North Texas hires former SMU coach Phil Bennett as defensive coordinator

Hoss McBain

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North Texas has hired longtime college football assistant and former SMU coach Phil Bennett as its new defensive coordinator. Bennett is the third defensive coordinator in the past three years at UNT. 

"The opportunity to get Coach Bennett to lead our defense was a no-brainer for me," North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. "He's been a mentor to me for several years and his wealth of knowledge and experience will benefit our entire program. Nobody can argue his credentials."

Bennett has a wealth of experience at the FBS level, including his heading coaching gig at SMU from 2002-07. He also coordinated defenses at Kansas State, LSU, Texas A&M, Pittsburgh, Baylor and Arizona State. 

His most recent success came during a six-year stint at Baylor from 2011-16. The Bears went from posting one of the worst defenses in college football history during his first season to ranking among the national leaders in three-and-outs and turnover margin. The Bears won two Big 12 titles during his stint. 

Bennett served on Art Briles' staff at Baylor. He was let go with the rest of the staff after the Title IX scandal in 2016. Most recently, Bennett served as the defensive coordinator at Arizona State for one year under Todd Graham. Bennett has not coached at the collegiate level since 2017. 

Bennett replaces Clint Bowen, who coached for just one year at North Texas before mutually agreeing to leave the staff. The Mean Green ranked last nationally in total defense and third-to-last in scoring defense. 

The 65-year-old Texan has become an expert at winning on defense in different ways. His defenses at LSU, Oklahoma and Kansas State finished among the top 10 in total defense. At Baylor, he learned to adjust to a defense that could be on the field for long stretches and focused on forcing turnovers and preventing scores. That will be a welcome addition to a North Texas defense that has struggled for multiple years. 

With Bennett on board, North Texas' attention turns to replacing cornerbacks coach Clay Jennings and defensive line coach Eric Mathies. The Mean Green also have an opening at quarterbacks coach. Graduate assistants Quinn Shanbour and Dane Evans worked with the QBs after Tate Wallis resigned following an arrest in September. 

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