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Denton Connection: the Seth Littrell trio tries to revive North Texas

Ray Carlin/Icon Sportswire

North Texas head coach Seth Littrell, offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, and quarterback Alec Morris have one thing in common.

The new Mean Green trio — gearing up for a revival in Denton following successful stints elsewhere — has not yet stepped out of the shadows of others.

Littrell’s promotion to the head coaching landscape came days after the conclusion of an 11-3 season with the North Carolina Tar Heels, where the first-year Mean Green mentor served as the assistant head coach to Larry Fedora. The 11-win season is the most successful campaign in the Fedora era in Chapel Hill.

In order to reboot the North Texas offensive staff, one of Littrell’s first hires was former Texas Tech Red Raider quarterback Graham Harrell. Despite a minimal coaching resume, Harrell’s familiarity with the air raid scheme paid dividends in 2015 with head coach Mike Leach and the Washington State Cougars. The then-outside receivers coach aided an offense which produced the No. 3 aerial attack in the country with over 5,000 yards. Harrell helped Leach reach a new benchmark in Pullman with a nine-win season.

With Littrell and Harrell intent on shooting fireworks in Denton, the duo rung in the new year with the transfer of former Alabama quarterback Alec Morris. In terms of success, Morris may have the upper hand on both his new coaches with 50 wins and a pair of national championship rings on his ledger.

Just one problem: Morris threw only one pass over a four-year window in Tuscaloosa.

An assistant head coach, an outside receivers specialist and a backup quarterback — with two nattys — waltz into a bar…

Except this trio is stumbling headfirst into a barren wasteland that needs a lot of sprucing up. North Texas trudged to a 1-11 season amid a 56-point loss to FCS Portland State and the firing of head coach Dan McCarney midway through the 2015 docket.

There’s a sliver of new hope in Denton. Three savvy minds on offense could be the key to mopping up the spill left by McCarney — something Littrell’s not taking into account as he begins a new tenure.

“I’m looking forward. To me it doesn’t matter what has happened in the past, good or bad,” Littrell told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram days after being hired. “Each and every year is a new year. My focus right now is on this team. I’m extremely excited to get ready.

“We’re going to be relentless on the recruiting trail, and we’re going to develop our student-athletes. We’re going to put an unbelievable product on the field next fall.”

Fortunately for Littrell, the expectations shouldn’t be too high in his first year. Despite being an optimal hire and an offense-minded coach that can fulfill the fans’ needs (MORE POINTS, PLEASE!) on Saturday, this staff will need a multi-year window to climb up the ranks in Conference USA.

Don’t tell that to Littrell.

October 17, 2015: Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jake Coker (14) and Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Alec Morris (11) before the Alabama Crimson Tide  vs Texas A&M Aggies game at Kyle Field, College Station, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)

October 17, 2015: Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jake Coker (14) and Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Alec Morris (11) before the Alabama Crimson Tide vs Texas A&M Aggies game at Kyle Field, College Station, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)

He has only one year with Morris under center, which equates to the head coach tabbing 2016, his first season at the helm, as the potential turning point for the program.

“We have unbelievably high expectations for him,” Littrell told SportsDay. “But not just him — for our offense and the entire team. We expect to score points. At the end of the day, he’s going to be a big part of us either scoring points and being highly successful — or not being able to get it done. But my expectations are high for him. I’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”

The first-year Mean Green head coach has made it clear that there’s an opportunity to resurrect the football program, especially with a quarterback who has played in the SEC. It doesn’t hurt that he’s been learning under Harrell, who owns a flurry of records while in Lubbock.

Littrell and Harrell could both become stable pieces to the North Texas coaching staff. Add Morris to the mix, and the stars have aligned for a new rebirth down in Denton this season, with the opportunity for all three to finally share center stage.

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