FRISCO, TX — Seth Littrell was smiling, in a black suite augmented with a green tie, laughing, patting coaches on the shoulder and smiling at the various people that came up to him to wish him well. “He has been on vacation” said Mason Fine, later, so that may partly explain his general bounce.
The highest paid coach in the league with the Heisman “candidate” on the roster and a shiny new contract. Life is good for Littrell but there is work to be done and consistency to be had. Adversity needs to be overcome, situations need to be handled and expectations managed on a day-to-day level.
If you have heard Littrell talk pretty much ever, you heard what happened on Wednesday. The tidbits of new information were that (1) he was itching to get back to being more involved in the offense and (2) these tweaks were coming anyway. Graham Harrell taking the USC job presented an opportunity for North Texas to display some of the things Littrell did at his previous stops.
“I want to show you every formation I have and see if you can play every formation I have.”
This is good news for the folks that noticed the occasional funk and dry spell — those things that had Littrell and Fine talking about consistency so often. The total numbers for NT were great, but the second-halves against LT and UAB were game-killers.
Tempo, and TEs. That is the proposed solution for the Mean Green. “I always want to be aggressive. Sometimes we were calling it to safe.”
This is in no way a knock on the previous coordinator, he insists, as sometimes that aggression is the wrong choice. “I got to know when to pull it back, as well. W”
The neverending quest for self-actualization at North Texas is under way.
“I’ve always been involved, but I’ve been kind of getting the itch to get, you know, more involved. Bodie [Reeder, the new OC] is a guy with a lot more knowledge of the kind of stuff I’ve done in the past.”
Often NT was simply one play from breaking things open. Mason Fine famously fumbled deep in UAB territory. The Blazers scored on that drive all but killing the game. Does tempo solve that?
“It does. Some of our play action stuff. When I’m taking about that adversity stuff its getting in a rhythm. Sometimes calling it too safe. We’re not perfect as coaches as well. We just need to have faith [in each other]”
“Sometimes yeah we have that five-yard out, but damn it let’s hit the deep post.”
For an offense that is going to be expected to score a ton for the team to overcome the losses on the defensive side of the ball, letting up on the brakes seems like an ideal strategy.
Mason Fine is at the peak of his powers, the backfield is full of talented game-breakers and the pass-catchers are loaded with talent and experience.
Protecting Mason Fine is priority number one. You can’t chuck it deep when there is a defensive lineman inside of Fine’s chest.
“How well are we protecting up front? A lot goes into it [ being aggressive].”
That aggression will be displayed on both sides of the ball.
“We are going to be aggressive on defense.”
Defensive coordinator Troy Reffett and Littrell have been in the lab trying to come up with solutions to the problems before the team: graduated LBs EJ Ejiya, Brandon Garner and DBs Nate Brooks, Kemon Hall. The graduate transfers should help if they are up to the level of the previous group.
Littrell and Reffett have a proven track record of identifying quality DBs — Eric Jenkins and Kemon Hall were both graduate transfers that held the mantle of Best DB on the Team in their time.
“Its our job as coaches to put them in the best positions. At times we put them in bad situations and they make unbelievable plays and no one knows. Sometimes we put them in great situations and they get beat. Part of coaching.”
The league has about six or seven teams that can reasonably make an argument to claim the title come early December, and North Texas is among them yet again. Is there pressure? None like they put on themselves says the coach.
“But at the end of the day, this is a fun ass game. Just go out there and play and have fun.”
Maybe that is why he was smiling so much.