After losing Houston to the Big 12, the American Athletic Conference ended up trekking north in the Lone Star State to add its newest representative: North Texas. Here’s who comprises the coaching staff leading the Mean Green into the new realm for 2023.
North Texas Coaching Staff
Head Coach, Eric Morris
Morris takes over for Seth Littrell, who was fired on December 4, 2022, after seven seasons in Denton. Littrell’s teams were an even 44-44 overall with six bowl appearances. Last season’s 6-2 mark in Conference USA marked his best conference output since 2017. Littrell is now back at his alma mater, Oklahoma, as an offensive analyst.
While Morris comes over via Washington State, where he was the Cougars’ offensive coordinator, he’s no stranger to being a head coach in the state of Texas. He once led Incarnate Word from 2018-2021, where he guided the Cardinals to the 2018 and 2021 Southland Conference titles. He went 24-18 overall in San Antonio.
At Pullman, Morris guided Wazzu to ranking 10th nationally in red zone efficiency by scoring on 91.5% of its trips inside the 20. That production can help the Mean Green as they only scored red zone touchdowns in 36 of 56 attempts, giving them a 64.2% percentage.
He was with Houston for the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but that was during a time when the Cougars were in CUSA. He’s also part of the late Mike Leach coaching tree, serving as wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator from 2014-2017 at Texas Tech.
Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator, Drew Svoboda
Svoboda was one of Morris’s first hires in December 2022. He’ll also handle the special teams unit while serving in the assistant role in Denton.
While Morris comes from the Leach tree, Svoboda gets plucked from the Nick Saban one, as Svoboda served as a senior special assistant to the multiple national title winner at Alabama from 2021-2022.
Svoboda additionally had a strong hand in the recruiting department at Tuscaloosa, which included identifying prep and transfer portal prospects. He also coached Cameron Latu at tight end before being drafted in the third round by the San Francisco 49ers.
While he had a prior stint at Memphis in 2021, Svoboda helps UNT with his own Texas roots, having coached high school ball in the Houston area at Caney Creek, Klein, and Oak Ridge High before moving on to Rice University from 2018 to 2020.
Offensive Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach, Jordan Davis
Davis gets his hands on the Mean Green offense as the OC under Morris.
He’s another with ties to Lubbock, Texas, serving as a grad assistant from 2016-17 with Texas Tech, where he got his coaching start.
From there, he joined Morris in helping build Incarnate Word into an FCS power while coaching up the wide receivers. One of his past wideouts? FCS All-American Taylor Grimes, who earned multiple honors in 2021 for shattering the school record for yards with 1,145 and touchdowns with 15.
Last season, he was in Pullman alongside Morris as an offensive analyst. In his seventh season of coaching, Morris gets his first OC job. Given his background at Texas Tech and expertise in WR play, UNT fans can expect a return to a more pass-friendly, wide-open attack.
Assistant Head Coach and Tight Ends, Chris Gilbert
Gilbert was hired by Morris in December 2022, also making him one of the first staff moves for the new regime.
Gilbert has a strong background in recruiting, previously serving as the Director of High School Relations at Texas under Steve Sarkisian in 2021 and 2022. During that time, the Longhorns reeled in the top Big 12 recruiting classes and ranked in the top five nationally.
Like Svoboda, Gilbert brings past prep football experience as an immensely successful head coach at Lancaster High where he compiled an 89-36 record. He was also the school’s athletic director. Before Lancaster, he led South Oak Cliff High, where he went 20-15.
North Texas becomes his first college gig that involves coaching a position unit at the four-year university level.
Defensive Coordinator and Cornerbacks Coach, Matt Caponi
Caponi is another December 2022 hire.
However, Caponi brings his own Power Five coaching experience to UNT as he was previously the corners coach for Iowa State from 2019-2022. He helped guide the Cyclones to a No. 6 ranking in total defense in 2022.
Before his stint in Ames, he coached at West Virginia from 2016-2018. He mentored four different All-Big 12 DBs in Morgantown. This will be Caponi’s first time being a coordinator but will oversee his unit of expertise, the CBs.
Quarterbacks Coach, Sean Brophy
Brophy is another coming all the way from Pullman. But UNT officially represents his first position coaching gig. Brophy played QB under Morris at UIW, leading the program to the 2018 Southland title. He also had an assist in the development of Wazzu’s Cam Ward into a 4,648-yard, 47-touchdown quarterback last season.
Running Backs Coach, Patrick Cobbs
The UNT alum Cobbs managed to be retained by Morris, as this season marks his fifth in Denton. It’s just as well Cobbs is returning, as the RBs will be one of the more experienced units of the 2023 season with only two freshmen. Cobbs’ backfield got UNT to rank second in rushing among CUSA teams last season, and he helped lead UNT to a national No. 5 ranking in run offense during 2021.
Offensive Line Coach, Jon Cooper
Cooper was a January 2023 hire by Morris. He’s trekking south via Oklahoma, where he served in an analyst role with the Sooners. Along with previous stints at Western Carolina in 2021 and Arkansas in 2020, he was also on the UCF staff as a TE coach that saw UCF put together its unbeaten 13-0 season of 2018.
Defensive Line Coach, Demerick Gary
Like Cooper, Gary was a January addition made by Morris. But he brings his own AAC experience, having spent 2022 at Houston in a grad assistant role. The Dallas native now gets his first position coaching opportunity.
Linebackers Coach, Colby Kratch
Kratch is one of the December 2022 hires by the new regime. He shares Iowa State ties with Caponi, having served as assistant director of player personnel and grad assistant. He’s coached at Toledo and Michigan State as well, but this will be his first LB coach job. Kratch previously played TE at Toledo from 2011-12.
Safeties Coach, Clay Jennings
Rounding out the UNT staff is Jennings, the last January 2023 hire. However, he’s no stranger to the Mean Green, having played for them in the late ’90s and getting his coaching start as a student and grad assistant in 1996-97. He brings a bevy of coaching experience back to Denton, with past DI stops at Sam Houston State, Louisiana, Baylor, TCU, Texas, Arkansas, UNLV, Texas Tech, and Texas State. He’s back in Denton for the first time since 2020.