AUSTIN, Texas — As Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian likes to note, one trait that made his former mentor Nick Saban so successful was his ability to adapt to changes in the college football landscape. With seismic shifts happening from the one-time transfer waiver to the transfer portal to name, image, and likeness, Sarkisian is adjusting with the times.
On the support staff, that meant creating a new General Manager role and promoting several staffers following the departure of Director of Player Personnel Billy Glasscock to Ole Miss last week.
“We made some adjustments in our recruiting department. Like I said, you have to be adaptable in this day and age of college football and I think now more than ever, we’ve got to make sure that that we’ve got a strong foundation in place in that department. So to promote Brandon Harris to General Manager, John Michael Jones to Director of Player Personnel, Taylor Searels to Director of Recruiting, and Kyndal Perry to Director of Recruiting Operations, I think keeps the foundation of our recruiting department where it needs to be,” said Sarkisian on Wednesday.
“I think now more than ever, because of high school recruiting, the portal recruiting, the relationships we need to have with the families is critical, but couldn’t be more excited for for those four, and what they’ve given to the program in their time here and the opportunity to reward them I think is the way I would love to hire — I love to hire from within. I think that that’s giving people an opportunity for growth in your program and all of them have definitely done that.”
With Perry’s old role of Recruiting Operations Coordinator now open, Sarkisian expects to make several more additions from outside the program.
The most significant decision by Sarkisian was affording Harris room for growth and addressing the need to rethink what leading a personnel department looks like with the changes to the sport.
“I think so many times in college football, it used to always be Director of Player Personnel, and that’s fair, and that’s what John Michael got elevated to that role, when you’re really assessing talent, looking at talent, looking at your roster and things of that nature, but a general manager is so much more now. When you start talking about transfer portal, you start talking about NIL, you start talking about relationships with players, you start talking about really managing the roster at a little bit of a higher level,” said Sarkisian.
A quarterback at LSU and North Carolina, Harris joined the Texas staff in 2019 as an assistant running backs coach before moving into the Director of Recruiting role when Bryan Carrington left for USC in 2021. Harris has declined to pursue other opportunities on at least two occasions — former running backs coach Stan Drayton offered him the Director of Player Personnel role at Temple when he took over the program in late 2021 and Sean McVay had interviewed Harris for a role as an assistant quarterbacks coach earlier that year.
When Sarkisian arrived on the Forty Acres in early 2021 and first met with Harris, the two quickly established a rapport, leading to the initial promotion for the Louisiana native and a relationship that has developed over the ensuing years.
“You’re trying to assess the current staff, you’re trying to assess who we’re bringing in and Brandon and I just kind of hit it off. I don’t know if it was the quarterbacks in us — we were kind of speaking the same language,” said Sarkisian. “His perception of players I thought was very impressive for a young guy. His perception of character, I thought was very impressive for a young guy. His ability to communicate, I thought was really incredible. Our relationship has grown over three years now and so I felt like the time was right for him to assume this role.”
The increasing demands on head coaches have forced another type of adaptation — an increased level of trust in delegating to assistant coaches or members of the support staff that rests on the understanding that those coaches or staffers can speak in the same voice as the head coach, an ability that Harris possesses.
“I wanted to make sure that I had somebody in that role that that I was connected to on another level and I think my time with Brandon has allowed me to do that,” said Sarkisian. “I think he thinks a lot like me, which is important — as much as I try to kind of oversee it all, I want to make sure if I can’t be in a meeting that somebody is thinking and speaking on my behalf that is on the same wavelength as me.”
“I just couldn’t be more excited,” Sarkisian continued. “I think he’s a rock star in our profession and he’s gonna be in high-level roles for a long time.”