North Texas offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell will leave for the same position at USC, according to a report from The Athletic.
Harrell, 32, joined UNT three years ago with head coach Seth Littrell, and took over an offense that ranked No. 117 with 320.1 yards per game. Just two years later, the Mean Green jumped up to No. 24 with 455.1 yards per game.
Under his tutelage, rising senior quarterback Mason Fine developed into the most productive passer in North Texas history. The Mean Green also won nine games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since Hayden Fry was on campus in the 1970s.
Harrell will be tasked with fixing a mess at USC. The Trojans fired offensive coordinator Tee Martin after ranking No. 83 nationally in total offense and No. 90 in scoring offense. USC hired former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury to fill the position, but Kingsbury was subsequently poached for an NFL head coaching job by the Arizona Cardinals.
The Trojans have not had an offensive coordinator in three weeks, since Kingsbury took the Arizona job. Harrell previously was rumored for jobs at North Carolina and Tennessee, but USC was too good a job to turn down.
USC poaching an offensive coordinator from a Conference-USA school in Texas speaks volumes about how well regarded North Texas' turnaround is viewed by college football at large. Just three seasons ago, UNT was coming off a 1-11 season with no optimism in sight.
Even after losing Harrell, the good news for Mean Green fans is that Littrell is very involved in offensive game planning. He helped lead North Carolina to an ACC title game as offensive coordinator. Just two years after Littrell left, the Tar Heels fell from No. 18 in total offense to No. 96, and from 11-3 to 3-9.
Harrell was, of course, a record-setting quarterback at Texas Tech and a very smart quarterback who learned under head coach Mike Leach. He also was a dominant player under his father at Ennis High School. However, Littrell plucked Harrell after just two years of being a position coach at any level and gave him play calling responsibilities.
Expect Littrell to scour college football for a young air raid protege to serve as offensive coordinator. The Mean Green return Fine, top receiver Rico Bussey, top rusher DeAndre Torrey and the bulk of their offensive line unit; offense shouldn’t be an issue at North Texas.