North Texas Daily

Football looks to future after missing bowl game

Football looks to future after missing bowl game

Football looks to future after missing bowl game
December 01
23:54 2014

Ehsan Azad / Staff Writer

Sitting in his office next to the 2014 Heart of Dallas bowl trophy, head football coach Dan McCarney tried to find the words to describe how he felt as the Mean Green football team wrapped up its season, which started with a lot of high hopes coming off nine wins and a bowl victory last year.

“We built the expectations with what we have accomplished and the way we did it,” McCarney said. “I don’t care what year it is or how many guys you lose, we still want to have a successful season.”

It was far from a successful season for the Mean Green in 2014, as it finished with only four wins and failed to be bowl eligible. McCarney said a lot of the problems this year could be attributed to the instability at the quarterback position.

“Anytime you rotate three quarterbacks through your starting lineup, that is never good,” McCarney said. “Injuries had nothing to do with it. It was inconsistency, lack of productivity. It was lack of execution and that is a major reason for the struggle because it impacts so much of your team.”

The team started sophomore quarterback Josh Greer for the first three games of the season, switched to redshirt freshman Dajon Williams for the next three games and then junior Andrew McNulty finished the season as the starter. As of now, McNulty is the presumptive starter for next season going into winter workouts, but the competition is still wide open.

“[McNulty] will go in as our starter for spring football, but the competition should be much better,” McCarney said. “You have three guys coming back that have all started games, you got Connor Means coming off a redshirt and we aren’t going out of this recruiting class without signing one quarterback.”

McCarney said another reason for the down year was trying to get some inexperienced players to elevate their play. Going into the season, the team lost a lot of impact starters due to graduation, seven of which were on the defensive side of the ball. McCarney said it was a challenge replacing them.

“Trying to get guys without much experience to play with experience, gain that experience, garner it, and still win football games,” McCarney said. “That is easier said than done.”

In the end, McCarney said the team must do a better job of creating depth and developing playmakers on the team. 

“You look at it, there were a couple of games that were coming down to the wire,” McCarney said. “We are still close to being a bowl-eligible team this year, but we didn’t do it, and we didn’t deserve it.”

A lot will happen for McCarney and his coaching staff in the next few weeks. The first priority is to speak to every player on the  team over the next few days to give them his analysis of their play and what is expected of them in the next season.

One of the major items on McCarney’s offseason checklist is to replace retiring defensive coordinator John Skladany. McCarney said it is going to be hard to replace Skladany, because even in a bad season, the defense managed to finish in the top 10 in multiple categories.

“We still did a lot of good things and it is part of the tradition we built here in this program of playing real good defense,” McCarney said. “It is going to be hard, but life has to go on.”

As for trying to find Skladany’s replacement, McCarney said there is going to a lot of movement in college football and so he is not going to rush finding the next defensive coordinator.

As the seniors depart the program, a lot of them, such as offensive lineman Cyril Lemon, are giving outgoing advice to their younger teammates on how to help establish something meaningful for the football program.

“[The younger players need to] keep striving and to leave their legacy. Not necessarily what we’ve done, not necessarily what Zach Orr and the class before us. Leave their own legacy,” senior offensive lineman Cyril Lemon said. “Do what they need to do strive to be better.”

Others wanted younger players to come out and work hard every day and not to wait until game day to showcase their skills.

“My advice to the younger guys is to just come out with right mindset, no matter what is going on your life or in school,” senior linebacker Derek Akunne said. “You got to practice hard, because it just doesn’t happen on Saturdays. You have to prepare every week.”

McCarney said there was only one thing he wanted all his returning players and coaches to remember as they get ready and prepare for next season.

“Get back to winning and get back to being successful,” McCarney said. “This time next year, let’s be talking about which bowl game we will be going to, not a bowl game, but which one. How do you get back to that? You get back to winning.”

Featured Image: Head coach Dan McCarney stands at the end of a pathway formed by the football players before the game on Nov. 22. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor

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