Nice to meet you: Texas Longhorns coaches explain why they joined Sarkisian’s staff

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ahead of Texas’ first open practice for fans Wednesday, the Longhorns offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators all met with the media for the first and only time this season.

Kyle Flood, UT’s offensive coordinator, and special teams coordinator Jeff Banks followed Steve Sarkisian from Alabama to Texas, while Pete Kwiatkowski, the defensive coordinator, left the same job at Washington to anchor the Longhorns defense.

Flood is the only coach who got a promotion with the change of jobs, moving up from offensive line coach with the Tide to being OC.

Below are some of their reasons for joining Sarkisian’s staff, and their philosophies on the positions they coach.

On Sarkisian and choosing to come to Texas

“That starts with my belief in Steve,” Flood said. “It’s my belief in him as a person and as a coach, and that is in no way a negative on where I came from. I had the opportunity to come here and be the offensive coordinator, that was a challenge that I really wanted in my career. It was one of the things in my career that I had not gotten to take up yet. But first and foremost, I wanna stress this, it was about my belief in him and my relationship with him. I just felt like this was a different challenge for me and a great opportunity for me to continue to work with somebody that I have a lot of respect for.”

“My relationship with Sark over the last two years during that time [at Alabama], we grew very close,” Banks said. “I think we just kinda saw eye-to-eye ever since we met each other. For me, it’s always been about who I work for and making sure that I believe in who I work for and having the ability for that person to let me bring the best I can to the table. I think number one, being able to accomplish what we did at Alabama made me feel better about maybe, possibly moving on. Number two, the relationship with Sark. And then my kids still live in College Station with their mom, and that was a huge part of it, also. When it was Texas, that’s really the part that separated me. I’ve had other job offers in the past, but when it was the University of Texas, that’s really the one that made it okay to sign on the dotted line to come here. I just looked at it as what a sleeping giant, what a time to be part of it. I felt like it was the perfect combination of the three things that I was looking for.”

“The timing was right for me and my family,” Kwiatkowski said. “I was with Coach [Chris] Peterson for 14 years, and they were awesome. I put a lot of value in who I work for and work with. I could’ve chased jobs over the years. I just go back to my statement with who I work with and work for is very important to me. As we all know, it’s hard to win football games, and you wanna be with good people. I’ve recruited Texas over the years, being in the northwest, coming out more east, the state of Texas is known for big-time high school football. I just wanted a new challenge. I remember Texas back in the day. I became a huge Earl Campbell fan when I was young when he played with the Houston Oilers – saw him take Isiah Robertson’s soul on Monday Night Football. So I’ve always had a curiosity, so when Sark called, it was time to make that move.”

On biggest priorities for rest of training camp

“Continuing getting better at tackling, our conditioning – being able to play four quarters in a day game out under the sun and then continuing building depth,” Kwiatkowski said. “We gotta keep bringing some of these younger guys along. We gotta have better depth behind the starting line guys so we can keep rolling.”

“Ultimately, we gotta figure out who are the best five guys, and then who’s six, who’s seven, who’s eight,” Flood said. “That’s going to be a priority. And who knows if it’ll be a distinctive six, seven, eight. You don’t know that sometimes because like I said before, not everybody’s got the adaptability to play multiple positions. It’s not a concern, we’ll work through that. That’s part of what we do as coaches.”

Flood on being OC but Sarkisian calling plays

“One of the things about working with Sark that you realize right away is that he’s the best play caller in football,” Flood said. “He’s got a special talent for it. As he handles that part of the job, it’s always made me feel really good that I’m working with somebody that does it at an elite level. Certainly during the week, the game planning happens. We have a really strong relationship in terms of how we communicate during the week, and then on game day, I feel great because I’m working with a great play caller.”

Kwiatkowski on defining success

“Our goal is to hold the offense to under 20 points,” Kwiatkowski said. “It might be a high goal, but that’s our goal. We’re either gonna achieve it or not, but at the end of the day, it comes down to it is a team sport. We’re trying to hold them to as few a points as we can, and obviously the offense is trying to score as many points as we can. I’ve had some really successful defenses over the year, hold them under 20 points a game. But we’ll see. At the end of the day, if we have one more point than them, we gotta enjoy it and be happy about it, even though we didn’t play as well as we wanted to.”

Banks on the importance of special teams

“No matter what job you take, no matter where you’re at, you’re gonna have to find ways to win tight games. At the end of the day, we can all look at last season, no matter where we were at, even though we won all the games we won at Alabama, it wasn’t always that way the two years previous, special teams is gonna dictate the outcome of the game at some point. It can totally change the outcome of the game, and we wanna make sure it’s changed in our favor at Texas. I think we’re on our way with great depth. I think I’m lucky and we’re lucky and our players are lucky to have three former special teams coordinators running this thing cause it’s a group effort. And then having a guy like Sark that’s willing to say, ‘Let’s do it, yeah, let’s go block this punt.'”

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