Indiana and Arizona essentially swapped offensive coordinators in recent weeks. Rod Smith, the Hoosiers' co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach left IU to rejoin new Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez in Tucson. Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson replaced Smith with Seth Littrell, who spent the 2011 season as Arizona's offensive coordinator but was let go following Mike Stoops' firing. Littrell did his part with the Wildcats' offense, which ranked 16th nationally in yards per game (465.3 ypg) and third in passing (370.8 ypg) this season. Before joining Arizona's staff in 2009, Littrell spent four seasons coaching running backs at Texas Tech.
The former Oklahoma running back, who won a national title in 2000, will serve as Indiana's sole offensive coordinator.
I recently caught up with Littrell, who arrived in Bloomington on New Year's Day, to get his thoughts on joining the Hoosiers' staff.
Why Indiana? Why did this make the most sense for you?
Seth Littrell: I've known Coach Wilson for a long time, and we've been talking back and forth for a while. We've always had somewhat of a relationship. I knew the unbelievable offenses he had at Oklahoma, and I thought it was a good opportunity for me to go into a great new conference and a prestigious school in Indiana, where they're doing great things right now. You look at the basketball program up and going again, and then with Coach Wilson here in his second year, I thought it was a good opportunity to be able to help him turn this and get back to competing and winning. Plus, it's a chance for me to be under a great offensive coach who can teach me some things.
You were working under a defensive coach at Arizona. How will that change for you now, working for a guy who had success on the offensive side?
SL: It'll be unbelievable. I've been very fortunate to work with a lot of people, [Mark] Mangino and Mike Leach and Mike Stoops, and playing under Bob Stoops. I've had a great opportunity to work for offensive and defensive guys. The biggest thing I always look for is relationships and guys you feel comfortable around. It's a great environment, people are pulling in the same direction. And the more I talked with Coach Wilson over the phone, I felt very comfortable with him.
How would you describe your offensive philosophy?
SL: I played under Mike Leach at Oklahoma in 1999, so a lot of it comes from that "Air Raid" background. But the biggest thing in coaching is you have to adjust. We've had to adjust. Sonny Dykes had to adjust when he first came to Arizona, and then I came in and we had Rob Gronkowski, so we used a little bit more tight end, play-action underneath. And then last year, we didn't have as many tight ends, so we were more spread. You have to be a teacher and you have to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are as an offense and each individual player, and hopefully build something great around them. People look at me, coming from a huge passing background, but you look at Dana Holgorsen, who's one of my best friends at West Virginia. He's tweaked it his way, I've kind of tweaked it my way. And the tweaks you see are based upon what we have as personnel, but at the same time getting those guys in the best situations to compete.
Have you had a chance to look at the personnel you'll be inheriting at Indiana?
SL: Obviously, I've looked at some film, just when I came down on an interview. And as I've come back, I have had some time to watch some games here and there. And I'm extremely excited. They played a lot players last year. Shoot, Tre [Roberson] started the last five games [at quarterback] as a true freshman. He definitely has some strengths. I'm excited about him, I'm excited about the offense in general. There's players here you can compete and win with.
As you go out recruiting the next few weeks, what are some of the things you're going to be looking for?
SL: The first thing you look at is character and determination to win. You want to get great people to surround this program, which is nothing new. Coach Wilson has been doing that since he got here. You look for people who want to come out and compete, and who want to be at Indiana. You can recruit all kinds of kids, but do they really want to be at Indiana? Do they really want to play in the Big Ten? Those are qualities you look for, and then you recruit from there. Obviously, we have different needs. We have a few more needs we need to fill up. But as a philosophy, the biggest thing you want to find are great athletes who have a will to compete and a will to win.
Kevin Johns has been there as a co-coordinator. How is that going to work with him, as far as play-calling and so forth?
SL: We've sat down and talked, but the last week has been so fast. We have met, he's a great guy, the staff on offense is unbelievable. We've all talked, and I'm really excited about those guys. They're unbelievable coaches. This isn't about me. This is about this program. This is about an offensive staff coming together and working together. It's not about one guy saying, 'Here, this is what we're going to do.' That's never how it's been with me. We have an offensive staff, we sit down, we talk, we put all our heads together and we figure out the best way to help us be successful and win. That's what it comes down to. It's a team thing.
There's been more spread in the Big Ten the last 10 years. How do you think the offense works in the league? Are there different challenges in the Big Ten versus the Pac-12 or the Big 12?
SL: I couldn't give a fair assessment on that because I've never been in this league. I haven't studied it a ton. Now we did play Iowa [in 2009 and 2010] while I was at Arizona, and they had some unbelievable defenses. They were big, strong, physical guys, and they were really good up front and really sound across the board. We have to sit down and watch and discuss as a staff, and we'll figure out the best thing for us to do offensively.
How big of a challenge is this?
SL: Everywhere is a challenge in college football. It's hard to win games. Each week, you can never take it for granted, because you step on the field, wins aren't easy. I don't care where you're at. You can be at Oklahoma, or you can be at a I-AA [program], they're all hard. The biggest thing you have to do is prepare yourself mentally and physically each and every week. And you've got to enjoy it. You've got to have fun in the process. Those are the people who are going to be successful.