The College Football realm seems to have a bit of a skew to it. There are certain criteria that a team must meet before it is considered worthy of the general public’s time. Despite what one might believe, being a good football team is not always listed in these determinants.
That is what makes it so fun for teams like North Texas to play the underdogs and sneak a victory in on a big name team like Arkansas, as we saw last year. I follow no such criterion as the general public, so allow me to tell you why this year has the potential thrust UNT football into the next tier of college football.
Seth Littrell has found himself in a very good position with the defensive squad he brings out on Saturdays.
Bringing back a solid whelp of talent on defense is something that most people overlook when talking about the 2019 season for the Mean Green. DC and Safeties coach Troy Reffett appears to have the magic touch when it comes to creating turnovers through the air. The season prior to his arrival in Denton, he coached the Memphis corners, a group who picked off 12 passes, and his coaching style seems to have an impression on the UNT DBs. The UNT defense under Reffett has turned in 37 interceptions in three seasons and is bringing back safety Khairi Muhammad who had four last year. I wrote in a piece earlier this month that Muhammad would play a significant part in their defense’s ability to keep up their success and it looks like the Reffett’s philosophy should help this defense fit all of its puzzle pieces together.
What everyone watches UNT football to see is a bit more obvious.
As football fans are enthralled by a gunslinger of a quarterback with a commanding presence on the field who can carve up a football field, there is no one who embodies these characteristics more than Mason Fine. UNT isn’t exactly known for their QB play, so Fine has smashed expectations as a passer. He needs five touchdown tosses to become the leader in every passing statistical category in UNT history and it will most likely be surpassed with ease in the first three games. He’s returning his leading receiver in Rico Bussey and will have the leading rusher returning in Deandre Torrey, who has made it a very clean transition in the rushing game from the (now San Francisco 49ers) Jeffery Wilson era. Fine is the heart and soul of this offense, as can be noted by the devastation that was caused by his absence against Utah State just a year ago. This team looks to him for guidance and will rally behind him again this year for his last ride.
The odds are stacked in favor of the Mean Green as the season approaches, but it could have changed very quickly over the offseason.
Back to back nine win seasons for Seth Littrell earned him the attention of multiple programs over the summer, when the annual college football coaching carousel begins. There were rumors that he was in the running for the Texas Tech position that was vacant after Kliff Kingsbury’s departure. North Texas fans had to grit their teeth and wait until Tech announced the signing of a coach in a very similar situation at Utah State, Matt Wells. Wells created a solid reputation at a G5 school as his head coaching gig before leaving to take a P5 head coaching job. Alas, Littrell will be in Denton for at least one more season with the potential to lift the program to heights of which they haven’t seen before.
This year has the potential to set a new precedent for North Texas football.
Littrell has come very close to giving UNT their first 10-win season in program history (outside of 1977 when they were awarded a 10th win in the wake of Mississippi St.’s NCAA player-paying punishment) and cement a legacy as one of the best coaches in UNT history. He has brought North Texas to the precipice of this achievement two years in a row, heading in to bowl season, but has gone 0-3 in bowl games in his tenure. While it hurts to lose three bowl games in a row, it is quite impressive to make it to the post-season in your first three years as a head coach. I suspect that Littrell will have his team bowl ready again this season and will finally capture that double-digit victory count that has eluded the team for so long.
This year’s imminent success is reason enough to be excited for the Mean Green faithful, but what about sustained success?
Littrell is signed on to be in Denton until 2023, but his premature departure could prove devastating to the UNT football program. P5 coaches will take notice of Littrell’s success and more and more suitors will line up at his door with this season’s success. Sadly, the pitch to a new coach would be another destination to pad their resume before taking on another role for a bigger program, as they try to persuade an up-and-coming hot shot to replace their best coach in recent history.
However, the current head ball coach has it made for him right now in Denton. They have a building fan base, a team primed for success this year, and a small program that appears to be budding near a possible time of realignment that could put UNT into a more competitive conference. The successes of the past three years show a significant upward trend of Mean Green football that the school would love to sustain for as long as they can.
If North Texas wants to see the future of their program take off, they will do whatever they can to keep him on this staff for as long as possible. However, the outlook of the program in the foreseeable future will ultimately be decided by Seth Littrell.
Featured Image: Mean Green Sports