Reffett's Focus Is Forward

Aug. 11, 2017

DENTON -- Right now, North Texas defensive coordinator Troy Reffett doesn't care that he had one of the best passing defenses in Conference USA last season.

Or that in his first season in Denton the Mean Green gave up 8.7 fewer points per game than in 2015.

He certainty doesn't care that three of his defensive backs were in the top three of the conference interceptions or that his senior safety Kishawn McClain was named to the 2017 Jim Thorpe Award Watch List.

What Reffett does care about is the team being better tomorrow than they were today. And as he heads into his second season with the Mean Green, Reffett's defense has slowly built an identity shaped around his approach.

Reffett is a no nonsense straight shooter who's more likely to tell his players what they're doing wrong than give them a pat on the back. He's an ominous figure on the sideline whose powerful deep raspy voice is the line in the sand.

"When coach comes around that corner, you get real tight," linebacker Brandon Garner said. "I call him the Godfather. You better get right."

A veteran college coach of nearly 30 years, Reffett joined North Texas ahead of the 2016 season shortly after head coach Seth Littrell was hired. He teamed up with Mike Ekeler as co-defensive coordinator. But with Ekeler leaving after last season the defense is now Reffett's.

It's not a monopoly, though.

"I wanted to make sure we had as many experienced voices in the room as possible," Reffett said. "The more ideas and the more people involved the better."

One of the players Reffett inherited last season and helped flourish was Garner. Off the field, the redshirt junior couldn't be more different than his defensive coordinator. Garner is playful and tries his best to bring a smile to everyone's face.

When the helmet is strapped on, he's much more like his coach. Strictly business.

Few players this summer have been as vocal in practice as Garner, whether to motivate, coach or instill fear into his teammates.

"If we get a pick-six, that's great but we're back on the field and all that matters is what we're doing now," Garner explained. "That's the mentality we as a defense have to have."

Despite returning seven starters, there was no hesitation from Reffett when asked about some of the defense's shortcomings in camp. But he's faced tough challenges before at his previous schools.

"We have to play as a team," Reffett said. "We have to make sure the players understand the scheme and are prepared both mentally and physically for Saturday."

Entering year two in the system, the scheme is what the returners feel most comfortable about.

"It's becoming second nature," said junior cornerback Nate Brooks. "We're more comfortable, not just with the ins and outs of our defense but with what coach Reffett expects from us."

For the players who have been at North Texas for more than two years -- prior to Littrell and Reffett -- the current defensive system is completely different than what they were used to.

"We caught on pretty fast, all things considered," Garner said. "But I really think in year two we'll take a big step forward. Everything is always better a second time around.

"But we can't worry about last year," he added. "We've got to take it one day at a time if we need to get where we want."

However, Garner and his defensive teammates have had to get used to new position coaches this season. In February, Littrell added Jeff Koonz to be the team's linebacker's coach, and shortly after Marc Yellock was hired for the defensive line.

For North Texas sophomore LaDarius Hamilton, he's not only had to learn a new position coach but a new position as well. The former linebacker who was named to the 2016 C-USA All-Freshman team is now playing on the line.

"I had no moves or technique," Hamilton said of playing defensive line. "But I've taken it one day at a time. It's been tough but coach Yellock and some of the older guys have taught me a lot."

Improving on the defensive line and getting better at stopping opposing teams' rush attack will be important in continuing to build of last season's defensive success.

But Reffett doesn't care about last season.

"That's something we preach to our players," Reffett said. "If you keep looking at your past you're never going to get where you need to in the future."



North Texas Mean Green