2017 Season Preview: Coaching

Seth Littrell did such a swell job that he earned a raise.

Littrell and company did not lose as many games as they should have and that was good. Some of it was the conference, and some was luck, but the rest is rightly attributed to the staff. So they are deserving of their raise and their new gigs respectively.

There is a line of thinking among the Littrell skeptics that his performance was replacement-level and that selling your ideas to a team that went 1-11 is not the most difficult task. This is not completely unreasonable. Crisis change is the easiest flavor of change to sell, and the staff often pulled the “1-11” card on the players when motivating — “That kind of attitude gets you 1-11 right there”. The real work was in in restocking and organizing the roster. The staff showed an eye for evaluation as they picked up contributors even late into fall practice — Jenkins, Hood — securing season-changing talent on either side of the ball.

The challenge now is building on the momentum, blending in the new blood, and keeping the message fresh.

Littrell and OC Graham Harrell will try to show that the offense is wide-open, and is a version of the Air Raid instead of just telling us. While the turnovers and mistakes that plagued the offense last season are generally in the category of ‘coaching’, it takes more than a season to improve the roster and coach up players. QB Mason Fine will have higher expectations put upon him, an we will be able to evaluate Harrell as a QB developer. Harrell is a Texas CFB legend — if not a national one — and his challenge will be in translating that to Fine. It is a more difficult job than most expect.

We should expect to see a smarter team, and not one that manages only to play hard.

To that end, the defense now only has one man running the show: Troy Reffett, the 335 Stack guru who wanted a more aggressive defense than former DC Mike Ekeler was comfortable with. Everyone from Littrell to former defensive players say the new scheme will be more aggressive and exotic.

New faces Chuck Langston, Jeff Koonz, Marc Yellock, and Marty Biagi have some relatively big shoes to fill. While a 5-8 season is not something a coach is particularly proud of, the outgoing coaches all moved up and out partly in recognition of the quality performance they put in. They were generally well-liked all around.

This staff’s self-proclaimed strength is competency in development and having an eye for evaluating talent. As NT has drifted toward the lower levels of the recruiting big boards, this needs to be true for continued success in Denton. The newly stocked roster did not make headlines on national signing day, but it did bring in some fresh recruits with lots of talent at key positions. We may not see the full payoff for their recruitment efforts this season, but we should see some of the new talent shine early on offense.