North Texas Football Opens Fall Camp
Mean Green Practice in Helmets and Shorts
DENTON -- The North Texas football team opened fall camp Monday with the first of 29 practices over the next 33 days leading up to the season opener at SMU on Saturday, Sept. 12. With temperatures hitting triple digits, the Mean Green practiced for around two hours in helmets and shorts on the practice fields.
"It's been 253 days since the UTSA game (on Nov. 29, 2014), and that was a long, long time ago, but we have had a lot of time to reflect and evaluate and try to correct the problems we had last season, so we can come back and have a better 2015 season," head coach Dan McCarney said.
"It was a long summer," said Kenny Buyers, a senior defensive back from Hurst. "Everybody's ready to transition back into football. We worked our tails off this summer. We worked so hard to play football, so we finally get that pay and we can can show off what kind of shape we're in and show off what we're able to do."
With a bye week to start the 2015 season, before 12 straight weeks of games, McCarney said it's the shortest fall camp he has been a part of in his coaching career, but it's also the longest period of time between the first day of camp and the first game. With that in mind, McCarney said he has instructed his coaches to be slow, thorough and accurate in their evaluations, to get the best players on the field.
"The depth chart does not have much meaning at this point," McCarney said. "As you see it today, it's a starting point, and last season and last spring really has nothing to do with today. You have to have a starting point in practice, but it's about what you do today."
There are some familiar faces, such as a Buyers, or a Carlos Harris, or a Marcus Smith, all senior leaders on this year's team, but there are also a lot of new faces -- 25 newcomers -- many of whom will be pushing for playing time and expected to contribute early in their North Texas careers.
"Of the 25 guys who are new to our program, a third them got here in the spring, another third of them got here in the summer and other third got here for the fall," McCarney said. "All those guys have to come in and buy in. They have to understand the plan. They have to understand what it takes to win here."
"I want to continue to be coachable," said junior college transfer James Gray, the starter at strong safety entering fall camp. "That's the No. 1 thing I want to get out of fall camp. I want to communicate with my teammates and make sure we all come together and play faster as a defense and make sure everyone is doing their job. And once I gain the trust of my teammates, I want to be a leader."
Everybody's undefeated, everybody's optimistic, McCarney said, but with the Mean Green overlooked by several regional and national publications, they are not lacking for motivation entering the 2015 season.
"Do we lack for motivation? Absolutely not," McCarney said. "Do we embrace the underdog role at North Texas? Absolutely, we do. We don't hide from it. We embrace it."
The Mean Green practice for the second day in helmets and shorts Tuesday, before donning shoulder pads Wednesday and Thursday, followed by the first practice in full pads Friday and the first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday.