Nov 11, 2023; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian kneels on the sideline during the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron E. Martinez-USA TODAY Sports

Texas’ Steve Sarkisian: Helmet radios would end signal-stealing drama

There is a simple and relatively benign solution to college football’s sign-stealing drama if you are willing to listen to Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian make the argument for technology in players’ headgear.

“Everybody write an article about why doesn’t college football have coach-to-player communication so I don’t have to deal with sign-stealing,” Sarkisian said to reporters Thursday. “I spend half of my week changing signals and signs rather than coaching football. So please, write an article.”

Sarkisian has a background in the NFL and is the primary play-caller for the Longhorns, much like previous stints at Alabama and Southern California.

“It all just makes sense. It all makes sense to me,” Sarkisian said. “There’s no shortage of money in college football, clearly. The whole idea that it’s a competitive disadvantage for those (universities) that can’t do it, or that stadiums aren’t equipped to have that type of technology, I don’t buy it. I don’t understand it.”

Most stadiums already are outfitted with newer advanced communication technology to be in compliance with real-time statistics and data gathering for game broadcasts and other uses.

NFL coaches call in offensive and defensive plays using a microphone headset with one-way communication to individual players on the field. In some situations, signals are used to change plays or communicate when technology doesn’t cooperate.

College football’s blaring headline since midseason has surrounded an alleged plot at Michigan in which low-level assistants or others loosely connected to the program attended games of future opponents to study sideline communication and signals to their players on the field.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is currently suspended for from coaching on game days for the rest of the regular season by the Big Ten, pending a court hearing Friday that could restore his sideline access.

The news around the undefeated Wolverines has dominated coverage of the sport from coast-to-coast.

“The fact that every time I turn on anything late at night and they’re talking about college football, if not the first topic, the second topic is we’re talking about sign-stealing,” Sarkisian said. “Our game is way too good. There’s too many good stories going on right now in college football that that’s at the forefront of what we’re doing.

“It should be at the forefront because I think what was going on (at Michigan) was wrong. But at the end of the day, that shouldn’t be at the forefront. … We’re talking about sign-stealing? Like, let’s just fix the problem. Let’s get player-to-coach communication and move forward.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns quarterback Arch Manning (16) warms up prior to the game against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Arch support: Texas weighs options without QB Quinn Ewers

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian admits he’s fortunate to be contemplating whether to ready freshman Arch Manning or redshirt freshman Maalik Murphy to face BYU this week.

Sophomore Quinn Ewers was classified as “week to week” two days after he left a 31-24 win over Houston with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.

No. 7 Texas called only two pass plays after Murphy entered the game, but he’s taking the starter’s reps in practice this week ahead of Manning.

“Not every school is as fortunate as we are to have a quarterback room like we have,” Sarkisian said Monday.

Ewers was “clearly limited” after scrambling in the third quarter with the game tied at 21 when he lowered his shoulder to take on a Houston defender. Ewers finished the 11-play drive, which ended with Bert Auburn kicking a 25-yard field goal, but he did not return. Ewers went 23-of-29 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns. He has completed 63.5 percent of his passes (323 of 509) for 4,092 yards and 28 TDs in 17 career games with Texas.

Sarkisian said Ewers’ work ethic makes him hesitant to put a timeframe on his potential return date.

“These injuries, some guys come back earlier than others,” he said. “He’s in the best shape of his life, so hopefully we get him back sooner rather than later.”

Texas (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) is one of four teams tied for second in the conference behind unbeaten Oklahoma (7-0, 4-0).

With five games left in the regular season, Manning could play in all but one of them and still be classified as a redshirt. Sarkisian said if he had to make the decision on his starter on Monday, it would be Murphy over Manning, but both could play.

As for the actual plan on paper without Ewers available?

“Go through the week with Maalik Murphy and Arch Manning both getting first-team reps. If the game was being played today, Maalik would start the game,” Sarkisian said.

“Inevitably, as a quarterback, you’re only as good as the guys around you,” he said.

One of those guys is running back Jonathan Brooks, who had 28 touches — eight receptions — against the Cougars and rushed for 99 yards. He’s seventh in the FBS with 825 rushing yards this season.

–Field Level Media

Jul 12, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian is interviewed during Big 12 football media day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Sarkisian: Texas’ final season in Big 12 ‘won’t be awkward’

For one season, the Big 12 will carry 14 members — four incoming and two outgoing.

If you think that the commingling of Texas and Oklahoma with BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF would make for an uncomfortable yearlong dinner party, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian disagrees.

“It won’t be awkward for us,” Sarkisian said Wednesday at Big 12 Media Days. “I can’t speak for anybody else. It won’t be awkward for us.

“We’ve got a roster full of players who quite frankly came to the University of Texas to try to win a Big 12 Championship, and we’ve got one more opportunity to do that, and I think our guys are focused on that. And so it won’t be awkward from our end, but like I said, I can’t speak for everybody else.”

Texas and Oklahoma will depart for the SEC in 2024, but in the meantime the Longhorns were picked to win the Big 12 in the preseason media poll, edging defending champion Kansas State.

The Longhorns have gone 13 years and counting since last winning a conference title, the 2009 Big 12 banner. The storied program has only been to one of the past six Big 12 championship games since the game was re-instituted in 2017.

So Sarkisian was effusive in praising his players for being motivated by the here and now, not the SEC move.

“I know there’s been so much talk about the SEC and what’s happening in 2024, but I think one thing that I love about this team that we have this year is their focus on 2023 and this opportunity we have here in the Big 12,” Sarkisian said. “It’s going to be a heck of a season, great competition.”

While Sarkisian aimed to keep things positive in his remarks to the media, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy appeared bothered by Texas being voted atop the poll, wondering if the voting had been based on “the last 50 years” instead of the present day.

“I think it’s pretty clear and easy to say, hey, we’re going to get everybody’s best shot every Saturday,” Sarkisian said.

The Longhorns lost high-powered running back tandem Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson to the NFL, but the offense is expected to be strong behind Quinn Ewers at quarterback, Georgia transfer Adonai Mitchell at wide receiver and others.

“I know a lot is made of the players that we’ve brought in, but we’ve got a lot of veteran players that came to the University of Texas to win a championship,” Sarkisian said. “They bought into a new coach, a new coaching staff, a new style of play, a new culture and inevitably they’re leaders on our team now, and they get a chance going into some of them their final season to compete for a Big 12 Championship.”

Texas’ Big 12 slate will begin Sept. 23 with a trip to Baylor. The Longhorns will conclude the regular season and say goodbye to the Big 12 by playing another in-state rival, Texas Tech, on Nov. 24 in Austin.

“I hope (the Texas Tech game) carries extra weight because hopefully we’re competing to get into the championship game,” Sarkisian said. “But the reality of it is, hey, we’ve had some longstanding games with a lot of teams in the Big 12, and we’re going to embrace every opportunity we get this year.”

–Field Level Media

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) warms up ahead of the Longhorn's Orange and White spring football game in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Saturday, April 15, 2023.

Ewers

Texas coach: Quinn Ewers is starting quarterback

The competition to be the starting quarterback at Texas is pretty one-sided after sophomore Quinn Ewers put on a strong performance during the annual Orange-White game on Saturday.

Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian said after the affair in Austin that Ewers will enter the fall as the team’s starting quarterback.

Ballyhooed freshman Arch Manning was supposed to push the incumbent during the spring, but the only thing that has occurred is Ewers tightening his hold on the position. On Saturday, he completed 16 of 23 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown, a 13-yarder to junior wide receiver AD Mitchell.

“I thought Quinn was really efficient today,” Sarkisian said. “I think it’s pretty clear to say Quinn’s our starting quarterback and we feel very good about that.”

Ewers passed for 2,177 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions in 10 games last season. He missed three games with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder.

Ewers said he has worked on his conditioning and his mental game since the end of last season, his first as a college starter.

“Obviously, something had to change if I wanted to end up where I want to be in the future,” Ewers said. “I’m starting right here. I’m eating a lot better. I’m doing all the small things a lot harder, and I’m excited.”

Manning, a nephew of former NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning, was just 5-of-13 passing for 30 yards.

Manning, an incoming freshman, appears to be battling redshirt freshman Maalik Murphy for the backup gig. Murphy completed 9 of 13 passes for 165 yards, including a 79-yard scoring pass to Johntay Cook.

Murphy was hampered by a leg injury last season, his first on campus.

“The beauty of it is I don’t have to establish a pecking order right now — that’s the beauty of it,” Sarkisian said. “We have another 29 practices to go in fall camp. I think to be fair to all these guys, like Maalik, that was his first spring that he’s ever had. He didn’t get spring a year ago and of that, he missed the first about five practices before he really was able to go in team drills. So what does that look like moving forward?

“Arch, those are his first 15 practices of his life in college. So sometimes we can rush to judgment on where guys are at.”

–Field Level Media

Quarterbacks Quinn Ewers (3) and Arch Manning (16) talk during the first Texas Longhorns football practice of 2023 at the Frank Denius Fields on the University of Texas at Austin campus on Monday, March 6, 2023.

Aem Texfoot First 2023 Practice 14

Texas begins QB 2-step with Arch Manning, Quinn Ewers competition

The eyes of Texas are on the high-profile quarterback competition set to get underway as the Longhorns kick off spring practice.

2023 recruit Arch Manning arrived to the drumbeat of No. 1 recruiting rankings, the billing of a future No. 1 draft pick and an unparalleled family legacy at the position. Sophomore Quinn Ewers, the No. 1-ranked recruit in the Class of 2021 by the 247Sports composite and listed at No. 2 by ESPN, landed in Austin in 2022 after one season at Ohio State.

“I’m not worried about who’s going to be on the cover of what magazine next week,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “I’m more focused on is, is each guy focusing on what they need to do to develop to be the best player that they can be? Quinn has an entire year of a head start, but I don’t want to hold Arch back. I want to see how far he can take this thing and what it can look like.”

Second-year quarterback Maalik Murphy also is in the running for reps in Austin.

Ewers started 10 games and had 15 touchdown passes with six interceptions last season. His offseason transformation included chopping off his mullet and trimming his facial hair, but that’s not the part of his new appearance Sarkisian is most excited about.

Sarkisian said Ewers accepted the challenge from coaches to be the vocal leader of the offense in 2023.

“I think what he’s done, he’s serving for Arch and, ‘Hey, this is what it looks like,’” Sarkisian said. “‘And this is how to go about your business.’”

The son of Cooper Manning, Arch Manning has never been a backup. He was the starting varsity quarterback as a freshman at the Isidore Newman School in New Orlean and rewrote the Louisiana high school record books by erasing the prominent names of previous record-holders — his uncles, Peyton and Eli Manning. Arch Manning owns the state marks for passing yards and touchdown passes.

A five-star recruit who enrolled early, Manning should “still be in high school,” Sarkisian reminded on Monday following Texas’ first practice of the spring. He’s just 17 and won’t be 18 until May.

While Sarkisian said he doesn’t want to use any special lens to evaluate his quarterbacks on a day-to-day basis, Sarkisian said it’s easy for outsiders to forget what it means to be a freshman.

“For Arch today, Day 1, there’s some plays for sure that he would love to have back,” Sarkisian said. “There’s some other plays that he made where I think everybody was like, ‘Wow, that was a heck of a play.’ But he brings a worker’s mentality and he wants to be really good at this game.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA;  Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz reacts in the fourth quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Miami’s Manny Diaz favored to be next NCAA coach fired

Move over, Sark, Manny Diaz is coming through.

Steve Sarkisian was installed Monday as the favorite by SportsBetting.ag to be the next NCAA football coach fired. That lasted all of an hour before the Texas Longhorns’ embattled coach was passed by Miami’s Diaz.

The Hurricanes became bowl eligible with Saturday night’s win over Virginia Tech, which fired coach Justin Fuente last week, but Miami (6-5, 4-3 ACC) is widely expected to part ways with Diaz.

Sarkisian is in his first season with the Longhorns, and only 10 months into his tenure. But the heat in Austin has ratcheted up with Texas (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) mired in a six-game losing streak, the program’s longest since 1956.

Diaz quickly moved to the 2-1 favorite to be the next NCAA coach fired at SportsBetting.ag, followed by Sarkisian at 3-1 and Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins at 6-1.

Florida fired Dan Mullen over the weekend, and the Gators and Hurricanes could potentially be competing for a similar pool of candidates should Diaz be let go.

University of Louisiana coach Billy Napier’s name has been tied to a number of potential openings and is the 4-1 favorite by the sportsbook to be the next Gators coach. He’s followed by Lane Kiffin (5-1), who would be willing to leave Ole Miss for the Miami job, according to a report last week by Yahoo reporter Dan Wetzel.

Next NCAA Coach Fired Odds
Manny Diaz, Miami (2-1)
Steve Sarkisian, Texas (3-1)
Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech (6-1)
Scott Frost, Nebraska (7-1)
Jeff Scott, South Florida (7-1)
Dino Babers, Syracuse (7-1)
David Shaw, Stanford (8-1)
Mike Bloomgren, Rice (8-1)
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (12-1)

Next Florida Gators Head Coach Odds
Billy Napier (4-1)
Lane Kiffin (5-1)
Mario Cristobal (6-1)
Bob Stoops (8-1)
James Franklin (8-1)
Mark Stoops (8-1)
Luke Fickell (9-1)
Eric Bieniemy (12-1)
Matt Campbell (12-1)
Bill O’Brien (16-1)
Dan Quinn (16-1)
Dave Clawson (16-1)
Deion Sanders (25-1)
Jamey Chadwell (25-1)
Urban Meyer (50-1)
Tim Tebow (100-1)

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien walks off the field after a loss to the Minnesota Vikings at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Saban interested in Gase, O’Brien for OC role

Nick Saban is reportedly interested in discussing Alabama’s vacant offensive coordinator job with fired NFL head coaches Adam Gase and Bill O’Brien.

According to a report from The Athletic, Gase and O’Brien are “two of the coaches Nick Saban is considering for Alabama’s soon to be vacant offensive coordinator role.”

Gase was a graduate assistant under Saban at LSU. O’Brien, who coached with the New England Patriots before jumping to the college ranks at Penn State and then to the Houston Texans, also has ties to Saban.

Steve Sarkisian serves his final game as offensive coordinator on Jan. 11 in the College Football Playoff national championship game against Ohio State. Sarkisian was hired as the new head coach at Texas.

Offensive coordinator at Alabama has been a springboard job for other coaches, including Lane Kiffin, Doug Nussmeier, Jim McElwain and Major Applewhite.

–Field Level Media