Two weeks after Bo Davis left for the LSU Tigers, the Texas Longhorns have finally found their new defensive line coach as Steve Sarkisian is hiring Miami Dolphins assistant defensive line coach Kenny Baker, according to a report from 247Sports on Thursday. Other outlets confirmed the hire, including ESPN.
On Tuesday, five days after the news broke, Texas officially announced the hire of Baker.
“Kenny came highly recommended from people in the industry I really respect, and I had a great time talking with him during the interview process. He’ll be an awesome addition to our staff,” said Sarkisian in a statement released by the school. “He brings a ton of energy, experience, and passion for the job, and I know our players, coaches and staff will love working with him. Everywhere he’s been, the defenses he’s helped coach have played at a high level, and they’ve all been aggressive, attacking defenses like ours here. Kenny has a tremendous track record of developing players and being a teacher of the game, and he has coached a lot of outstanding defensive lineman while working in high school, college, and the NFL. He checks all the boxes as a coach, will be a tremendous developer of men and will fit in great with us. We’re so excited to have Kenny on board and can’t wait to get him to Austin and get him started.”
During Baker’s season as the assistant defensive line coach in Miami, the Dolphins led the NFL in quarterback hits (131) and knockdowns (72), an aggressive defensive attack that registered third-most sacks in the league (56) and tied for eighth with 27 forced turnovers, including at least one turnover in 12-straight games to end the season, the best in the NFL. The 56 sacks by Miami in 2023 shattered the franchise record by recording a sack in every game of 2023, including multiple sacks in nine straight games with defensive tackle Zach Sieler setting a team record for sacks by a defensive tackle with 10 and fellow defensive tackle Christian Wilkins also breaking the previous defensive tackle sack mark with nine.
“What an awesome opportunity this is, and I couldn’t be more excited. First and foremost, it’s The University of Texas. It has a history, tradition and standard of excellence that any coach would dream of being associated with. As a longtime fan of college football who has followed Texas from afar, I’ve always appreciated how they do things the right way and are so well respected. What a privilege and honor it is to come to Austin and be part of the Longhorn Football program and this great university. It’s incredible for my family, too, we all can’t wait to get started and connect with the Longhorn community,” said Baker.
“I’m really excited to be working with Coach Sark. He’s accomplished so much in his coaching career, and what he’s done in bringing Texas back and building the culture here is evident. When he reached out, I couldn’t have been more excited, and it was a no-brainer that I wanted the job. But after getting to know him and his staff, I knew what they had going on here was something I definitely wanted to be a part of. That’s a great group who have a passion for coaching, teaching and developing men. Those are all things that I value greatly, too, and have been ingrained in me by my father, who was my high school principal, and my mother, who was my elementary school teacher. Playing a part in that for the exceptional student-athletes that come to Texas is truly a blessing.”
A Georgia native who was a three-year starter and team captain at Gardner-Webb, Baker spent one season with the Dolphins after 11 years coaching in college and three years at the high school level. Baker broke into the college ranks at Berry College in 2013 where he served as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach before spending five seasons at Mercer. In 2019, Baker was at Chattanooga prior to three years at Western Kentucky.
With the Hilltoppers, Baker’s defensive line helped Western Kentucky finish second in Conference USA with 32 sacks in 2022. During the previous year, Baker coached Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year DeAngelo Malone, who recorded 88 tackles (the most among FCS defensive lineman), 16.5 tackles for loss (first in the conference), and eight sacks (second in the conference). Malone was a third-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
After Baker’s hire was announced by Texas, the new defensive line coach hit the recruiting trail for the Longhorns in the Houston area, visiting Cy-Fair prospect Landon Rink, an important target in the 2025 recruiting class.
The pressure on Baker to recruit at a high level will be immediate after Texas lost 2024 signee D’antre Robinson following the departure of Davis and needs to add both quantity at quality along the interior defensive line since the 2023 class only included one signee.