Expectations are high for next season’s UNT football team

Expectations are high for next season’s UNT football team

Expectations are high for next season’s UNT football team
March 03
23:22 2014

Ehsan Azad // Staff Writer

After the Mean Green football team won the Heart of Dallas Bowl game on New Year’s Day, head coach Dan McCarney hoisted the trophy and said, “This isn’t the end, it is only the beginning,” building expectations for the team next season and in the future.

The team looks to keep up the success moving forward, but the loss of many core players to graduation has challenged the coaching staff to develop its players and recruit to put together another Conference USA championship contender. McCarney spoke of how crucial a role the 22 graduating players had this season.

“We’re going to miss their talent and football ability, but even more so their leadership and character,” he said.  “My expectations for the next class – they have to lead this team and that starts right now.”

McCarney told his upcoming seniors that they have to step up in order to continue the success they have enjoyed this season. He had already started recruiting in Texas and Oklahoma the day after the bowl game, which he said could help bring recruits to UNT.

“Exposure, success, winning, bowl game, bowl championship – people look at you differently now and people respect you,” McCarney said. “I want to try to take this program to places it hasn’t been.”

While the incoming recruits will be new to past year’s success, the upcoming seniors went through it and want to make sure the team makes the expectations come true.

“We expect to have a really good season next year. We’re not expecting any fall-off,” junior linebacker Derek Akunne said. “We need to replace some guys, but we got some young guys that are playing well. We’re going to be very good.”

Akunne said the team will try to stick to the same game plan as last season, but admits the loss of the seniors might be tough, especially on the defensive side. Only four starters on defense will return next season.

“We are going to have a lot of new people coming in on defense, so we got to have a new defensive identity,” he said. “It won’t be the same defense from last year, but we will play hard and play well.”

The team’s offense will also have a new look, with quarterback Derek Thompson and receiver Brelan Chancellor both leaving. But it won’t change the end result, junior running back Antoinne Jimmerson said.

With high aspirations, the team could get a better bowl game this year, but Jimmerson said that way of thinking is premature.

“We have to hit six first,” Jimmerson said.

McCarney said he wants to wait a few months before stating the specific goals for the team. Fans of the Mean Green are optimistic and looking forward to repeating a successful season next year.

“Coach Mac put some pretty good things in place here,” biology senior Russell Bowden said. “We got a good class coming in and we lost a lot of pieces, but I think we will win the conference.”

McCarney is excited for the future of the program and said people are going to start noticing the Mean Green for their success, if they haven’t already.

“I wake up every day wanting to make people proud that they brought me here to this university, that we can continue to win,” McCarney said. “This season the expectations were low on the outside, but inside they were really high. So let’s go do it again.”

Feature photo: Members of the Mean Green football team hold up the Heart of Dallas bowl trophy after their win on Jan. 1 at the Cotton Bowl. Photo by Ryan Vance / Contributing Photographer 

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