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Texas adds three special assistants to the head coach

Each phase has a new special assistant, including former Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst working with the offense.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

When former special assistant to the head coach Gary Patterson left the Texas Longhorns program this spring after a year on the Forty Acres, head coach Steve Sarkisian wasn’t positive whether he would replace Patterson or add other special assistants.

With the remainder of the 2023 recruiting class joining the team for summer conditioning, Texas has added special assistants on defense and special teams, along with the reported hire of former Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, assembling the most experienced support staff since Sarkisian arrived in Austin.

“I never close the door on those types of positions — there’s a lot of a lot of really good coaches that for whatever reason, sometimes are out of work for a year,” Sarkisian said in March. “So, keep the line of communication open. Some guys are still trying to figure out what they want to do and if this is something they want to do, and if it’s a good fit, we’ll bring them in, but again, you just try to keep a lot of communication open. And like I said, you can never have enough good people as long as they’re bought into the role, because the role is different, right?

“You go from being a head coach or a coordinator and now you come in as an analyst type and special assistant type. That’s different. Shoot, I did it for a year. It’s definitely different, but there’s a lot of benefits on that side of it to look at, how things are done from a different lens, but there’s a lot of benefit for us to when you get a lot of expertise that can walk into the building.”

The most notable addition of expertise comes with the hire of Chryst, a Madison native and Wisconsin alum who was fired last October after the Badgers started 0-3 in conference play. Chryst finished his head coaching career at Wisconsin with an impressive 67-26 record, including a 6-1 record in bowl games, three of which were New Year’s Six bowls, two outright first-place finishes in the Big Ten West division, and another shared division title. In 2016 and 2017, Chryst was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Chryst also spent three seasons as the head coach at Pitt following seven seasons as an assistant at Wisconsin. In 2011, Chryst’s final season as the offensive coordinator in Madison, he was named a Frank Broyles Award finalist, the award given annually to the nation’s top assistant.

A year earlier, Chryst and then-offensive line coach Bob Bostad had turned down job offers from Texas head coach Mack Brown, who was seeking to replace longtime offensive coordinator Greg Davis and longtime offensive line coach Mac McWhorter. Both Chryst and Bostad decided to remain at Wisconsin as Brown settled on Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels.

Chryst played quarterback for Wisconsin and often coached the position as an assistant and a coordinator. And even though he’s probably best known for his physical rushing attacks, the Badgers averaged 34.1 points and 416.3 yards per game when he was the offensive coordinator before becoming more defense-oriented when he became head coach.

The schematic area where Chryst could make the biggest difference for the Longhorns is his experience running GT Counter and wide zone, including pin-and-pull variations.

To help with the defense, Sarkisian hired Payam Saadat, a former Washington State linebacker in the 1990s whose experience as an assistant is mostly at the FCS level with stints as the defensive coordinator at Cal Poly, Central Washington, and most recently Portland State, where he was also the associate head coach from 2019 until 2022.

In 2004, Saadat was hired as the linebackers coach under Rich Ellerson at Cal Poly, eventually landing his first role as a defensive coordinator in 2006. When Ellerson took over as the Army head coach, he brought Saadat with him, the only FBS job Saadat has held in his career.

Saadat’s time working under Ellerson is most notable because Ellerson began developing the double eagle flex defense while working in the CFL in the 1980s before refining it as the “Desert Swarm” at Arizona under head coach Dick Tomey, who served as the Texas defensive coordinator in 2004.

Playing the quick defensive end position in 1993, Teddy Bruschi recorded 20 sacks playing in the double eagle flex defense, an aggressive attack that uses eight men in the back while relying on the cornerbacks to play press coverage with only a single high safety. At Army, undersized defensive end Josh McNary finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in sacks (28) and tackle for loss (49). With two double-digit sack seasons, McNary is the only player in school history to accomplish that feat.

On special teams, Joe DeCamilis is a two-time Super Bowl champion with three decades of experience. An All-American wrestler at Wyoming, DeCamilis broke into professional football as an administrative assistant for his father-in-law Dan Reeves. After serving as an assistant special teams coach with the Denver Broncos for two seasons, Reeves hired him as the special teams coach for the New York Giants when Reeves took that job in 1993. DeCamilis eventually went on to coach special teams for the Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, and Los Angeles Rams.