Dog Days Of Summer

July 21, 2016

Defensive back Ashton Preston prepares for the next round of workouts during the Mean Green football team's July off-season workouts. (photo by David Pyke)

DENTON - While many are out enjoying the hot summer days, taking in every last minute on a nice vacation or just experiencing some downtime, the student-athletes from the Mean Green football program are hard at work in preparation for the fall season.

In the blistering Texas heat, conditioning is key. The turnaround of North Texas' fortunes on the gridiron starts with these workouts. As the program has undergone changes both with staff and personnel, the student-athletes have noticed the positive adjustments during their summer conditioning program.

"I can tell that people are pushing themselves more, which is leading to improvement on the field," sophomore defensive back Ashton Preston said following Thursday's session. "That is going to translate to game situations, and it's been a great change. I also feel like we are becoming closer as a team and we continue to work on that."

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With a new year comes a lot of new faces. Several freshmen and transfers are taking part in their first experience with the Mean Green, and have talked about the large step up in intensity and expectation from their time preparing for a high school season.

"High school is nothing compared to this," freshman wide receiver Rico Bussey, Jr., pointed out. "It's a lot harder and there aren't as many breaks. It doesn't matter if you're tired, the strength staff will tell you how it is. You get babied in high school, but not here."

Adjusting to life at the next level for many newcomers is always a challenge, but add in a situation where an entire staff is focused on putting their own stamp on a program, and it adds an extra dynamic. That has been felt from the outset.

"[This staff] brought in a new feel from day one," Preston added. "Coach [Seth] Littrell came in and told us that we were either going to buy in to what he was telling us or we could get out. We have learned to weed out those guys, and everyone else has bought in."

There's no sugarcoating that 2015 was a season to forget. As the program regroups and gets ready to trend in the right direction as fall camp approaches, things that may appear little to the outside will go a long way. One such focus is discipline.

"Coach [Zach] Womack has brought a lot more discipline to our team," Preston continued. "I would say that was a big issue with us last year, and I feel like he has brought more accountability. We are now holding our teammates accountable in all situations. He's held us to the standard where we shouldn't be scared to get into somebody and tell them that they're better than that. If you don't want to go 1-11 again, you've got to push yourself. He's brought that type of accountability and discipline to our group."

Accountability and discipline fosters leadership, and that too is an area that has seen marked improvement from the spring and has carried into the summer.

"We have a lot more leadership this year and that's something that is going to help us in the long run when we get deeper into the season," Preston said. "There are a lot more guys stepping up as leaders, including myself. Coming back from my true freshman year into my sophomore season, I've tried to take on a leadership role of helping these younger guys out. I've been through a year and I'm here to help them and show them the ropes on how it should go. Even though they are freshman, some of these guys are also stepping up and trying to be leaders. They're telling some of the older guys `I just got here and I'm beating you, come on, push it,' during workouts."

Fall camp is mere weeks away and, as temperatures creep towards triple digits, the Mean Green are hard at work, building towards success for 2016.




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