UNT makes DL coach switch official, now for some thoughts

North Texas defensive coordinator John Skladany, left, and defensive line coach Mike Nelson share a laugh after practice. UNT officially announced Friday that Nelson has retired and will be replaced by former South Florida assistant Kevin Patrick. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

UNT made the switch on its coaching staff official today, announcing that Mike Nelson has ridden off into the sunset and retirement on his motorcycle and will be replaced by Kevin Patrick, a former South Florida assistant coach.

We have talked about both moves extensively, but have yet to delve into the departure of one of the more interesting figures in recent UNT history in terms of assistant coaches.

Nelson was around for five seasons, which is a pretty long time in the world of college athletics. I don’t think we ever exchanged more than a passing hello in all that time.

Nelson’s just a different kind of guy — one who just so happens to be really, really good at coaching defensive linemen.

I tried to talk to him once right after he was hired. He said something along the lines of, “I don’t talk to the media.”

I was once picking up a little film of drills in practice, when Nelson said in passing, “That’s the FBI over there” to his guys.

I don’t mean to make it sound like I didn’t like Nelson. He was just a different kind of dude, one I think most people around the program had a lot of respect for. I sure did, as the casual observer/newspaper guy. It was his personality that made him so interesting.

I asked some of UNT’s players about him at one point a few years ago. They all just smiled and said that he was kind of different and someone they really enjoyed playing for. I always had a feeling that they would run through a wall for the guy.

And that’s pretty much what they did last season. UNT’s defensive front was a big source of concern heading into the year, but was without a doubt a strength by the end of it. UNT had 39 sacks and 78 tackles for loss on the season.

Nelson had a lot to do with that and leaves some big shoes for Patrick to fill. McCarney has brought in some great assistants with skins on the wall throughout his tenure. Patrick is just that kind of guy. He spent six seasons at South Florida and coached multiple players who were taken in the NFL draft, including Jason Pierre-Paul, who was selected 15th overall.

Patrick had a great college career at Miami and is known for his abilities as a recruiter. Keller Central defensive tackle T.J. Tauaalo said Patrick was a big reason he committed to UNT. That’s impressive considering Patrick hasn’t been around that long.

And like a lot of guys McCarney has hired, Patrick has some close ties to the guys he will be working with. He was on the same staff at USF with Mike Canales, Mike Simmonds and Frank Wintrich.

We should get to know a little more about Patrick and maybe get to talk to him in the next few weeks/months as he transitions to his new role and replaces Nelson.

Nelson never had much to say, but if we had a guess, our bet is he is riding his motorcycle off into the sunset somewhere, reflecting on a pretty remarkable career, one he capped with a great year leading UNT’s defensive line.

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