Sarkisian hires Payam Saadat to replace Gary Patterson

It looks as if Texas football head coach Steve Sarkisian has found his replacement for the recently-departed former special assistant to the head coach Gary Patterson. According to the Texas staff directory on, the special assistant to the head coach role that was previously occupied by Patterson is now shown as being filled by Payam Saadat.

Saadat is a longtime college coach that has nearly three decades of experience at the Division I level. Before he was a Division 1 college coach, though, Saadat was a linebacker for the Washington State Cougars in the early 1990s. That led him to get his first coaching gig, as the linebackers coach at Santa Monica College in 1995.

He started his college football coaching journey at the Division I level as an inside linebackers coach in 1996 and 1997. In 1997, Cal Poly was one of the better Division I-AA teams in the country, finishing up with a record of 10-1 under head coach Larry Walsh.

After spending two years at Cal Poly, Saadat took a job on staff at Western Washington, which he held until 2003. Saadat held various roles on Western Washington’s staff during his five years with the program, including LB/DL coach, special teams coordinator, and recruiting coordinator. Another role that Saadat held during his time at Western Washington was assistant strength and conditioning coach.

Saadat would hold the title of certified strength and conditioning coach from 1998-2008, which included the time he spent on staff again at Cal Poly in the mid-to-late 2000s.

During Saadat’s time at Western Washington, the defense rapidly improved in the late 1990s. In 1999, Western Washington boasted the third-best rushing defense in Division II and the 15th-best overall defense.

Texas football adds longtime college defensive coach Payam Saadat as special assistant

Saadat also had a positive impact on the special teams unit during his time at Western Washington, as it ranked in the top 15 in Division II multiple times in the early 2000s specifically in terms of kickoff return yardage and punt return yardage.

Ahead of the 2004 season, Saadat returned to Cal Poly in 2004 as a linebackers assistant. He helped to coach up the 2004 Buck Buchanan Award winner in All-American linebacker Jordan Beck. Cal Poly also rapidly improved as an entire defensive unit during the 2004 season, ranking first in Division I-AA in rushing defense.

For his efforts in 2004, Saadat was promoted to a full-time assistant coach. He would later become the defensive coordinator at Cal Poly in 2006 after Saadat helped that defense to another stellar year in 2005.

In 2005, Cal Poly led Division I-AA in total team sacks (62), which also happened to be a program record at the time. Cal Poly would remain one of the top 25 best in total defense in Division I-AA from 2006-2008, which encompassed the rest of Saadat’s time there as the defensive coordinator.

Following another successful stint at Cal Poly, Saadat followed head coach Rick Ellerson to join the Army Black Knights ahead of the 2009 season. He was on staff as Army’s co-defensive coordinator from 2009-2013, helping the Black Knights to some of their best seasons in the last 15 years on that side of the ball.

After Saadat’s stint at Army came to an end in 2013, he spent two years as Central Washington’s defensive coordinator (2014-2015) and then two more years at Cal Poly (2016-2017).

The last position that Saadat held prior to coming to Texas was as Portland State’s defensive coordinator. He started at Portland State in 2018, helping the Vikings post some stellar defensive stats during his first three years at the helm.

Portland State allowed fewer than 15 points per game during Saadat’s first three years as the defensive coordinator.

Saadat’s experience in the double eagle flex system at Army

Army ranked in the top 30 in the FBS in total defense and in turnover margin in 2009 and 2010. He helped to scheme up Army’s “double eagle flex” defense in the early 2010s. This is a defensive system that was originally pioneered by Dick Tomey at Arizona in the early 1990s.

In short, the double eagle flex defense is based on a 4-3 defensive scheme that places eight men in the box while running Cover 1 in the secondary. This defensive system is designed to confuse and disorient opposing offenses by throwing an array of different blitz schemes and pressure packages at them with a front seven that emphasizes athleticism and discipline.

Every linebacker must be able to effectively find the football while closing any gaps that open up along the defensive front. And the defensive line and strong safety are responsible for holding their gaps and making sure they can disrupt any blocking schemes the offense throws at them.

There are a lot of different delayed blitz schemes and stunts up front that are thrown at opposing offenses in the double eagle flex defense. The ultimate goal of the double eagle flex defense is to be able to have all gaps accounted for in run defense while drumming up some quick pressure in the pass rush.

I will say that the very nature of this defensive scheme, given that it often employs an eight-man box (thus isolating the corners on the outside) does put a lot of pressure on the DBs in pass coverage. The field and boundary corners are isolated one-on-one, with just one safety to provide help over the top.

Similarities between Pete Kwiatkowski’s defensive concepts and the double eagle flex system

Two aspects of the double eagle flex that stick out to me that are similar in concept between Pete Kwiatkowski’s defensive philosophy and the double eagle flex system have to do with the coverage and the emphasis of being aggressive up front.

When he’s got the ideal personnel in place in his defense, PK likes to throw a wide variety of different blitz schemes from the lineman, edge players, and linebackers to drum up pressure on opposing quarterbacks. PK’s defense also puts a lot of pressure on the corners that are often isolated in coverage on the outside.

Given how Patterson was able to have an impact on some of the different blitz packages and stunts that PK and the Longhorns ran last season, I think Saadat can add similar value to help Sark and the defensive staff in game-planning and preparation this fall.

Sark is clearly still putting an emphasis on finding new and more creative ways to drum up pressure on opposing quarterbacks while maintaining a strong front seven in run defense with the two special assistant hires he’s made the last two offseasons. I think this move can help Texas continue to improve the defense under PK, even with how impactful the Patterson departure is.