By Lee Pace, Goheels.com
Say hello to Seth Littrell, the Tar Heels' new assistant head coach for offense and tight ends coach. Here is the line score for the senior fullback and co-captain on Oklahoma's 2000 national title squad: 24 carries for 78 yards, 10 catches for 109 yards, two touchdowns.
Bet he had to block a bunch, huh?
"I was a blue-collar guy, a lot of pass protection, special teams work," says Littrell. "I wasn't going to be in any Heisman Trophy or Doak Walker Award conversations. But that was fine. I decided in grade school that I wanted to be a football coach. So all along the way-junior high, high school, college-I wanted to know my position and what everyone else on the field did as well."
That's one thing that attracted Larry Fedora to the coach who for two years has run the offense for head coach Kevin Wilson at Indiana.
"Seth is an old fullback, he understands and loves the physical element of the game," Fedora says. "We may be a spread offense, but that doesn't mean you don't have to be physical running the ball. That's right down my alley."
Yet the stocky Littrell (he was 5-10, 230 pounds as a college senior) morphed as his coaching career evolved into an aficionado of the modern passing game. The Hoosiers under his watch in 2012-13 threw for an average of 309 yards a game, blending elements of the Mike Leach/Mark Mangino/Sonny Dykes offenses he'd learned in various coaching stops and then taking over Wilson's playbook in Bloomington.
That's another dimension that caught Fedora's eye.
"Seth learned Mike Leach's system and did very well with it when he went to Arizona," Fedora says. "Then he did a nice job adapting to Kevin Wilson's offense at Indiana and put up some great numbers there. He's been able to learn different offenses, grasp the concepts and run with them as a great play-caller. Now he's very interested in learning our system. Our passing concepts are very similar to what Leach has done, so I think he'll pick things up very quickly."
The names roll easily off Littrell's tongue in talking of the influences on his life in football and coaching-the coaches he's had as a player, as a boss, as a colleague, even those in other sports he's watched from an adjunct corner of campus.
The list includes Bob Stoops, Littrell's head coach at Oklahoma in 1999-2000; Leach, the team's offensive coordinator in 1999 and later his boss at Texas Tech, and Mangino, the Oklahoma O.C. in 2000 who later hired Littrell as a graduate assistant at Kanas; Dykes, Mike Stoops, Dana Holgorsen, coaches he worked with and for at Texas Tech and Arizona; Wilson, the former Tar Heel walk-on now at Indiana; and even Roy Williams, Bill Self and Tom Crean, the basketball coaches at schools where he's made football coaching stops.
"I've been extremely blessed," Littrell says. "I've been around a lot of very bright, well-respected, successful coaches. I owe a lot of things to a lot of people. You're always looking to learn and grow. I've gotten great ideas from a lot of guys. As soon as you stop learning, you're in trouble. I've always tried to learn and evolve as a coach."
Which is why Littrell was intrigued recently when approached by Fedora to talk about the job as the Tar Heels' offensive coordinator vacated when Blake Anderson departed to become head coach at Arkansas State. Littrell and Fedora knew one another, having competed in Big XII recruiting circles when Fedora worked at Oklahoma State and Littrell at Texas Tech, and both were of the 21st century mind that offense is played at a fast tempo, the ball spread to as many hands as possible across as many blades of grass as possible.
One talk led to another and last Friday Littrell was introduced as the Tar Heels' new assistant head coach for offense and tight ends coach, with incumbent coaches Gunter Brewer (receivers) and Chris Kapilovic (offensive line) to share the title of co-offensive coordinators.
"Coming to Carolina is a great opportunity to learn from an established head coach, an outstanding group of coaches already here and to recruit to a big-name brand that everyone in the country knows about," Littrell says. "It was really a no-brainer. I knew that coach Fedora had a strong recruiting background, that he definitely hustles on the road, that he has a gift for building relationships with the guys he's recruiting and coaching. Offensively, his work speaks for itself. Year in, year out his offenses have put up big numbers and been very productive. It was a very good fit for me in every respect."
Littrell popped on Fedora's radar nearly a decade ago when Littrell, a native of Muskogee, Okla., cast a wide berth recruiting for Texas Tech in the state of Oklahoma, where Fedora lived as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.
"Seth was one of the best recruiters they had at Texas Tech and did a nice job with some kids out of Oklahoma as well as in Texas," Fedora says. "He understands what it takes to be a great recruiter. He's a bulldog and works at it very hard. We'll benefit a great deal from having him on our staff."
Littrell arrived in Chapel Hill last Friday evening, spent the weekend getting acclimated to his office, coaching colleagues and players, then hit the road Sunday night recruiting. His first week on the job just a week from national signing day for college football recruits would be spent on the road-perhaps as it should be given that nothing good happens on Saturday afternoon if the proper groundwork's not done months and years before in evaluating and cultivating the best high school players.
"I enjoy building relationships in recruiting, getting to know different people, what their backgrounds are, what makes them tick," says Littrell. "I enjoy the process. The dynamics are intriguing to me. I look forward to getting on the road, building relationships and looking for the right guys for our program. Selling North Carolina isn't hard, it sells itself. There are a ton a great players and elite athletes in this state and up and down the East Coast.
"But I'll tell you something I've learned over the years. It's not always about the stars, not always about the best-looking guys on paper. It's about getting the guys who are the best fits for your university and your system. That's something Coach Fedora and his staff have done an unbelievable job with over two years. They are recruiting student-athletes who understand the word 'student' comes first and guys who understand the academic side, what's expected of you."
Littrell is the first of what will be three new hires on offense this off-season. Fedora also has to find a quarterbacks coach and now that Randy Jordan's departure for the Washington Redskins was announced Saturday, the running backs coaching slot is open as well. No matter what pieces are eventually plugged in, the look and production should marry the success of both Indiana and Carolina over the last two years.
Littrell's Hoosiers averaged 509 yards a game in 2013 (307 passing and 202 running) and the Fedora/Anderson attack at Carolina was prolific in 2012 with Giovani Bernard and a veteran offensive line and improved after a shaky beginning in 2013 as Marquise Williams, Ryan Switzer and T.J. Logan emerged as quality players and a young offensive line developed some ballast.
"Tempo is a big part of what we've done over the years, recognizing that at times you back off," the 35-year-old Littrell says. "Balance is important. Establishing the run is important. Spreading the ball around is important. If you can do that, you put a lot of stress on a defense. They can't play to the run or the pass. They can't roll coverage to a certain guy. They can't load the box on the run.
"Coach Fedora's been doing those same things at Carolina the last two years. There won't be wholesale changes. We fit together very well."
In time Littrell hopes to connect with Tar Heel basketball coach Roy Williams, whose last year as the Kansas head coach in 2002-03 overlapped Littrell's stint in Lawrence on Mangino's staff.
"I had a chance to go to a number of those Kansas basketball games and learned a lot watching Coach Williams and how he ran his program, how he approached recruiting," Littrell says. "I like to watch sports of all levels. You're always picking things up. And just coming to Chapel Hill, I'm amazed at the quality of head coaches across the board here. You've got some of the best at what they do in the nation."
Fedora is on the road recruiting this week with his staff and says he'll focus on the new staff hires when he returns. The fact that Littrell has coached running backs in addition to tight ends gives him additional flexibility given the loss of Jordan over the weekend. Tight ends coach Walt Bell left with Anderson for Arkansas State.
"I've already begun the search process but first want to finish this recruiting class first," Fedora says. "This is the last week we're on the road. We'll put the staff pieces together when we get back in town. There are a lot of directions we can go, and I'm keeping those options open."
Chapel Hill writer Lee Pace (firstname.lastname@example.org) is now in his 24th year writing "Extra Points" and 10th reporting from the sidelines for the Tar Heel Sports Network. His unique look at Tar Heel football will appear weekly throughout the fall. Follow him on Twitter @LeePaceTweet.