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North Texas football holds their first spring practice to open up the 2019 season

North Texas football holds their first spring practice to open up the 2019 season

North Texas football holds their first spring practice to open up the 2019 season
March 19
17:50 2019

North Texas held their first spring football practice on March 18, ending the off-season to begin preparation for the upcoming 2019-20 season. This will be the first time for many freshman players and walk-ons to work with the team and start to work to replenish key positions with new starters that were held by seniors who graduated from the team last season. The Mean Green will also look to strengthen team camaraderie in light of the recent turnover within the Mean Green coaching staff.

“Every year it’s a new team,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “You’re never going to have the same one coming back from the year before so there’s a lot of new faces. There’s a lot of different guys getting reps and it’s good to get back and set that foundation of how we’re going to work and the basic fundamentals.”

Within the first three months of 2019, North Texas had five coaches hired away to different schools, four of which were hired on with Power 5 programs. These coaches included former offensive coordinator Graham Harrell (Southern California), wide receivers coach Joel Filani (Texas Tech), running backs coach Tashard Choice (Georgia Tech), linebackers coach Jeff Koonz (Ole Miss) and cornerbacks coach Nate Brown.

“We’re really happy for the guys who got opportunities that they felt made a better life for their families and evolve in this coaching profession,” Littrell said. “That’s what I’ve always looked forward to is helping each and every guy grow around me as they help me grow, we’re all in this together.”

As the coaching vacancies opened up in the beginning of this year, Littrell made key hires to reestablish his coaching staff. He made arrangements to hire Bodie Reeder  from Eastern Washington to fill the role of offensive coordinator. Littrell also made moves to bring on Galen Scott from Old Dominion as his new linebackers coach and Adrian Mayes from Texas State to fill their tight ends coaching vacancy.

North Texas finalized hires to bring back Mean Green Alumni with Clay Jennings as cornerbacks coach and Patrick Cobbs as the running backs coach. The Mean Green intend to use their spring practices for team bonding and unity with the new additions to the player roster and coaching staff.

“We’re gonna hire great guys around here that are great mentors, great coaches, they’re going to fit our culture, our personality,” Littrell said. “Obviously coaches and players have to build new relationships as they move forward but the great thing is, they’re all good coaches.”

Senior quarterback Mason Fine began his final spring practice with a new offensive coordinator. With the introduction of a new offensive coordinator, speculation grew around the impact Reeder would have on Fine and the offense as a whole. Fine was asked about Reeder and the transition of implementing his role and new offensive play styles into North Texas’ offense his last season.

“I think [Littrell] wouldn’t bring in guys that wouldn’t fit our system and fit our core values,” Fine said. “So I think the transition will be easy, [Reeder] brings a lot of energy and he’s just a great guy overall. I think our relationship will be just fine and we’ll continue to build off that.”

For the most part, Fine will have most of his weapons on the offense despite former wide receiver Jalen Guyton declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft. Fine will have senior wide-outs Rico Bussey Jr. and Michael Lawrence, both who were placed on the watch-list for the Biletnikoff Award last season. Fine made comments regarding his first seven-on-seven drill with this spring’s wide receiving core and what could be improved.

“They’re playing hard, fast and they’re sprinting up, but you know something they can improve on is that we had some busts in seven-on-seven and in team [drills],” Fine said. “We can make sure that we know the plays because it’s not new plays, they’re plays that we’ve ran in the past, so you just have to get in the film room more.”

After the production running back core from last season, North Texas enters spring training with a deep running back depth chart. Senior running back Loren Easley is undergoing rehabilitation after suffering a season-ending leg injury against Louisiana Tech five weeks into the 2018 season. After Easley’s injury, junior running back Deandre Torrey stepped up and ended the season with 17 touchdowns despite getting his first start of the season in week six against Texas-El Paso.

Currently, no one has been labeled as the starting running back position and it is unknown if Torrey will regain the starting role in light of Easley’s expected recovery. Newly recruited freshman running back Oscar Adaway III is expected to enhance the competition for the starting running back role.

“[Adaway] is picking up on the offense really well, when he’s out there you can’t really tell that he just came from high school,” Torrey said. “We’re trying our best to help him but he’s doing a good job on his own.

Littrell complimented the freshman running back after his first practice with the team. Adaway received praise from several other teammates including Torrey when it came time for freshman to report to the team.

“I think he’s probably further along than a lot of freshman that I’ve been around physically and mentally,” Littrell said. “I think he’s going to definitely bring something to the table.”

North Texas’ recent hires not only brought new faces to the offense but to the defense as well. The newly hired Jennings will work with a positional core who graduated former cornerbacks Kemon Hall and Nate Brooks — both whom played in the 2018 Collegiate Bowl. Junior safety Tyreke Davis, who is transitioning to linebacker this season, talked about the importance of younger players stepping up after losing two key playmakers on both ends of the field.

He mentioned that it’s crucial players such as sophomore defensive back Keelan Crosby and redshirt sophomore defensive back Jordan Roberts to accept the challenge of potentially filling those roles. When asked about what goes in to building up relationships with new coaches he talked about the significance of communication.

“I guess it’s just seeing them on the field, and how they are off the field and how much interest they show in you as well as the group you’re in,” Davis said. “Keeping in touch with us, communicating and making sure we’re on top of things, stuff like that just shows us how much they care about us individually and as a group as well.”

North Texas will play its annual spring game at Apogee Stadium on April 6 at 12 p.m. The Mean Green begin their fall season on Aug. 31 at Apogee against Abilene Christian. The time has yet to be announced.

Featured Image: The Mean Green football team held their first spring football practice for the 2019 season on Monday, March 18. Image by: Matthew Suarez

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Matthew Suarez

Matthew Suarez

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