North Texas Daily

Skladany still leading Mean Green defense

Skladany still leading Mean Green defense

Skladany still leading Mean Green defense
November 13
00:05 2014

Ehsan Azad / Staff Writer

During last year’s historic Mean Green football season, one of the highlights was the team’s defense. Though this year’s defense may not be as good, defensive coordinator John Skladany still leads a unit that is sixth in Conference USA in total defense.

“It’s a combination of the players and the coaches for sure,” Skladany said. “The players have to buy in and all the coaches are good teachers.”

Skladany never took credit for the success the defense has had in his three-year tenure as coordinator, always passing compliments to his fellow coaches and players for their hard work. That is the mentality of a coaching veteran who has been in the business for 37 years.

Skladany, who was hired  in 2012, wanted to bring his defensive philosophy to the Mean Green, which was playing good, structured and sound football. He wants his defenses to be ready to tackle, be assignment-sound and be smart.

Yet, this could be the last year for Skladany, as it is possible that he may retire at the end of the season.

“We will make that decision at the end of the year,” head coach Dan McCarney said. “He is getting close to retirement, no doubt about it.”

Skladany wants to finish the year out before he makes anything official, but regardless, he is leaving a storied coaching background.

Skladany grew up just outside Boston. After trying to make the NFL, he went back to school to get his master’s degree and was a graduate assistant at the University of Ohio. It was one of his former coaches there that gave him the itch to start coaching.

“I loved the game, and obviously I couldn’t play anymore,” Skladany said. “One of my college coaches was an influence on me, and I talked to him about it.”

After Ohio, he made stops at Colorado State University, the University of Houston and the University of Central Florida. One of his more memorable stops was at Iowa State University, where he served as defensive coordinator from 1996-2006. His boss at Iowa State is his current boss at North Texas: McCarney.

Skladany and McCarney helped the team’s defense improve every year, and the team went to five bowl games in that 10-year span.

“We made history at Iowa State, made some phenomenal runs. We had great victories, had some memory-making seasons,” McCarney said.

When the need for a defensive coordinator at North Texas came up, McCarney hired Skladany once more. Skladany said his relationship with McCarney is fun and it is one of the reasons he came to North Texas.

“I have tremendous respect for the man, and I am just happy to be a part of the programs he has been a part of,” Skladany said.  “It is a good working relationship, but he is also a friend.”

Since he was hired, the defense has improved drastically. In his first year, the defense held opponents to the fewest points since 2006. Last year’s defense was ranked in the top 10 nationally for multiple defensive categories.

For the players, the type of coaching that Skladany offers is what makes him a popular coach.

“It is fun. We love it, because he is after us. He is on us,” sophomore linebacker Fred Scott said. “He is a good teacher as well. I have learned so much about this game just from him. When I watch football, it isn’t for fun anymore. I just analyze it.”

That reason alone is why players like junior defensive back Kenny Buyers are not sure what will happen if Skladany decides to retire after the end of the season.

“It would be a big loss, not just because of how good of a coach he is, but because whenever a new defensive coordinator comes in, there is a little setback,” Buyers said. “I really like Coach Skladany and I think it would be a major loss.”

While Skladany has no plans to retire, the season is still weighing on his mind. The defense has regressed in comparison from last year, but McCarney said it made a turnaround in last week’s 31-10 win against Florida Atlantic University. He said a Skladany type of defense showed up Saturday.

Skladany said the win on Saturday had some signs of excitement and enthusiasm and hopes that can carry over in the final three games of the season.

“They just got to enjoy it and have fun playing football,” Skladany said. “Hopefully we can put it together and have a nice run at the end.”

Featured Image: Defensive coordinator John Skladany strategizes with the defense on the sideline during Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic University. Photo by Ryan Vance – Staff Photographer

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