Football: UNT hires OU’s Walters to coach cornerbacks

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North Texas coach Dan McCarney has known of Ryan Walters for years.

McCarney coached against him when Walters was a defensive back at Colorado and heard a lot about the former Buffalo while Walters was an assistant coach at Arizona and Oklahoma.

That background — and the impression Walters made during the interview process — led McCarney to hire him as the newest member of his staff.

McCarney confirmed Wednesday that Walters officially had joined the Mean Green’s staff after being approved by the UNT legal department.

Walters spent last season as a graduate assistant coach at Oklahoma. He was a graduate assistant at Arizona in 2010 before being promoted to a full-time job under head coach Mike Stoops.

Walters played for current Alabama secondary coach Greg Brown at Colorado and later coached under him at Arizona.

“Those were his mentors,” McCarney said. “When the staff at Arizona got let go, he went to Oklahoma.”

McCarney said that Walters earned a high level of trust from the staff at OU, despite being a graduate assistant.

UNT’s coaching staff spent time in Norman, Okla., last summer studying the Sooners’ defense, which gave McCarney and defensive coordinator John Skladany a chance to get to know Walters better.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops played at Iowa when McCarney was an assistant coach at the school under Hayden Fry. Stoops later joined the Iowa staff.

Their common background in the Fry coaching tree helped McCarney develop a rapport with Walters, who will replace Justin Gaines.

Gaines was an original member of McCarney’s staff at UNT and coached the Mean Green’s cornerbacks. Gaines resigned this offseason.

UNT finished fifth in the 10-team Sun Belt Conference in 2012 with an average of 251.5 passing yards allowed per game.

UNT will return starting cornerbacks Zac Whitfield and Hilbert Jackson in 2013, when the Mean Green will add highly regarded Kilgore College cornerback James Jones to the fold.

Whitfield was a second-team All-Sun Belt selection last season, when he led the Mean Green with three interceptions and 15 passes defended.

Walters will have a chance to work with the Mean Green’s cornerbacks for the first time when spring practice opens March 20.

“He was outstanding in the interview process,” McCarney said of Walters. “He understands more than just corner play and secondary play. He went to the board and showed that he understands all of what we are trying to do defensively.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 950-566-6870. His e-mail address is bvito@dentonrc.com .


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