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Baylor Football

After 24 years away, Larry Fedora is back in Waco as a Bear once again

February 25, 2020
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WACO, Texas — Shortly after beginning his college coaching career as a grad assistant at Baylor in 1991, Larry Fedora developed a ritual. On Thursdays he’d sneak away from his office at Floyd Casey Stadium, drive to Vitek’s and order a “Gut Pack” for lunch.

Brisket, beans, onions, Fritos.

The works.

“Only during the season,” Fedora chuckled Tuesday. “Only during the season!

Fedora’s favorite eatery in those days, however, was George’s. So it was no surprise when Fedora stopped into to see longtime friend Sammy Citrano—the restaurant’s owner—shortly after he was hired as Baylor’s offensive coordinator late last month.

“I got the chicken fried steak,” Fedora said, “and it was bigger than the platter it was on. It was so big. I was like, ‘Sammy, I can’t do this.’ He said, ‘Awww, just make two meals out of it.’”

The slim-and-trim, health-conscious Fedora may have a smaller appetite than he did during his his first stint in Waco nearly three decades ago.

But his resume has ballooned.

From successful head coaching stops at North Carolina and Southern Miss to high-profile coordinator jobs at Florida and Oklahoma State, Fedora has risen to the top of his profession since leaving Baylor shortly after head coach Chuck Reedy was fired in 1996.

When the opportunity surfaced last month to return to his roots, Fedora couldn’t say no.

“This is where it all started,” Fedora, 57, said Tuesday in his first meeting with reporters since joining new coach Dave Aranda’s staff.

“So many things are different and so much is still the same. I’ve always known Baylor is a special place. I feel that now more than ever.”

Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
Fedora spent seven seasons as the head coach at North Carolina from 2012-2018.

Fedora spent last season at Texas as an offensive analyst, a behind-the-scenes role that didn’t involve coaching or recruiting. Prior to that was seven-year stint as head coach at North Carolina, where he went 40-25 in his first five seasons and tutored current Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky. He was dismissed in November of 2018 after back-to-back losing campaigns.

Fedora will serve as offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and primary play-caller at Baylor. Jorge Munoz, who came with Aranda from LSU, will coordinate the passing game and coach receivers.

A College Station native who played at Austin College, Fedora is excited to be coaching again in his home state. But he said the main reason he accepted the job was his admiration for Aranda, the former LSU defensive coordinator who helped guide the Tigers to the 2019 national championship.

“I talked to former players, guys that played at LSU while he was there, guys I knew that played for him,” Fedora said. “Every single one of them kept bringing up the word ‘respect.’ That word kept coming up with everyone I talked to—and I knew I had tremendous respect for him as a football coach from watching him and studying what he did.

“He’s obviously one of the brightest minds that’s out there defensively. I thought it’d be an ideal situation as an offensive coordinator to match up with a guy like that.”

Fedora was 29 when he left his job as a position coach at Garland High School to join Grant Teaff’s staff as a grad assistant in 1991. He made a quick impression on then-offensive coordinator Chuck Reedy.

“It was easy to see that Larry was going to be successful because he was always wanting more and more,” Reedy told SicEm365 Tuesday. “He wanted to learn and absorb everything he could. He was always asking questions, always asking to take on extra roles, always watching film, always one of the last ones to leave the office.”

When Reedy was promoted after Teaff retired two years later, adding Fedora to his full-time staff was a top priority.

“I had $450,000 to disperse between nine assistants,” Reedy said, “so I hired Larry to coach receivers and his salary was $24,000. You’d better believe that when he was making $3 or $4 million at North Carolina, I texted him and said, ‘Don’t forget where you started!’”

Reedy laughed.

“Back then, though, money wasn’t even an issue for Larry. He was just excited to be a full-time college coach. He worked with receivers for a year and then asked to switch to tight ends. Then he wanted to coach running backs so he could learn another position. He was good at all of it.”

Fedora was also regarded as arguably the top recruiters on Baylor’s staff, securing commitments from five-star prospects such as Nakia Codie and Derrius Thompson, both of whom played in the NFL.

“Larry is very personable,” Reedy said. “He relates to kids really well. He worked at it. He put in the time. He hustled and stayed on the road and stayed after them.”

The charm and charisma Fedora displayed in recruits’ living rooms wasn’t just an act. Former Baylor players said he was every bit as genuine and likable while coaching them on the field.

“He was very fiery,” former Baylor lineman Danny Fletcher told SicEm365, “but in a positive way. I’m not saying he didn’t get on guys, but he’d build us up rather than brow beat us. Coaching was changing around that time, in my opinion. He was a positive-impact coach.

“I don’t remember anyone that didn’t love playing for Coach Fedora.”

Fedora said he still maintains regular contact with former players such as Fletcher, Dustin Dennard, Brad Domel, Donnie Laurence, Darryl Gardener and others. He’s also close with many of the coaches he worked with on Baylor’s staff including Trooper Taylor, Ron West, Chris Lancaster and Andy McCollum. Two years ago he had Christmas dinner with Reedy and his family.

“So many things are different and so much is still the same. I’ve always known Baylor is a special place. I feel that now more than ever.”
- Larry Fedora

Another close friend is Joe Wickline, whom he worked with at Middle Tennessee State (when McCollum was the head coach), Florida and Oklahoma State. At each of those stops, Fedora was the offensive coordinator while Wickline coached the offensive line.

“At MTSU we put in an offense together, and it worked for us,” Wickline said. “We took it with us other places and had some success. I stayed at Oklahoma State and he went to Southern Miss (as the head coach). We stayed friends and talked about different schemes, different formations, what other people were doing.”

It only made sense for Wickline—also an ace recruiter—to accept an offer to reunite with Fedora at Baylor, where he’ll coach the offensive line.

“He’s a great friend,” said Wickline, whose last two stops were at West Virginia and Texas. “He hasn’t changed one iota. His demands for how he wants to do things are the same, his expectations are the same in terms of being physical, running the ball, work ethic, toughness, taking care of the football … all of the things that made him successful, he hasn’t changed them.”

Fedora is thankful to be inheriting a good situation at Baylor, where the Bears return their top three quarterbacks (Charlie Brewer, Gerry Bohanon and Jacob Zeno) and a slew of skill players from a squad that went 11-3 and played in the Sugar Bowl.

Fedora said he’s enjoyed getting to know Baylor’s players at various team gatherings. The Bears watched the Pro Bowl together along with last weekend’s Tyson Fury-Deonte Wilder fight.

One thing he refuses to do, however, is view tape of last season’s games.

“I told those quarterbacks, ‘You’re starting fresh,’” Fedora said. “Every single one of them is starting from scratch. I don’t know what they did last year and it really doesn’t matter, because they’re going to learn a brand new offense.”

Asked to describe how that offense may look, Fedora said: “We’ll be pretty multiple in terms of formations. The key is that we’re going to have a base of one back. We’re going to spread the field. We’re going to be multi-tempo. We’re going to try to get the ball in our play makers hands, however we need to do that.

“For us, it will be (evaluating) this spring the talent we have and the skill level of we have. And then just putting those guys in a position where we can be successful.”

Fedora said Big 12 offenses have changed since he took over at Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator in 2005.

“The conference (offensive style) wasn’t wide open like it is now,” Fedora said. “It was more what the Big 12 and the old Southwest Conference used to be. I brought in a spread offense. We were multi-tempo at the time. So it was a little bit different than what was normal. Now that’s pretty much the norm in the league.”

Along with meeting players and getting to know Aranda and his new colleagues, Fedora has been busy re-connecting with Texas high school coaches he’s known for years while forming relationships with those he’s yet to meet. He said he spends hours almost every night on the phone.

Fedora—whose brother, Lee, is the head coach at Texas A&M Consolidated—said his recruiting area has yet-to-be defined.

“But I’m recruiting quarterbacks, I can promise you that,” he said.

During his rare moments of free time, Fedora has relished the chance to reunite with people in the Waco community he remembers from all those years ago, when he was an eager young assistant coach in his early 30s with a big work ethic, big dreams—and a big appetite.

“Larry is a perfect fit for Baylor because of the type of person he is,” Citrano said. “You can’t spend time around him and not like him, because he’s genuine. He cares about those athletes he coaches. He cares about their families.

“And he cares about Baylor.”

 
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