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Sarkisian Solidifies Top-Five Recruiting Class For 2022

After 5-7 first season at Texas, Sarkisian nabs one of nation's top recruiting classes

Why keep Steve Sarkisian?

It's a valid question asked by the Texas fan base during a 5-7 season that included a six-game losing streak. Sarkisian, the offensive mastermind that helped Alabama and "system-based" quarterback Mac Jones win a national title in 2020, was expected to bring change to Austin that Tom Herman never could grasp. 

Oh, he brought it. Herman never suffered a losing season during his four seasons with the Longhorns. 

Why keep Sarkisian? Does Wednesday answer that? 

Texas finished with the No. 4 recruiting class on SI99's list. Sarkisian ended his first season with a promising win over Kansas State. As the first 24 hours of Early Signing Period wind down, there's hope in Austin for Year 2. 

"Teams ultimately take on the personality of their head coaches," Sarkisian said Wednesday. "Getting a third opportunity at doing this, I wanted to be a consistent head coach to how I did things. 

"They're choosing us. We're not choosing them." 

Selling Texas should be easy on name alone. The flagship program has rarely faltered in keeping top talent close to home. 

But even with top classes yearly, the Longhorns have finished in the top 10 once in 11 years. They've finished ranked just four times altogether since falling to future SEC rival Alabama in the 2009 national championship game. 

Sarkisian's job wasn't to sell Texas. It was to steer prospects in the direction the program was headed. The "All Gas, No Breaks" motto was to be the pinnacle selling point to players still on the market. 

It worked by securing the commitment of offensive tackle Kelvin Banks (No. 26). Soon after, top transfer target Quinn Ewers was on board as well. 

"We have to pitch our product which is the University of Texas," Sarkisian said. "We have a tremendous product, but ultimately they have to buy it."

Ewers and Sarkisian had spoken back in 2019. Alabama wanted him and Sark was Nick Saban's earpiece. Ewers, a Southlake native, wanted to stay close to home and elected to initially sign with Texas. 

Once Herman was fired and Sarkisian entered, Ewers was back on the market. He reclassified due to his NIL endorsements and headed to Ohio State. Two snaps and more $1.6 million later, he was on the move. 

When Ewers entered the transfer portal, it was Sarkisian's and Texas' commitment to lose. What became a selling point were comments made right before the season finale. 

Sarkisian said he would not commit to either Casey Thompson or Hudson Card in 2022. At least one is expected to transfer with both Ewers and fellow QB Maalik Murphy (No. 54) officially signed. 

“We’re lucky. We got two great quarterbacks,” Sarkisian said. “We were very upfront and honest with Maalik that we wanted to take two. And it just worked out in a way where Quinn became available.”

Why keep Sarkisian? Maybe it's due to his way of convincing players that Texas isn't just the first choice, but also the right one. Three players were expected to sign with other blueblood programs when the sun rose Wednesday morning are now headed to the Forty Acres. 

Top nickel defender Terrence Brooks (No. 17) was committed to Ohio State and was the Buckeyes' highest defensive back prospect. Wide receiver Xavion Brice was committed to Oklahoma. Defensive end Ethan Burke was headed to Michigan to become the next Aidan Hutchinson. 

Not on Sarkisian's watch. 

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"Relationships are a big key to what we did," he said. "I give immense credit to our staff for doing that and really trying to develop the relationships." 

With a push from the new NIL deal titled "The Pancake Factory," offensive linemen came flying left and right. Banks was the first big name to garner the $50,000 bonus from Horns With Hearts, but others weren't far behind. 

Texas started the recruiting season with only Cole Hutson and Connor Robertson. The Horns finished by adding Malik Agbo, Cameron Williams and Neto Umeozulu. 

The Longhorns are still in play for Devon Campbell (No. 22) and Ernest Green, both of whom are expected to sign in February.  

“You’ve got to be able to play big up front, and I think we addressed that,” Sarkisian said. “We didn’t want to settle. We wanted to recruit the best players that fit us the best. 

"You don’t win every battle in recruiting; you just try to get the majority of those. I think that we did that.”

Holes are what the Horns were looking to fill. Ewers is a quarterback with play-ready intangibles. So is Banks, who likely will play either tackle spot depending on where Sarkisian feels freshman Conner Hayden best fits. 

Others, such as wide receiver Savion Reed, could be impactful, too. Texas is looking for a consistent running mate to pair with Xavier Worthy, Sarkisian's first true recruit. 

Texas isn't done. The Longhorns are looking to make a push with Texas A&M receiver commit Evan Stewart (No. 12), who has yet to sign.

It's the same for Houston Northshore cornerback Denver Harris (No. 6) and Cy-Park linebacker Harold Perkins (No. 37), both of whom are down to the two major schools in the Lone Star State. 

NIL has changed the game for programs across the country and how they recruit. It's not just about the facilities and production on the field, but what can be made off of it. 

Texas boosters are giving scholarship offensive linemen half of $100,000 starting in Aug. 1 of next year. The Clark Field Collective has raised $10 million to distribute to Texas athletes for NIL activities. 

“For these two entities to form to allow our players to profit off of that in a good cause, I’m all for it," Sarkisian said. "We’re in a capacity here at the University of Texas in this amazing city of Austin to where there’s more opportunities available to our players, and it doesn’t take away from their ability to perform on the football field and in the classroom.”

Sarkisian can breathe as the next 24 hours unfold and he takes a victory lap. A top-five class after a losing season will quiet most doubters.

Why keep Sarkisian? The last 100 hours is where to start. Now comes the finish. Only time will tell if the Longhorns can win on the field as they do when pen touches paper. 

It's a start. Sark's start. Full throttle ahead. 

“I’ve never heard a coach get up and say that they didn’t have a really good, effective signing day,” Sarkisian said. “I feel like I’m the cliché here today, but I feel like we did that.”

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