-to-back years in the top-five.

DLine - Bo Davis

Another elite recruiter, Sark has hired former Texas defensive line coach Bo Davis away from his current position on the Detroit Lions. Before his stint with the Lions, Davis was regarded as one of the nation’s best recruiters during his time at Alabama.

LBs - Jeff Choate

A former successful FCS head coach at Montana State, Choate was in the running for the Boise State head coaching job, before it went to another candidate. Choate also worked previously under new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski as linebackers coach for the Washington Huskies in the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Safeties - Blake Gideon

Blake Gideon has been hired away from Ole Miss to coach the position he once played at Texas. Blake Gideon is also a special-teams mastermind like Jeff Banks, and will likely play a strong supporting role to Bank’s special team coordinating efforts.

Cornerbacks - Terry Joseph

Texas has hired former Notre Dame DB coach Terry Joseph to coach cornerbacks at Texas. Like Jeff Banks, Terry Joseph previously coached at Texas A&M, where he developed strong recruiting ties to the state of Texas.

Director of Football performance - Torre Becton

Former Cal assistant Torre Becton has joined Sarkisian in Austin. It is unclear if Sarkisian will hire a second coach to split duties with Becton.

Director of Player Personnel - Drew Hughes

Former Texas director of player personnel Derek Chang announced that he is leaving the program. This move is unsurprising, as he was widely recognized as Tom Herman’s right-hand-man.

Chief of Staff For Football Operations - Jason Grooms

Formerly at Vanderbilt, Grooms takes over as chief of staff for football from Fernando Lovo, who left the program following the departure of Tom Herman.