July 15, 2021
Arlington, Texas, USA
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the Longhorn coach Steve Sarkisian. Your thoughts about the upcoming contests?
COACH SARKISIAN: First of all, welcome. It's great to have a full-fledged Big 12 media day. It's exciting. It's exciting that football's back. It's exciting that we're going to have full stadiums again and players get to play in front of their friends and family and alumni, which I think is tremendous for the sport, tremendous for our fan bases and all of what college football means, I think, to our country. Excited about that.
I can't believe it's been six and a half months I've been on the job here. There's been a lot that's gone on in a six-and-a-half-month time of hiring a new coaching staff, implementing a strength and conditioning program, implementing new schemes on offense, defense and special teams, recruiting.
But probably the biggest thing I've been most impressed with for me in our time here has been the buy-in from our players. I love the buy-in that we have. We've got a roster that I think is one that is more than capable of being competitive at a high level. I've done a full rebuild before. This is my third time around of being a head coach. And to inherit this team coming off a 7-3 season with three losses by a combined 13 points, is something that we're in a little better position than most when you take over a new program.
So, there's been a lot of work put in. We've still got a lot of work to do. But I love where we're at and I love the mindset of our team at this point of developing a team-first mentality, which I think our players have bought into and are kind of making come to life now in the summer.
So, we've got work to do. Obviously here getting ready for training camp and ultimately getting set up for the season opener on September 4th against Louisiana.
Q. Texas, obviously a big-time program. Lots of tradition, lots of chances for success. But they've struggled over the last over how many years. As an outsider, did you look and try to figure out why things weren't working great in Austin? And since the six months you've been on the job, have you discovered what some of the secrets might be?
COACH SARKISIAN: I think at the end of the day, when you think of the University of Texas, you think of resources. You think of great recruiting and recruitability, all those things -- big stadiums, great education.
The point I've been trying to make is focus on us and what we're doing and not necessarily what didn't work before, but what are we going to do to make it work this time.
And the point of all of that is we can't sit back and relax and think because we've got a great stadium, because we've got great resources, because we've got the five-star, four-star players, that we just sprinkle a little magical fairy dust and all of a sudden we're a really good football team.
Winning is hard. And winning takes work. And winning takes perseverance. Winning takes grit. Winning takes great teamwork and great leaders and great teammates and an awesome culture. Those are all the things that we're working on to make sure that we put ourselves in position to be as successful as we can be, not even just for the short term but for the long term.
And I think that that's where I say that I like the buy-in from our players because ultimately they're buying into that mindset and that philosophy, which is hard to do in this day and age, because we're in a 'me and I' world of social media and Internet and phones and things like that.
To get our team to buy into a team-first mentality, because through team success comes individual accolades, I think our players really understand that. And they're doing it together. I think they're enjoying the process of it all. And the direct result of it is we should have a pretty good football team come the fall.
Q. You mentioned doing a full rebuild with this team. With your past national championship experience, how do you plan on taking that past success and translating it into the Texas program and potentially beat OU this fall?
COACH SARKISIAN: Well, I think, you know, ultimately, I guess I've coached in four national championship games now in my career. Won two and lost two. And the reality of it is the best teams I've been part of were really competitive, played for one another and were "teams". It wasn't a group of really good individuals; they played as a team. And I think ultimately that's what we're trying to instill in our players, is we've got a lot of talented individuals and ultimately we're building a team.
And it's an ongoing process. And that's going to continue to grow and continue to build. Since I've come, now we've got 32 new faces in that locker room. We've got six transfers on board to go with 26 incoming freshmen. That's a lot of new faces that we need to implement into our team.
And the best teams that win at a high level, that win big games, understand the consistency needed on a daily basis to push one another as like-minded individuals to drive for more and more, but ultimately execute at the critical moments and that the moment doesn't ever become too big.
So whether it's playing OU or in a national championship or a Big 12 Championship, whatever that may be, the bigger the game really shouldn't matter to us because that's just who we are on a daily basis. That's what we're trying to instill in our team.
Q. You accepted a job where the fan base defines success by winning Big 12 titles and competing for national titles. I'm curious, for your definition, what's a successful season at Texas?
COACH SARKISIAN: I think, one, you have to recognize -- when you accept a job, you accept all of the job. And like I said, this is my third go-around at doing this head-coaching thing. And you don't accept a job and you only get part of the job, you get all of the job.
At the University of Texas, the expectations are very high. The standard, the bar is set very high. So, A, you have to embrace it and understand what they are. The next part of that is, okay, understand what they are, but then what are you doing to try to achieve what is that standard, what is that bar, what are those expectations?
So for us, ultimately success is our style of play, who we are as a program, the consistency we do it with. Do we play the same from week one to week eight, or do we fluctuate? Do we have highs, do we have lows? Can we find that level of consistency? Do we play really well as a team? Or are we playing as individuals?
There's a lot that goes into this. It's easy to look at a number and say X number of wins is successful or winning a championship is successful, that's the easy part. But for me as a coach I'm looking at it on a daily basis; what do we look like? Are we growing, getting better as a team? Are we understanding why we're doing the things that we're doing and can the players say why we're doing the things we're doing?
When we start to answer the "whys" and why the team-first mentality is so important, then it starts to resonate with who we are on the field and how we go about our business. So success is going to be the level of consistency in which we do things here come the fall.
Q. You're talking about the importance of buy-in and how impressed you've been with your team for their buy-in through the spring. Who are a few specific guys who really stood out to you guys through the summer practice as being leaders on this team really relaying your message?
COACH SARKISIAN: It's a cool question. We've got two guys here with me today that I think are at the forefront of that in Bijan Robinson at running back and Keondre Coburn at defensive tackle. We've got more than that. We've got a few different DBs. D'Shawn Jamison and Josh Thompson have been tremendous.
Jordan Whittington has been tremendous at wide receiver. Christian Jones, Denzel Okafor and Derek Kerstetter -- I feel like I'm leaving people out, David Gbenda, DeMarvion Overshown -- we have a great deal of guys that have really stepped up and bought in that were carry-overs from the last team.
And then we've got this really good implementation of a couple of transfers. And when you look at a Ray Thornton and you look at a Ben Davis or an Ovie (Oghoufo), all three of these guys have either won national championships or competed in the College Football Playoff in the last two years. They've brought a little bit of a different perspective, too.
So, we've got some really cool leaders on our team that have stepped up but that have ultimately set the tone to be a conduit to the rest of the team of what it looks like and how we're going to go about our business on a daily basis.
And I've been very impressed from our leadership committee standpoint of these guys really following our lead from a coaching staff's perspective, and then being that conduit to the locker room and then on to the practice field of what it needs to look like for us to achieve the level of success that we want to have come the fall.
Q. You didn't mention a quarterback or two in that answer a minute ago. Wondering about Casey Thompson, where he is right now in your eyes, and a plan going in with apparently two quarterbacks vying for the position?
COACH SARKISIAN: When I took over the job, I gave everybody a clean slate in our program. And clearly we at the quarterback position, in my opinion, the most important position in sports, have two fantastic players in Casey Thompson and Hudson Card.
We went through installing our offense in winter. We went through spring practice. We got 15 spring practices in. We've had a chance to visit post-spring and the things that we need to work on here in the summer. And then we're going to head into training camp.
And I just didn't feel like 15 practices was enough to name a guy a starter in a brand new system, a brand new scheme with brand new coaches.
I will say it's a little bit of a luxury for me to have two quality quarterbacks like this. Casey Thompson is a guy who has been in the program a little bit longer. Everybody remembers what he did in the Alamo Bowl with four touchdown passes in the second half. Very athletic guy. Very driven, very focused. High football IQ. Great leader.
Hudson Card, tremendous passing ability, great instincts of passing the football.
So we're in a good position. But at some point in training camp, I'm going to have to trust my gut and I've got to name a starter. And when we do, it's not going to be because the other guy gave the job up. They're going to make it tough on me.
That's what I told them. You guys need to make this decision as hard as you can on me. Because I name one guy the starter doesn't mean we don't need the other one because the other guy's a play away. In this day and age of college football to think you'll go 13, 14 games throughout a season with one quarterback probably isn't realistic. We have to develop both of them. They both have huge upside. I love coaching them. And I think we're in good hands at that position.
Q. You're going to be the third coach in eight seasons at Texas. The previous two guys had top-10 recruiting classes and all the facilities and everything that you have as well. What is the missing whatever that's going to break this thing out of averageness and get the team back to here?
COACH SARKISIAN: I kind of touched on this earlier. I haven't been focused on what happened before me. I'm putting all our energy into what we're doing now. And I do believe in at the end of the day teams win championships. And locker rooms, facilities don't win championships. Big stadiums don't win championships. Bright lights don't win championships. Recruiting rankings don't win championships.
I know everybody here wants to name a national championship on signing day to whoever got the most four and five stars. You don't get a ring for that. You get a ring for winning games, for winning tough games in November and December, in the fourth quarter, when you've got to have that drive. When you've got to get that stop.
And that's what we're trying to instill in our team, is being the most mentally, physically tough football team that's committed, disciplined and has a real level of accountability to the program first, to the team first. And doing that on a consistent daily basis. Not getting up for one game or getting up for two games, but that's just who we are on a weekly basis.
And to watch this transformation happen for our guys, even in our winter conditioning, through spring ball and now into summer conditioning, to watch the mentality continue to shift, that our guys recognize the importance of every single day, that we have to chase greatness every day.
We don't pick and choose what day we're going to decide to work really hard. That's just who we are and that's in our DNA. And there is no, like I said, there's no magical fairy dust to sprinkle to say, hey, all of a sudden now we've got these great schemes, we're going to be a good team.
It's about the team first and then they are the ones that make these plays come to life. And I think that our team is really starting to understand that. And I hope all of you get a chance to visit even the two players we have here today to get their take on it, because they're the ones that will probably tell you better than me about the mentality of the team and where we're at this juncture of the summer.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports