Another catch by @NFLQBTalk on Twitter, James Runnels formerly a running backs coach with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL was recently named the Head Coach of his hometown Oklahoma City Wranglers. He quickly turned to assembling his staff. With that, another USFL coach is receiving a promotion by heading to the UFL.
USFL Loses Its 12th Coach
With almost no one left to poach from the Houston Gamblers after most of the staff left for the XFL, Runnels turned his attention to other USFL ties. With that Dominique Franks, a former NFL player in his own right has now followed to serve as the defensive coordinator. The UFL is certainly playing heavily on ties to Oklahoma University on its coaching staff.
Franks was a 5th-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons after attending OU. Declaring for the NFL draft after his junior season, Franks played in 40 career games for the school. He collected 6 interceptions in his last two seasons with the team. Ironically despite attending the same school Runnels and Franks didn’t cross paths professionally speaking until the 2022 season when they both worked in the USFL.
Franks oversaw a secondary that sent several players to the NFL this offseason including DeJuan Neal, and De’Vante Bausby. As a player, Franks began in the NFL but finished in Brian Woods’ previous football league the FXFL in 2015. This led to a connection that helped begin his coaching career.
In just one season’s time, Franks goes from coaching defensive backs under Cris Dishman, who left for the XFL, to running his own defense in the UFL. I’m curious if this move had anything to do with Franks not getting the first crack at replacing Dishman as the defensive coordinator. With no one named as the coordinator yet, that would seem far-fetched at best. I would assume this was simply a right person, right time situation.
Defensive Line Coach Has NFL Ties
Jimmy Wilkerson is yet another OU alum…I see a trend here. He was selected in the 2003 draft in the 6th round by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he spent five seasons before moving on to Tampa Bay. He would spend two years in Tampa before finishing his career with a year a piece in Seattle, and New Orleans.
The 9-year NFL veteran seemingly is the elder statesman on this staff. He will oversee his old position group with the Wranglers in the state he once graduated from. In 2012 Wilkerson started as a coaching intern with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He would then spend several years coaching High School Football after his year with the Jaguars.
He moved on to Texas A&M Commerce in 2017 serving as a pass rush specialty coach. He actually overlapped with future USFL QB Luis Perez during his time there. Since then he has seemingly been out of football until this offer.
Jarvis Pitts has been hired as the offensive coordinator for the start-up franchise making it so far a clean sweep for teams with OU ties. Pitts attended the school from 2016-2018. In terms of coaching Pitts has had a very interesting path to where we find him today.
He started as the assistant head coach of a public school basketball team for Wynnewood Public Schools. He spent two years in this position before moving on to coach middle school football for Wittier Middle School while also serving as a teacher’s assistant. In 2014 he took over as the Head Basketball Coach.
By 2015 he was coaching the Oklahoma City Thunder Youth basketball team. He would stay in Oklahoma for the next six seasons before being hired in 2020 by East Carolina University as an assistant coach. Primarily overseeing wide receivers he will now be taking his limited football experience to the UFL as Runnels’ offensive coordinator.
This makes for an interesting scenario in Oklahoma. Should this team ever get off the ground like its new staff is hoping it could see a groundswell of support around the team due to the ties to the area’s favorite school? My next question would be do they now start targeting Oklahoma players as well, and could we see any other USFL coaches or players jump ship for the UFL?
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