North Texas Begins The Pandemic Season With Questions: 2020 MGN Season Preview

Nothing about this season is normal. I cannot tell you with confidence that this season will end on the scheduled date. At every level of education, there are varying levels of process for reopening. Some are more cautious than others. At the big time college level we have cancellations and postponements and also some powering through it.

CUSA will proceed without Old Dominion, whose administration decided to sit this one out. Seth Littrell is a football lifer and for his kind of people, returning to some semblance of ‘normalcy’ is a relief. His demeanor in the week-one press-conference was evidence of this. He looked something approaching happy.

That mood is no doubt shattered, however, as his quarterback coach Tate Wallis was charged with a felony late Thursday stemming from his time coaching high school in Argyle. Wallis already had a reputation that needed rehabilitation after his time at Baylor under the notorious Art Briiles. For now Wallis has been placed on administrative leave and is out on bail.

In this country, you are legally innocent until proven otherwise, but in the court of public opinion, the standard is quite lower. All indications are that head coach Seth Littrell will need to find someone else to take the role of molding the young quarterback room into shape.

North Texas graduated Mason Fine, who rewrote the passing records at North Texas as expected of the first good QB of the Air Raid era in Denton. A big part of the job — maybe the most important part — of a modern football coach is finding a quarterback. Seth Littrell found a gem in Fine and has had four years to find his successor. The week one roster shows Austin Aune (Awwn-ee) and Jason Bean as co-starters. That could be a little gamesmanship on the part of the staff or a message to the players about winning their spot free and clear, or any number of things. To us, it means there is no clear winner of the spot.

Last season ended in major disappointment. Mason Fine’s senior season was wasted. North Texas had a new offensive play caller that was supposed to bring some dynamism to the play-calling, and a little more aggression in the game plans. Instead, NT produced big yards in some games but had the same trouble with consistency. The young wide receivers did not produce early and NT lost some silly games.

The defense was aggressive but less successful than the 2018 version. The sacks and turnovers-forced were down and that pretty much made all the difference. Neither side of the ball was amazing, and we expected a step back defensively. KD Davis and Tyreke Davis (no relation) came along nicely at the interior linebacking spots but were not up to the level of their predecessors — a big ask, but stating facts. The defensive line had trouble getting to the quarterback two years running but in 2018 the senior linebacking duo EJ Ejiya and Brandon Garner were great at getting to the QB. Last year’s corner combination were also not up to the same standard as the Nate Brooks and Kemon Hall. Again, not surprising as those guys had a little NFL time. 1

Both coordinators were fired after the 4-8 finish. Troy Reffett was probably done harshly, but that’s the game.

Before the pandemic changed the course of the world in March, the biggest challenge for head coach Littrell was in rebuilding the roster and keeping the program moving in a positive direction. He swung and missed in a transitionary year, with a good quarterback. How much would the fan base tolerate back-to-back bowl-less seasons?

That is a seemingly ridiculous question to those of you with memories of the 2006-2015 North Texas football seasons, sure. The truth is that scrutiny comes for us all and even a coach who has won trophies for North Texas was ousted and criticized. I am of course, referring to Darrell Dickey. He won a bowl game and was fired after a couple of (bad) losing seasons. Seth Littrell has zero bowl trophies in his case, and no league titles in there, either.

All the good will he won nationally for turning around this program can be used up with yet-another disappointing season. Those are relative terms, however. One team’s 9-win season is hailed as amazing and another fires their coach over it. Therein lies the silver lining of this pandemic season. Assuming that NT can get through this year with no COVID-19-related scenarios, simply completing a season with a good effort will likely be accepted as a job well-done.

Again, we still do not know if there will be a college football season this fall. We do know that it will not look like anything we have seen in recent memory. The stakes are high — literally life and death in some cases — and the politics and money involved complicate even the most straightforward analysis. 

In all that confusion, there is the preparation and development to consider. The job of the coaching staff is to prepare and build a program to be competitive in the league and beyond. These last four years have been successful relative to the past, but only mildly so to the rest of the country. 

Time weathers away the details, leaving only the major accomplishments. We have seen record-breaking offense, three bowl appearances 2, and one special team play. You may or may not remember the Fine Miracle vs UTSA. Not so many people watched the end of that game, and it remains wildly popular with those that did (with myself, too) but I think more remember the double goal line stand vs Rice in 2013. 

In any case that is roughly the accomplishment list of the last four years. This is normal. You win trophies because people don’t recall much of the detail. They remember you winning/losing a bowl game, the fun they had, and that’s about it. 

This season was not likely to be whole lot of fun on the surface. If you enjoy the development and the challenge of coaching through a transitionary year, the development process in building a team to compete for the future then this was going to be lots of fun. If you like to see wins and bowl wins and record-breaking seasons, this was likely not the year for you.

With that in mind, let us set the expectations for the season.

Offense

Littrell fired Bodie Reeder one season after hiring him. Fine had praised him and Littrell had raved about his ability to understand ‘his’ philosophy. There were shades of the aggression and down-field focus in some games — Fine threw 12 touchdowns in a two-game stretch, for instance — but overall NT had problems being in sync. The young receivers looked unsure early, and the experienced receivers were either hurt or not making the grade.

The bright spots were at running back, where Tre Siggers ran over everyone, looking mean and unstoppable. NT had talented backs but had trouble in short-yardage.

This season we will still see a spread-style, air-raid informed system that makes time to get the ball to the backs via handoff. The air-raid system is a balanced attack in design, but Littrell differs from new Mississipi State head coach Mike Leach in that he likes his running backs to run the ball instead of catching it. 3 NT also will mix in more H-back and TE stuff than the Leach look, but this is common among modern football attacks otherwise.

The Quarterbacks

Austin Aune is an athlete who played a little baseball in the professional ranks before coming back to football. He has talent, and was a fall-practice wonder in 2019. We haven’t seen much of him to judge.

Jason Bean is someone we have seen. He has wheels, and a good arm. He looked poor compared to Fine but then again Mason Fine was a turnover machine his first season at the controls. Last year the internet fan base groaned every time Littrell rolled out Fine when the game was decided. It was valuable Bean Learning Time and it was wasted.

You want your air-raid QB to get the ball out quickly, and on target, giving his playmakers grass and opportunity to make plays. You want a high completion percentage — 65%+ — and a nice touchdown-to-interception ratio. The great ones will make plays on throws that otherwise shouldn’t be attempted, and can be relied upon to throw every time out with little fear of mistakes.

Against the first couple of foes, we want solid games with solid numbers, something like 22/28 289 2-0. 4 This should be Bean’s job given his time as number-one backup and repetitions, but Aune has apparently impressed.

Kason Martin and a handful of other guys are on the roster. Any of them could develop or step up soon — Aune was an “other” guy last season — but right now these are the two primary options. There have been worse quarterbacks in this league that have won games so it is nothing to stress over. NT will have a fighting chance if everyone is executing the system, but we won’t know that we have a game-winner at this position until it is winning time and he steps up.

The Offensive Line

The line is another makeshift, rotated affair. Manase Mose is back and moved to center. His predecessor (his brother) had trouble snapping the ball. Was that due to Fine’s height? Maybe. In any case the ball needs to be delivered on a dime, every time. The rest of the group is a mix of old and new, transfers and homegrown. The crucible will be going against the good defensive lines in this league. Some of the players that fans loved to complain about in recent years have moved on, so there is at least that. We will not have to read and hear the same complaints about the same people.

In this offense, pass protection is paramount, but Littrell wants some classic offensive line push to go with it. At its best, NT has been a pass-first, but run-best offense. In 2017, Jeff Wilson covered up some mistakes that the line made and his replacements have done well but mostly take what is there. The talented group of backs (more on them below) can all make plays and there is a good mix that can turn something-from-nothing.

The lack of time together is hardest on the line, which is five guys moving in sync and reacting to varying threats with smoothness and fluidity. If the ball is getting out quickly on pass plays, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. If the run lanes stay open long enough for the quick guys to get through, we should be fine.

The real challenge is on short yardage, where NT has struggled. Littrell prefers to get those yards on the ground and NT has been okay, looking only at the aggregate numbers5. In must-win, must-get-this-yard moments, NT was meh and that made all the difference. Converting 4th-and-1s in the first quarter is fun, failing on those in the 4th is how you lose games. The numbers say you went 1/2 and you can feel good when writing your resumé without fully conveying the truth of the matter.

NT recruited for the line the last few years and this is the time for that to bear some fruit. Cole Brown, Anterrious Gray, Chris Cassidy, and John Brunner are among the guys that are on the two deep that came in the last two classes. Brunner and Cassidy came from run-heavy high schools.

That can mean something but everyone at this level is in learn mode. North Texas under Littrell has done a nice job developing its players even through multiple staff changes. He has tried to develop his players while bringing in some JUCO guys for win-now mode. Offensive line takes the longest to develop but NT should start seeing some fruits of their labor in this area this season.

Receivers

In this offense the “X” and “Z” roles are the traditional wide receivers who are asked to get open vertically and make the tough catches down the field at about 15-20 yards. There is some variety here but these are the main things asked of this position. In the last two seasons Rico Bussey Jr did a great job of this. He was a great at run-after-catch stuff but really excelled at getting behind the defense for 20+ yard catches.

Last season Jyaire Shorter was inconsistent but showed the kind of potential that brings some excitement for this fall. He has the size and straight-ahead speed that is perfect for the role. Against Charlotte he caught three for 111 yards and 3 TDs. It was the perfect game. Ideally his average tally should be something like 5 catches 89 yards and about a score per game. That would put him right about Rico Bussey numbers if you don’t want to do the math.

Behind him on the depth chart is Greg White, a redshirt junior who has shown flashes of his talent. His development has been a little slower than we wanted, but it is there. You’ll notice everyone on this depth chart is some combination of tall, rangy, and with size. You have to be a good athlete to beat the corner deep, and have the range to pull down jump balls on the ‘6’ routes — those 4-vertical calls.

On the other side we have Deonte Simpson, and Austin Ogunmakin. The same applies here. Simpson caught a few passes and scored twice last season. If he is going to own the starting role, we want the same kind of production as from Shorter. In practice the defense will look to stop Shorter first and Simpson should be able to have a few opportunities against single coverage. Ogunmakin has the tools to do the same. Ideally there should be enough for everyone to shine. If NT is going up-temp they want WRs to step in with no let-up and the same productive ability.

The “A” or “H” (depending on what playbook you are looking at) is the inside slot receiver. This is the Wes Welker role. The ideal player is quick, precise in the route running, and has great vision and great hands. Everyone is supposed to “get open” as a primary directive and this position has the most grass on either side of him to do so. The senior Jaelon Darden is ideal in this role. He shone brightly last season, and has been a productive WR for all of his three years. He’ll be on the opposition defensive game plan every week and that puts more pressure on the young outside guys to produce.

Last season at Berkeley, Darden scored from a short pass to the flat. He did the same against nearly everyone he played against on the way to scoring in eight of the twelve games he which he played. In that Cal game the young outside wideouts did not have a great outing and the offense stalled on the final drive in a winnable game.

He should have a nice year, but he can easily be schemed out of the game if the outside WRs are not able to open things up or if the quarterback has tunnel vision. Shorter and Simpson have to make the safeties sit back and respect the deep ball so Darden can slice up the space underneath.

Behind Darden are Roderick Burns and Kaelon Jackson. They have talent and can be the next Darden, Michael Lawrence, Carlos Harris, et al.

Running Back

The ‘T’ spot is stacked with dudes that can go for 150 and 3 with no sweat. Typically, teams would focus on Fine and bring pressure or sit back with a couple of safeties allowing some running room. Teams will focus on the run game here and test the young QBs. There is a myth that air raid offenses do not run the ball well or enough. The truth is that they treat the tailback position as a playmaker and think they can get touches in the pass game and the traditional run game. Some creativity beyond handoffs may be in order for these guys to get the ball this season.

North Texas tried to get Jeff Wilson the ball on screens and short passes early in the Littrell era, but for whatever reason went away from that. Midway through 2016, Jeff Wilson was lining up in the pistol and went on to succeed. It was a way to get some size in the game and create good run lanes. Littrell likes the power run game mixed in with the inside and outside zone.

DeAndre Torrey, Tre’ Siggers, Oscar Adaway, and Nic Smith are all good backs. Siggers is the type that will seek contact and run through it. Torrey is the speed guy, and Smith is something like a combination. Evan Johnson is in the mix also, but he is going to make noise on special teams given the depth chart.

If there is a playmaker on offense, it will be here. We should define that first, I suppose. Lots of guys can score touchdowns. Lots of guys can sprint into the open field when the defense breaks down. Fewer guys can turn a 3-yard loss into a gain of 2, or turn a 5-yard out into a touchdown. That is play-making. Jeff Wilson could do that. Tre Siggers did that in spots last season.

Contrast that to some situations where a player needed to make a touch catch in traffic. It wasn’t an ideal through, or ideal placement, but it was catchable. Those kinds of areas are where plays can be made and the team can be improved.

Tight Ends and H-Backs

Jason Pirtle, Asher Alberding, Jake Roberts, cole Mcrary, Kyleb Howell are the tight ends and H-backs. They’ll be in there to bring size and some catching ability to the offense. In the BYU system that Mike Leach adapted his offense, the routes a “Y” ran were traditionally the tight end’s. Those Y-cross routes, Y-Stick and the like were for tight ends before Leach decided a receiver should and could be running those.

We have seen a lot of pistol and some heavier shotgun looks for North Texas, with the idea being to supplement the pass protection for Mason Fine while giving the run game some leverage. If Jason Bean or Austin Aune can fend for themselves — so to speak — in pass protection, the H-back becomes another weapon, especially in play-action.

It also makes it easy to go up-tempo, as a versatile personnel grouping allows both run and pass from similar looks. Littrell likes this versatility so expect Pirtle (a converted WR) to get some run 6.

Defense

I will write again that Troy Reffett was probably unfairly treated. His defense was always aggressive and attacking, and that paid off when NT got to the QB and didn’t when it fell short. NT never could get a great pass rusher in Denton to help the corners out.

Clint Bowen is the new guy and by looking at the names of the positions, the defense is not overly different. Every style of defense has an ideal personnel and every coach outside of Clemson and Alabama have to make adjustments for personnel7.

There are a few things that are universal, however. A good defensive line is the core of any good defense. They are closest to the ball and can disrupt the pass and run game. As quarterbacks have evolved to the most important position on the field, the ability to disrupt that QB with a great pass rush has increased accordingly.

North Texas under Reffett was good at getting to the QB in 2018 and bad at getting to him in 2019. The defensive line couldn’t generate the pressure with the front four, and that was partly because the personnel was aimed at stopping the run and one guy — the JACK — being the designated pass rush guy. The pass rush was supposed to be supplemented by the blitzing linebackers and safeties. The interior linebackers in 2018 were great at getting to the QB while in 2019 they were not.

I should clarify — I mean in crucial situations like 3rd downs and clear passing downs. NT struggled to get off the field in big moments, often giving up huge plays after great 1st and 2nd down performances.

Outside, in 2018, Nate Brooks and Kemon Hall did a great job locking up the receivers enough to allow for those sacks. They won a lot of one-on-one battles but did get eaten up sometimes. That’s the nature of the position and the role they played. Last year Cam Johnson and Nick Harvey were not as good as their predecessors but did okay in spots.

It looked like 2017, when NT had the same problem: a leaky secondary and a pass rush that was one second too late when it mattered most. That may be the ultimate reason for making a change: the defense was going to be more of the same. Bowen has two Ends, a Nose, and a Rush. The latter is equivalent to the Jack in the previous system but we will see how he differs in approach.

Every coach can scheme up exotic rush packages and clever disguises. They all have the same weakness: the players ability to execute these. In the end, the defense has to win their one-on-one battles, and the players need to have absorbed the scheme to the point of an unthinking execution of the base principles.

If you are too simple, you can be easily picked apart by a clever offense. If you are too complicated, you run the risk of a couple of your defensive backs arguing with each other after leaving a guy wide open.

Defensive Line

Caleb Colvin, Asher Frow, Kenneth Dotson, Davontae McCrae, Justin Booker-Brown, and Kortlin Rausaw are the Ends. We’ll see them on either side and sometimes on the interior depending on the situation. Colvin is a guy we all expect some things from. McCrae is a JUCO transfer and that means we should see some immediate production.

Dion Novil will start at Nose. He had a breakout season last year, making plays in the backfield. Dayton Leblanc, son of a defensive line coach is behind him and so is Tayshon Johnson.

Modern defense are very flexible and we will see lots of situational movement and rotation. Generally speaking, the default lineup will have one of the two ends being bulkier, as he has to handle the guard. The Rush end is mostly a pass rusher, but situationally he will be subbed out for a bulkier guy — in goal line or something. The other end is there for pass rush, but he is usually bigger than your Rush end to handle the run game also.

The Nose is a space-eater and typically will line up just off the ball. The others line up off that.

New guy McCrae is 256 lbs and plays End while Colvin is 289 and plays the other, bigger End position. Meanwhile Larry Nixon III and Joe Ozougwu, the Rush ends, are in the 220 range. We want the pass rush to primarily come from the Rush guys, and either get sacks or cause the QB to run into another oncoming pass-rusher.

The idea is mixing size and speed. Modern defenses are lighter and more flexible than those you saw in the late 90s and early 2000s and they have sacrificed a lot of bulk for quickness. Unfortunately, this has made them relatively vulnerable to a straight-forward, old-school straight-ahead rush attack. Football is a never-ending battle of tactics.

This back-and-forth is partly why you see lots of tight ends thriving in the modern pass game. They can be the extra physicality to help in the run game, while providing a big target against lighter defensive backs.

Defensively, the hybrid safeties, and hybrid linebackers are the answer. Mostly, everyone needs to be able to run and defend the pass while being solid against the run.

Linebackers

The Will, Mike, and Sam linebackers are so named because they are an easy way to remember Weak, Middle, and Strong. Traditionally the Sam was the bigger backer, while the Will was the lighter one. 8 The two-deep lists the Sam as more of a lighter guy which indicates he is not really a linebacker. We will discuss this later. Bowen started as a 4-3 coach, and that is what NT ran while he was here in 2011. This informs his terminology a great deal. At Kansas he had to adapt much like everyone else has and has mixed in some of the things that others were doing to stop the prolific Big 12 offenses. We’ll see some things that TCU did under Patterson, some of the Alex Grinch things that were on display at Oklahoma, and a little of the Iowa State 3-3-5.

We’ve mentioned previously that everyone runs multiple fronts in modern football. The key, again, is about teaching the finer points of the scheme and executing those. For all the criticism of Reffett’s scheme, the starting places to stand were not the ultimate issue. It was execution of the underlying philosophy that was the issue.

Bowen has a reputation of being a good teacher, so if his development as a coordinator mean that his 4-2-5/3-3-5 works, it won’t be because of where the players are standing when the ball is snapped, but how they work together to shut down the offense.

At Will and Mike we have Tyreke and KD Davis, respectively. They played the corresponding position in Reffett’s scheme last year and should be solid for the defense again. They flew around and made plays but got caught out early in the season trying to be too aggressive. They broke contain or left their assigned “gap” to try to make a better play. SMU cut back and got big yards because of this. Controlling the aggression is a good problem to have and they will learn and improve for the experience.

Behind them are Kevin Wood, a sophomore talent from Converse and the Murphy brothers from Dallas. All have talent and came in the recent classes. All told NT has some good talent in this area.

The “Sam” backer is not really a backer but a strong safety so we will discuss that in the next section.

Defensive Backs

Traditionally the corners do the coverage, while the strong safety supports the three (usually) linebackers in run support. The “free” safety is so named because he roughly corresponds to the quarter back. If everyone was matched up one-on-one, he would be the guy matching the QB.

As the pass game evolved, the “nickel” corner — meaning the “fifth” guy — became a de facto starter. In the college ranks we see much more variation and the 3-3-5 and 4-2-5 were two answers to the same question: how do we stay stout against the run and pass with limited talent?

Roughly speaking, the 3-3-5 or ‘stack’ guys were old 3-4 guys while the 4-2-5 guys are old 4-3 guys. There is a long history there that we will not go into here but just know that both are doing the same thing just with different terminology and ideas about roles. A three-man front generally believes the big defensive guy should take up space and free the linebackers. The four-man front guys want their smaller guys to shoot the gaps with speed. Again, speaking generally here.

The stack guys generally bring more pressure and like to play cover-three — three deep defenders — while bringing linebackers from unpredictable angles. The 4-2-5 coordinators like to get pressure with the four-man front and play two-safeties high. But everyone steals a bit from everyone else.

It looks like Bowen is planning to bring the latter version here. Interestingly, one reason NT switched to Reffett is that the four-man front that won the 2013 bowl was unable to get to the QB in 2014 and 2015. They wanted someone to bring more pressure instead of sitting back and getting sliced up while sitting in a two-high look.

Cam Johnson is moved from corner last year to field/free safety in this look. Jevin Murray is behind him. The “free” or “field” safety has to cover a lot more ground and will be responsible to defend deep. Cam Johnson should be able to make this switch fairly easily. He has size and good enough athleticism.

Makyle Sanders played safety last year and is the SAM in this look. Javier Neal and Alex Morris are listed as Safeties and have the body type for making tackles with the occasional pass-defense responsibility. They will play closer to the line, looking to do run support and blow up underneath routes.

Jordan Rucker, Deshawn Gaddie, Dorian Morris are the left corners and Quinn Whitlock, Upton Stout, and Tavorice Weaver are the right corners. While there are a lot of man-responsibilities, I expect there will be a lot of quarters coverage and so these corners will need to be able to run and defend deep.

Keelan Crosby is the Boundary Safety and Jaxon Gibbs is behind him. Gibbs played the NICK in last year’s look which roughly corresponds to a hybrid safety/nickel corner. Again, depending on the circumstance you want all DBs to be able to cover man-to-man and step up and tackle.

Special

Ethan Mooney, and Zach Williams are handling kicking duties while Bernardo Rodriguez will punt. Former NT DC Mike Ekeler takes over for Marty Biagi as coordinator. Biagi got lots of deserved kudos for his schemes, but his group also allowed multiple big returns.

Schedule

9/5 – vs Houston Baptist – ESPN 3
9/19 – vs SMU – CBS Sports Net
9/26 – at Houston – TBD

10/3 – vs Southern Miss – Stadium
10/10 – vs Charlotte – ESPN+
10/17 – at Middle – Stadium
10/31 – at UTEP – CBS Sports Net

11/7 – vs LaTech – CBS Sports Net
11/14 – at UAB – Stadium
11/21 – vs Rice – ESPN+
11/28 – at UTSA – Stadium

In September, NT should handle Houston Baptist fairly easily with SMU and Houston being colossal struggles. A lot depends on the QB play and the development of the defense. I can envision a scenario where the defense carries an offense that is reliant on the run game and timely QB runs to carve out wins.

September Prediction: 1-2

October brings four conference opponents. Again, there is no telling what will happen in the world between then and now. This is all pulling thoughts out of the air. Southern Miss looked poor vs South Alabama on Thursday, getting outrun in the secondary and looked toothless on offense. They had a lot of transfers and players sitting out. Charlotte was the surprise last season and beat NT over there by a point. NT couldn’t stop them but scored easily. Fine had 5TDs and Shorter had a breakout game. NT should compete but this is a toss up. Middle looked bad at Army, but NT doesn’t travel well. That will be tougher than it should be. UTEP is a bad team and they have not shown they are getting better. The offense is still not clicking and they lost defenders in their second year.

October Prediction: 2-2

The final stretch sees Tech at home, a trip to Birmingham again, Rice at home and UTSA away. Tech is still good and talented while UAB is still a force. Rice got the better of NT in Houston last season and NT was nearly completely broken down. UTSA is still a bad team but has their QB back and a new coach.

November Prediction: 2-2

Final Tally: 5-6

I feel good about the defense, bringing back some players and a new scheme that doesn’t take a lot of risks going against some QBs that like to turn the ball over this season. The offense and scheme are basically the same but with new faces and a new signal caller. NT struggled when Fine wasn’t the guy, but there should be enough to have some decent offense. By the end of the season the rust should be off and NT should move the ball with their talent. It is early that they will struggle.

Whatever happens this week and in the coming months, here is hoping no one gets COVID — from the players to their families and the communities that are planning to come out and support in person. This is a ridiculous time to think about sport, but I cannot deny the fact that a little pastime is needed and appreciated.


  1. Hall is still on an NFL roster as of this writing

  2. Ahem. Losses all three in blow-out fashion.

  3. Seth Littrell is rumored to have turned down MSST two seasons ago. He turned down K-State last summer. There were no offers after this year’s 4-8 season

  4. That’s 22 of 28 throwing, for 289 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.

  5. You can say the same thing about the offense last year. In aggregate the numbers looked great, but it was in moments that it failed. Those were memorable moments

  6. He had a nice game to start the season last year before disappearing

  7. I am joking here. Nick Saban is famous for being exacting about the physical characteristics of his positions. Not many coaches can be so choosy

  8. If the coordinator had a 4-3 background, he will typically name his pass rusher Rush/Wolf/Bandit or some such. If he is a 3-4 guy, it will be Jack or something. Bowen is a 4-3 guy.