North Texas Daily

Head football coach Littrell hoping to turn Mean Green around

Head football coach Littrell hoping to turn Mean Green around

April 21
02:58 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceWaddell15

It did not take long for Mean Green students, fans and even football players to begin drawing comparisons between fictional football coach Eric Taylor from the television series “Friday Night Lights” and new Mean Green head coach Seth Littrell.

In a state where football might as well be a religion in some towns, like fictitious Dillon, Texas, Littrell and his imaginary counterpart share many of the same coaching experiences, like turning around programs some had lost hope for.

Before arriving at North Texas, Littrell helped orchestrate the revival of football at schools like Indiana University and the University of North Carolina – both more known for their basketball prowess. Like Littrell, Taylor is familiar with getting programs back on track, leading his underdog team to a state championship in the series finale.

And although Littrell and Taylor are similar in more ways than one, some find their physical likeness even more remarkable – except Littrell.

“I don’t really look at myself that much so I don’t know,” Littrell said when asked if he has heard of the comparisons to Taylor. “I’ve heard that a bunch since I’ve been here. Hopefully he’s a really good looking fella and a good football coach, too.”

Littrell’s offensive coordinator Graham Harrell on the other hand, finds their resemblance uncanny.

“The other day in a staff meeting, he actually brought it up because someone asked him about it,” Harrell said. “He was like, ‘Y’all don’t see it do you?’ And everyone was just like ‘Uh, I don’t know about that coach.’”

A native of Muskogee, Oklahoma, Littrell was a team captain on the University of Oklahoma squad that won a national championship in 2000. During his tenure with the Sooners, Littrell received a year of tutelage from, then offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Mike Leach.

But Oklahoma was not the only place Littrell and Leach crossed paths. After graduating in 2001, Littrell had a brief coaching stint as a graduate assistant at the University of Kansas before reuniting with Leach in 2005 at Texas Tech University.

Under Leach, Littrell was given his first full-time job by the man he described as having a tremendous influence on his coaching career.

“It’s the offense we won a national championship in,” Littrell said. “I got my first full-time job in this offense. I would say he had a big role in my development and where I’m at today, that’s for sure.”

While at Texas Tech, Littrell helped manufacture some of the best seasons in school history. The Red Raiders experienced two nine-win seasons in 2005 and 2007 and an 11-win season in 2008, including a noteworthy defeat of No. 1 University of Texas at Austin.

Littrell, however, did not rest on his laurels. From 2009-2011, he coached at the University of Arizona, eventually becoming the offensive coordinator in his final year. With the Wildcats, Littrell mentored New England Patriots Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The offensive guru did not stop there, either. During the next three years, Littrell spent time at Indiana and North Carolina, where he helped revitalize football at schools more historically known for its hoops. The Hoosiers finished ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total offense in 2013 and just last year, Littrell helped guide the Tar Heels to an appearance in the ACC Championship due in large part to a rejuvenated offense. 

“I think everywhere I’ve been, it’s guys getting on board,” Littrell said. “It’s about keeping it simple. It goes back to Coach Leach and this system. Make sure these guys have a lot of confidence going into games. They’ve got to be out there having fun. You have to turn them loose and go attack.”

Now five months into the job at North Texas, Littrell has experienced firsthand the jump from coordinator to head coach and all the changes associated with it. No longer just responsible for the offense, Littrell is in charge of the entire team.

This means getting to know every player on the roster – something he is currently in the process of doing.

“It takes time [to] get to know 115 different guys on that personal level when you’re the head coach,” Littrell said. “I don’t have a position group or position meetings. Being able to get that time throughout the day in the lunch room, locker room or on the practice field, that’s been the hardest part.”

One of the players Littrell is trying to build a relationship with is graduate quarterback Alec Morris, a transfer from the University of Alabama. A highly touted recruit out of high school, Morris won two national championships with the Crimson Tide and is familiar with Littrell’s high-octane offensive attack from his high school days.

“I really enjoy having him as a coach,” Morris said. “Obviously, he’s involved with the offense which is pretty cool. It’s good to have his opinion on things, and the way he keeps practice going at a pretty high energy, it’s fun to be a part of.”

The up-tempo, high-flying offense has become Littrell’s mantra as he enters his first season with the Mean Green. And as for his “tee it high, let it fly” style of play, Littrell thinks that will be evident to students and fans come opening kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 3.

“It’s not going out and being scared to fail,” Littrell said. “It’s about putting up four verticals and throwing it deep.”

Featured Image: Head coach Seth Littrell was an offensive coordinator at the University of North Carolina. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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