Truthfully, there is no way to evaluate a college football coaching hire until they’ve been on the job for a few years. We’ve seen popular hires like Willie Taggart at Florida State, Scott Frost at Nebraska, and Tom Herman at Texas totally fall apart, while some hires that are widely questioned when they’re made wind up striking gold.
That doesn’t stop us from trying to prognosticate about how things may turn out. This year, due to the financial issues posed by COVID-19, as well as the general unpredictability of the 2020 season for many teams, few expected the type of coaching turnover we wound up with. Massive programs, including Texas, Auburn, and Tennessee made changes this offseason.
The Texas hire was the one that drew the most attention. Herman, a few years removed from being the single hottest coaching prospect in the country after a great run at Houston, was fired, even after he seemed to get a vote of confidence from the school’s leadership. He was replaced by Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, the former head coach at Washington and USC who helped lead the best offensive in college football under Nick Saban last year.
A few years ago, it didn’t look like Sark would get another big time coaching job. Now, after taking Alabama’s offense to new heights, he is the best hire of the year, per Bleacher Report.
— Steve Sarkisian (@CoachSark) March 3, 2021
Herman and Charlie Strong, Sark’s two predecessors, almost definitely had more hype as rising head coaches. He’s something of a retread, a rare move for a program the stature of Texas. But as B/R lays out, his high-ceiling with Texas’ infinite resources, gives him this top spot.
Few more brilliant offensive minds exist in the sport than Sark, who led the incredible Alabama offense in 2020 on its way to a national championship. That prompted a return to a head coaching role for the first time since USC fired him in 2015 following reports from staff and players that he was intoxicated at practices and at least one game.
Much like his buddy Lane Kiffin, Sark’s career needed a jump-start, and Nick Saban provided the opportunity. This isn’t Sark’s first foray into a high-stress situation. He was the Trojans head coach for a year-plus, going 12-6, after posting a 34-29 record in five years at Washington.
That is no guarantee Sark will be successful, but his offense should translate in Austin with Texas’ resources, the recruiting hotbed and some of the players in place. It’s obvious this hire has the highest ceiling of any in college football.
Recruiting will be key for Steve Sarkisian, and he’s off to a solid start. He’s also built a relationship with Arch Manning, nephew of Peyton and Eli, who may be the biggest recruit since Trevor Lawrence when he is set to commit. That would really invite the headlines.
Check back in about 2024, and we’ll see how accurate this ranking turned out.
For the full list, head to Bleacher Report.