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February 23, 2024
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Venables Names Littrell Offensive Coordinator, Finley Co-Coordinator

Venables Names Littrell Offensive Coordinator, Finley Co-Coordinator

NORMAN — Following the departure of former offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby on Sunday to become head coach at Mississippi State, Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables announced Wednesday that Seth Littrell has been promoted to offensive coordinator and that tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley has been elevated to co-offensive coordinator.

Littrell, who has been an offensive analyst for the Sooners this season following a seven-year head coaching stint at North Texas, will coach quarterbacks and serve as OU’s offensive play-caller. Finley, wrapping up his third season on OU’s staff, will continue to coach tight ends and will play an increased role in offensive game-planning and oversight.

“I’m thrilled to announce two former OU players as our new brain trust on offense,” said Venables, whose Sooners are 10-2 and ranked No. 12. “Seth and Joe Jon are going to make an amazing duo and lead a fantastic group of offensive coaches. 

“I love the journey Seth’s been on since he left here as a player following our 2000 national championship. He was one of my favorite players, even though I didn’t coach him directly. I just had so much respect for him — his toughness, his instincts, his attitude, his mindset and his love for everything Oklahoma, thanks in part to his dad playing here. It’s awesome to be able to welcome Seth back in a coaching role. He coached under Mike Leach for four years at Texas Tech and worked with other brilliant offensive minds like Mark Mangino at Kansas, Sonny Dykes at Texas Tech and Arizona, Kevin Wilson at Indiana and Larry Fedora at North Carolina. He was a play-caller for over a decade and worked with some high-level quarterbacks like Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld, Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky, among others, as well as a bunch of other tremendous skill players. Our guys are going to love what he brings to the table every day.

“And I’ve known Joe Jon since he was a 17-year-old quarterback at Arlington (Texas) High School playing for a legendary coach in his dad, Mickey. Football and coaching have been in Joe Jon’s DNA his whole life. He’s got a tremendous offensive mind and his command and leadership of young people is special. He gained great experience at excellent programs, with stops at Baylor, Missouri, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, and has had exposure to some of the best offensive minds in college football. I really love what he is all about, with his offensive philosophy and the toughness he brings to the facility every day. He’s one of the best teachers and motivators I’ve been around. He’s incredibly bright and our players are going to love him in his enhanced role. He knows our system inside and out and he’s going to be a great head coach in the near future. He passed up on opportunities to be the sole coordinator at other programs because he wanted to do this at his alma mater. OU means so much to him. I’m incredibly grateful for his commitment and his decision to continue his coaching career here at OU in this elevated role.”

Littrell returned to Norman last spring as an offensive analyst after spending the 2016-22 seasons as head coach at North Texas, where he led the Mean Green to six bowl games and two Conference USA Championship appearances. He became the first UNT head coach to lead the Mean Green to bowls in each of his first three seasons and the first to produce consecutive nine-win campaigns since 1977-78. He left North Texas ranked fourth all-time in career victories (44) and his average of 6.3 wins per season stands as second-best in the program’s history.

Littrell’s units at North Texas ranked among the top three in Conference USA in total offense, passing offense and scoring offense for four consecutive seasons from 2017-20, and led C-USA in rushing offense during both the 2020 and ’21 seasons. In 2020, when Littrell took over play-calling duties, the Mean Green ranked eighth nationally in total offense (513.2 yards per game) and ranked 23rd in scoring (34.4 points per game). In all, his squads produced four of the seven highest-scoring offenses in school history. Quarterback Mason Fine (2016-19) set school records for career passing yards (12,505) and touchdowns (93).

Prior to North Texas, Littrell served as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at North Carolina from 2014-15. In 2015, he guided an offense that ranked 11th nationally in scoring, second in yards per play (7.5) and third in yards per rush (6.0), and that set school records for points and touchdowns as the Tar Heels won the ACC Coastal Division. His 2014 unit established school records for passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Littrell spent the 2012 and ’13 seasons as offensive coordinator and tight ends/fullbacks coach at Indiana. His 2013 unit ranked ninth nationally in total offense (508.5 ypg), 17th in passing offense (306.7 ypg) and 30th in rushing offense (201.8 ypg). The Hoosiers were one of only three teams to average more than 300 passing yards and 200 rushing yards per game that season. In 2012, Indiana led the Big Ten and ranked 17th nationally in passing offense (311.2 ypg) and ranked second in the conference in total offense (442.0 ypg) and scoring offense (30.8 ppg). 

Prior to Indiana, Littrell spent three seasons at Arizona (2009-11), where he coached running backs and tight ends/H-backs. He was promoted to co-offensive coordinator in 2010 and offensive coordinator in 2011. His 2011 unit ranked third nationally in passing (370.8 ypg) and 15th in total offense (465.2 ypg). He coached three 2011 NFL Draft selections: Foles, tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Juron Criner.

Littrell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Mangino at Kansas (2002-04) before serving as running backs coach under Leach at Texas Tech (2005-08). The Muskogee, Okla., product was a fullback at Oklahoma from 1997-00 and served as a captain on OU’s 2000 national championship team. Littrell, whose father Jim was also an OU fullback and who won national titles in 1974 and ’75, earned his bachelor’s degree in communications from OU in 2001.

Finley, a former OU player and graduate assistant, returned to the Sooners in 2021 as assistant head coach for offense and tight ends and H-backs coach. He has served as tight ends coach since 2022. 

Over his three seasons as part of the OU offensive staff, the Sooners rank sixth nationally in scoring offense (38.2 ppg), eighth in total offense (475.1 ypg), 18th in rushing offense (196.4 ypg) and 19th in passing offense (278.7 ypg). This season, OU ranks third nationally in scoring offense, fourth in total offense, sixth in passing offense and 39th in rushing offense.

Finley has tutored two All-Big 12 players at OU in tight ends/H-back Jeremiah Hall (first team in 2021) and tight end Brayden Willis (second team in 2022). Willis, who led the Sooners in receiving touchdowns (seven) and ranked second on the team in receptions (39) and receiving yards (514) last season, was selected in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.

“Yes, this was an easy and convenient move,” said Venables, “but it was also the best move for our program, our players and our staff. I went through a thorough process and vetted and visited with a lot of candidates, including sitting head coaches, former head coaches, NFL assistants, quarterback gurus and others. But everything kept bringing me back to this duo and our offensive staff as a whole. Bill Bedenbaugh , DeMarco Murray and Emmett Jones combined with Seth and Joe Jon — there’s just great natural chemistry and cohesion, which is incredibly important. We’ve had great success the last two years offensively and this will give us a chance to continue to evolve as we transition to the SEC. Just like every year, there will be some things that are new next season. We’ll take advantage of what our roster allows us to. We’ve got a wealth of experience and exposure to different offensive systems and concepts, but in most ways, things will be really, really similar to what we’ve been doing. That’s a good thing.”

 

“I’m incredibly grateful to Coach Venables for this opportunity. This has been a dream of mine since I was a child. I left OU after the 2000 season and it’s taken me 23 years to get back here. There’s no better honor. I’m extremely fired up to be the offensive coordinator here and look forward to upholding the standard of winning games and winning championships set by a lot of great coaches before me.

“Our system here at OU is very similar to what I had at North Texas my last several years there. Obviously, I learned a ton from my time with Mike Leach, Kevin Wilson, Larry Fedora and others. I’ve been around a lot of amazing coaches and a lot of amazing people, and you take a little bit from each and every coach you’re around. We have an unbelievable staff here. I think it will be an easy transition for our players. Our terminology and the things we do here won’t change much. But whenever there’s a different guy calling the offense, you’re going to see different flavors here and there.

“Joe Jon is an unbelievable coach and I’ll definitely lean heavily on him and all the other guys in that room. On game day, someone has to call the plays. That’s what my role will be and I’m very excited about that role. But I’ve always been in systems where we leaned heavily on each other and we game-planned together throughout the week. At the end of the day, we’re going to put it all together as a staff.”

COMMENT FROM CO-OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR AND TIGHT ENDS COACH JOE JON FINLEY:

“I’m very appreciative of Coach Venables for this opportunity and for believing in Seth and me and our entire offensive staff. Oklahoma is my alma mater and has played a huge part in making me the man I am today. This is my dream school and all I want to do is help OU be the best football program it can possibly be. Coming to work each day at a place I care so much about makes me want to do everything in my power to make Sooner Nation proud of what it sees on Saturdays. I’m excited to continue to work with Coach Littrell, Coach Bedenbaugh, Coach Murray and Coach Jones, as well as the rest of our offensive staff and our players, to build upon the foundation we’ve set these last two seasons and to find ways to get better each and every day.”

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