North Texas Daily

Column: North Texas is no longer a “stepping stone,” so why do coaches treat it like one?

Column: North Texas is no longer a “stepping stone,” so why do coaches treat it like one?

Column: North Texas is no longer a “stepping stone,” so why do coaches treat it like one?
March 21
01:07 2019

With the recent departure of former North Texas coach Jeff Koonz, head coach Seth Littrell’s staff will look much different in 2019. Koonz joins outside receivers’ coach Joel Filani, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell, running backs coach Tashard Choice and cornerbacks coach Nate Brown as coacheswho have all departed the program.

Littrell and athletic director Wren Baker have filled all the positions with new coaches. Tommy Mainord returns and fills Filani’s spot at receivers’ coach, Bodie Reeder is the new offensive coordinator and alumni Patrick Cobbs and Clay Jennings return to North Texas as the running backs and cornerbacks’ coach, respectively.

Coaching turnover is something that North Texas is too familiar with. The program is a mid-major Conference USA school, coaches and assistants are constantly coming and going. What is constantly forgotten is that this is both a good thing and a bad thing.

The positive is this — North Texas gains more exposure by having their coaches go to bigger schools. Before he arrived at North Texas, Harrell was best remembered for his time at Texas Tech with Mike Leach. The infamous touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree to upset the Texas Longhorns was Harrell’s legacy.

Now, he is attempting to turn around the Southern California program that has been stuck on the mediocre treadmill for several seasons now, despite producing big-time talents such as Sam Darnold and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

But Harrell would not have that opportunity if it weren’t for the Mean Green.

North Texas becomes a stepping stone for coaches who want to further their coaching careers. They come to Denton and use the program to boost their credentials.

Harrell was able to come in and have a stud quarterback in Mason Fine who immensely helped lead Harrell’s Air-Raid offense. Without Fine, does Harrell have the same success? Probably not.

Nate Brown benefited from having some absolute forces in the secondary. Kemon Hall and Nate Brooks led the secondary last season and now they’re gone. Brooks led the way with six interceptions and Hall had five. That’s 11 picks that new coach Clay Jennings must make up somewhere else.

Former Mean Green linebackers EJ Ejiya and Brandon Garner absolutely tore up the competition last season, they have legitimate shots to be drafted and make an NFL roster. Garner had 68 total tackles and six and a half sacks, whereas Ejiya had 121 total tackles and nine sacks. Both caused offensive coordinators to lose sleep at night trying to game plan for the menacing duo.

It’s funny how the same people who claim that North Texas is just a mid-major school and play nobody are the same people in line to interview the assistants. Programs like Southern California, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Texas Tech dismiss the Mean Green as a “laughing stock,” but leach the coaching staff dry, then get embarrassed when they pay North Texas to play. Don’t forget the 44-17 routing of the Arkansas Razorbacks last year on top of a SportsCenter Top 10 play from Keegan Brewer and the special teams staff.

North Texas has to be doing something right for these coaches to leave to join Power 5 schools. But people still want to simply label the program as a stepping stone.

So, which one is it?

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon.

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Dillon Swan

Dillon Swan

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4 Comments

  1. J
    J March 21, 16:55

    Appreciate the article and insight. I think, however, there’s more nuance than labeling a program as either “final destination” or “stepping stone.”

    I think NT has landed in an exciting place as a “launching pad” program – and the quality of assistance Littrell brought in to replace those who departed is a demonstration of the fact that other coaches are starting to see it that way.

    Whether “stepping stone” or “launching pad”, one thing is sure, better to be where NT is now than “last resort” as the program was 5 years ago.

    Reply to this comment
  2. JD
    JD March 21, 17:48

    It is a dollars game Mr. Swan. When the “P5” conferences control 95% of the revenue, then they can pay coaches much more than we are able, so yes, we are a stepping stone program.

    Reply to this comment
  3. CJ
    CJ March 22, 11:56

    Back in the day, they used to call NTSU a coaches graveyard. I’ll take a stepping-stone any day.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Graham H.
    Graham H. March 22, 15:48

    I would imagine the label of “stepping stone” fades when a program such as UNT begins to persuade recruits away from UT, TAMU, etc.

    Reply to this comment

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