Experienced Langston Looks To Improve Offensive Line
Offensive Line Coach Chuck Langston Looks To Build On Solid Foundation
As the 2016 season concluded, one of the position groups that saw significant growth in year one of the Seth Littrell era was the offensive line. Admittedly, the big guys up front still have a lot of work to do to help the Mean Green reach the desired heights that Littrell and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell seek.
One piece of that equation is gone. Now-former offensive line coach Brad Davis was snapped up by the Florida Gators right after signing day. North Texas saw marked improvement under Davis from spring of 2016 through December 27 at the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, and brought in a bevy of new additions on signing day on February 1.
Enter veteran coach, Chuck Langston. Littrell made it clear that this position on his staff is one of the most significant, especially as it pertains to the desired growth of the offense as a whole. Simply, the quarterback needs more time to take advantage of the mismatches that this offensive system creates, and the running backs need the space to get through to the second level.
“I was looking for a great teacher, a great mentor, a guy that can relate with the players and someone who does a great job understanding our scheme,” Littrell said. “I’ve known Chuck a long time and I knew he understood what we were trying to accomplish offensively. He’s not only a guy who has been a great offensive line coach, but has also called plays as a coordinator. With his vast amount of knowledge and experience, I felt like he’d do a really good job with our men. He’s a guy that will create good chemistry and I know they’ll have a lot of trust with each other.”
Langston inherits an offensive line that ranked at the bottom of Conference USA in sacks allowed, at 43, in 13 games (3.3 per game). But he also inherits a group that has a lot of key returners, and several new, talented faces. The line was a huge focal point in the 2017 signing class, as Littrell and company inked five offensive linemen, four of which will be freshmen this fall. That position group accounted for nearly 28 percent of the 18-man class.
Littrell describes Langston as a tremendous teacher, and the Beaumont, Texas, native has strong ties within the state and up into Oklahoma. He most recently served as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Lamar, the Mean Green’s opening opponent in 2017, and has years of experience at a variety of levels to bring with him to Denton.
“I think the number one thing that attracted me to North Texas was coach Littrell,” Langston said. “He and I go back a long time and I believe in him. I’ve always believed this could be a special place, just driving by. My family is in Wichita Falls and up into Oklahoma, so you always drive by and see this beautiful stadium and the facilities they’ve built. They’ve brought in Wren [Baker] and Seth and I think Seth is an incredible coach and great leader. He’s always been a leader, even back to his playing days.”
Both Littrell and Langston have Sooner ties, having each played at Oklahoma, and the pair have intersected on many occasions throughout their careers. Langston was on staff at Oklahoma from 1997-99, where Littrell played fullback. They have coached at a lot of the same clinics and Langston routinely visited with Littrell during past springs at different coaching stops, always keeping up with his career.
Looking ahead into the spring, Langston has his work cut out for him, though he has been encouraged by the attitudes and effort he has been greeted with. He envisions the position group as a hard hat and lunch pail kind of group, built on toughness, both physically and mentally. Though it may seem cliché, that is exactly what he wants them to embody, which is in lockstep with Littrell’s vision of a physical football team.
“It’s a position that all five guys have to play extremely well, whether that be in pass protection, or in setting up our run game,” Littrell added. “We’ve got to get these guys to keep developing and really step up.”
One aspect of the task ahead that Langston is reminded of regularly, is the high sack total from a year ago. While the common thought is that total relates strictly to the offensive line and its deficiencies, Langston is quick to point out that it is not always the case, with others having responsibility and accountability in certain cases, including the quarterback and running backs. That said, the need to eliminate negative plays on the field is a focal point for the new man in charge.
He believes the way to help prevent those types of situations begins in a very simple place.
“It all starts with fundamentals and techniques. I think coach [Brad] Davis laid a great foundation and I’m trying to add to that foundation that he set with these guys. We have got to get better technically and fundamentally, using our hands better and being better with our footwork and understanding leverage.”
The Mean Green lose two starting members of the line to graduation, but bring back their all-conference honorable mention left tackle, junior Jordan Murray, senior right guard T.J. Henson, redshirt sophomore Elex Woodworth, who spent time at both guard and tackle, and junior Creighton Barr, who made six starts at center before going down with an injury. Langston sees clear goals to achieve in order to push the position group to where they need to be.
“We’ve got to do a better job communicating up front and identifying the defense. The center is going to call our protections, so we have got to get our protections set and make sure we are communicating so the back knows what we are doing and those type of things. Those are the biggest improvements we have to make from year one to year two.”
A self-described demanding coach, Langston sees a lot of positives in the meeting rooms, and on the practice field. He points to a pair of seniors, Henson and Wylie Reinhardt as two that have stepped up as leaders in their final seasons in Denton. The pair have been key in establishing accountability amongst the group.
Things will only be buoyed by the influx of the four freshmen, who will be thrust into possible places in the two-deep. Langston has made a strong effort to connect with the new arrivals, despite not being involved in their recruitment, and has enjoyed that process. According to Langston, they will definitely need to hit the ground running.
“We need to get them up to speed on what they need to do, so it’s going to be a big summer. Those guys are going to provide depth [right away]. It’s not like they’re going to have the luxury of redshirting, because we don’t have a lot of depth in our front, so we have got to get those guys here, get them acclimated to our system and they’ll have to learn quickly what we expect.”
While Langston continues to get his bearings in the spring, and the group continues to grow, mature, and develop into what this offense needs it to be, all eyes will be on the big guys up front.