On Monday afternoon, the first news emerged about a Texas Longhorns staff member that new head coach Steve Sarkisian will not retain — strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight.
Source: Texas strength coach Yancy McKnight has been informed he's been dismissed from the school.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) January 4, 2021
Horns247 confirmed the report a short time later.
A Missouri native, McKnight played offensive line for Missouri Southern, then got his start in strength and conditioning at Oklahoma State and then Louisiana Tech before crossing paths with former head coach Tom Herman at Rice. When Herman went to Iowa State, McKnight followed and spent six seasons there before rejoining Herman when he got his first head coaching job at Houston. Herman then brought McKnight with him to Texas.
Here’s how McKnight’s bio describes his success with the Longhorns and at previous stops:
In their second offseason, the Longhorns went from having 26 guys in 2017 that could power clean 300 pounds to 54 guys. Thirteen Longhorns entered the season squatting at least 600 pounds, while only three players were doing so in 2017.
In the first offseason under McKnight, the Longhorns lost 525 pounds of body fat while gaining 385 pounds of lean muscle mass. The team increased their vertical jump average to 30.3”, power clean average to 279 pounds, back squat average to 467 pounds and bench press average to 315.
McKnight came to Texas after spending two seasons as director for football sports performance under Herman at the University of Houston. In that time, which included two NFL Drafts, McKnight has worked with nine players who went on to the NFL, including 2017 draft picks LB Tyus Bowser (Ravens), DB Howard Wilson (Browns) and DB Brandon Wilson (Bengals). Six Cougars made rosters as part of the 2016 NFL Draft class. CB William Jackson, III (Bengals), LB Elandon Roberts (Patriots) and WR Demarcus Ayers (Steelers) were all drafted, while RB Kenneth Farrow (Chargers), DS Nolan Frese (Seahawks) and S Adrian McDonald (Chargers) signed as free agents.
Whatever the view of McKnight’s work at Texas, it’s rare for a new head coach to keep the previous strength and conditioning coach because that hire is so important to offseason conditioning, during which the strength coach is the voice for the head coach. From that standpoint, this isn’t a surprising decision — there’s a level of trust that has to exist between a head coach and strength and conditioning coach that is much different than the trust the head coach has with his assistants. It has to be absolute.
What isn’t clear yet is whether Sarkisian will make a hire connected to his time at Alabama or attempt to hire his old strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis, who worked with him at Washington and USC. Lewis is currently with the Seattle Seahawks, but there have been concerns about the number of injuries suffered by his players.
So that could complicate a reunion between Sarkisian and Lewis.