UNT defensive coordinator John Skladany, shown on the sidelines of a 2013 game, is retiring. How UNT fills the void he leaves will have a big impact on the Mean Green's future. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)
UNT defensive coordiantor John Skladany is retiring at the end of the season, a story we covered on the blog and in the paper today.
The question now is the impact his departure will make and where UNT goes from here.
As far as the impact of Skladany’s departure goes, it’s huge.
UNT’s players talked about the connection they have with him and the impact he has made on the program. The guy is just a good football coach.
I got some of what UNT’s players had to say in the paper. They unanimously like and respect Skladany.
“Skladany is on all of our backs to make sure we do the right things,” UNT linebacker Calvin Minor said. “He has been a really big part of the reason we have had some success on defense. I really appreciate him. He’s a good guy and a really good coach. He’s a teacher. If you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing, he’s going to get his point across.”
It takes time to build that level of trust with a coach. Unless UNT promotes from within, this team is going to be starting from scratch in that regard.
Another factor to consider is the level of trust UNT head coach Dan McCarney has with Skladany and how their philosophies match so well after spending 13 years working together.
It doesn’t matter who UNT hires, there isn’t going to be the same comfort level between McCarney and whoever comes in to replace Skladany.
McCarney has a firmly established philosophy when it comes to football. He talks about his plan to win that includes all the old school staples — win the turnover battle, run the ball effectively, win the special teams battle.
Whoever UNT turns to will have to fit into that philosophy. It isn’t changing.
So who does UNT turn to?
The obvious name to throw out there — and I’m certainly not the first one to do so — is former UNT safeties coach and current Indiana assistant Noah Joseph. He worked with McCarney at UNT and is one of his former graduate assistants at Iowa State.
Joseph left for a higher-profile job with the Hoosiers, who provided him a six-figure raise over what he was making at UNT. The hope when Joseph went there was that the Hoosiers were about to turn a corner. The Hoosiers were coming off a 5-7 year and appeared to have the schedule and the team to improve on that performance.
Indiana proceeded to fumble away a game early in the season against Bowling Green, but came back to beat nationally ranked Missouri and pound UNT. Unfortunately for Indiana, it has since lost five straight.
Would Joseph leave Indiana to come back to UNT, especially if UNT threw some big money at him? Skladany was making about $170,000 a year and that was before he received an extension following the Heart of Dallas Bowl last season.
I haven’t talked to Joseph and don’t know if he is interested, but UNT could try to lure him back with a coordinator level salary. It might not match what he was making at Indiana, but UNT could give it a shot.
As far as other suspects go, McCarney could dig back into his list of people he worked with in the past outside of Joseph, including people he worked with at South Florida in addition to Iowa State.
McCarney is part of the Hayden Fry coaching tree, which opens up the possibility of someone with Oklahoma/Bob Stoops ties. That was how UNT managed to get Ryan Walters before he joined Darrell Dickey on the staff at Memphis. (The Tigers are 7-3 and headed to a bowl, by the way).
McCarney is like just about every other coach out there. He keeps a list of guys he will call if anyone leaves. He is likely making those initial calls this week.
While McCarney will look for someone with experience, this is also a chance to UNT to get a little younger, and even more importantly effective on the recruiting front. UNT lost two of its heavy-hitters on the recruiting front recently in Walters and Joseph, the Mean Green’s former recruiting coordinator who is the defensive recruiting coordinator at Indiana.
UNT has landed some good players the last couple of years, but it near the bottom of the recruiting rankings in Conference USA where it normally resides. And yes, it matters. UNT desperately needs to upgrade its talent.
Skladany is a terrific coach, but UNT is still struggling defensively. Why? UNT doesn’t have the horses. The same is true on the offensive side of the ball. UNT averaged 31.8 points a game and put up a school record 5,336 yards under Mike Canales last year.
As much as people want to ignore the facts, that was kind of important. UNT hasn’t been nearly as effective this year. Canales deserves some of the blame just like Skladany does, but the bottom line is UNT doesn’t have top talent on offense either.
While it’s a little farther down the list, how this hire impacts UNT’s recruiting lineup as far as coaches go is going to be pretty important.
We should start to see where this is headed in the next few weeks.