Fall Camp Shifts into High Gear
Mean Green Practice in Shoulder Pads, Offense Continues Transition to Uptempo Offense
DENTON - The North Texas football team ratcheted up the intensity, as the Mean Green strapped on shoulder pads and practiced for around two hours on the practice fields Wednesday. The same can be said for the tempo, as offense coordinator Mike Canales and the offense have picked up right where they left off at the end of spring practice.
“It’s all about playing fast, and then like I told them, it’s like 'The Matrix,'” Canales said. “Everything around you is going fast, but everything has to move slower for the quarterbacks, and that’s what I’m trying to get them to do.”
“We’re looking pretty good,” said senior wide receiver Carlos Harris of Frisco. “Offensively, we’re moving the ball at a faster pace, lining up for the fast-paced offense that Coach Canales put in this spring. Tee Goree is doing a great job at receiver, and (Turner) Smiley and O’Keeron (Rutherford) are really stepping it up.”
The move to the uptempo offense, Canales said, started in Derek Thompson’s senior season as starting quarterback, but he admits it was probably not as fast as they’re going now, and he said they can even go faster.
“The players want it, they love it, and they want to go faster,” Canales said. “They complain a little bit when we’re not pushing it a little bit more. They’re on each other about going faster and getting to the ball quicker. That’s one of our big mottos. ‘Get to the ball, get to the ball, and then play fast and go faster.’ That’s what we want to do.”
“It’s great; it’s a lot of quick game,” Harris said. “Sometimes, with the deeper routes, you get a little tired and you have to sub out. But overall, I like the pace because it keeps defenses on their toes, and they’re not able to line up as quickly as they would like, so we’re able to get more plays off and be very effective.”
The change in offensive philosophy comes following a 2014 season that saw the Mean Green rank near the bottom in most offensive statistic categories, including scoring offense (79th, 27.2 ppg), yards per play (113th, 4.87 ypp), rushing yards per attempt (90th, 3.89) and passing yards per attempt (100th, 6.3), as well as plays per game (107th, 66.92).
“College football is changing,” Canales said. “You have to change as a coach and you have to change offensive philosophy and what we want to do. It was getting Coach Mac to understand what we’re trying to do, and he loves it. He just absolutely loves it. He loves all the plays and the tempo.”
For Canales, who’s entering his sixth year as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Mean Green, his 31st year in coaching at the collegiate and professional level, the spread and uptempo offense is getting back to what he did earlier in his coaching career, such as when he helped South Florida reached a top-10 national ranking during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
“I like playing fast and playing at a high tempo,” Canales said. “I think it creates an advantage for the offense and it gives us a chance to be successful and create bigger plays. That’s what you’re seeing in college football, the bigger plays.
“If you get 90 plays, you’re going to have a chance to get bigger plays and bigger opportunities. Guys are going to be tired, and the defense is going to be out of position. If you’re playing at that tempo, good things will happen. It’s all about recognition for the quarterback. If he can recognize and our players are sound in their assignments, we’ll be fine.”
The Mean Green draws influences from not only Canales’ extensive coaching background, but also two of the nation’s best offenses.
“We watched some of Baylor’s tape and Oregon’s tape and we want to get to that level,” Harris said. “It’s an unbelievable pace. They only take around 16 seconds between each play before they’re lined up and ready to go. We want to get to that point, so we can keep defenses off balance and not able to line up, that way we can make bigger plays and drive down the field more quickly.”
For North Texas to reach new heights on offense, it starts with decision-making at the quarterback position, where senior Andrew McNulty looks to hold off junior Josh Greer, redshirt freshman Connor Means and junior college transfer DaMarcus Smith, as well as depth developing on the offensive line and playmakers emerging at the skill positions.
“I want to see them making good decisions, get the ball to the playmakers and allow for big plays to happen,” Canales said. “I want them to make great decisions, see the structure of the defense and make those decisions in a fast-paced tempo. Make plays, move the chains.”