North Texas Daily

Mean Green defensive leadership steps up

Mean Green defensive leadership steps up

Mean Green defensive leadership steps up
August 26
00:38 2014

Ehsan Azad // Staff writer

After losing multiple leaders on the defensive side of the ball, the Mean Green football team looks to find new leaders to help the young unit.

The team had to replace seven starters on the defense, which last season ranked in the top-ten in the nation in scoring defense, turnovers gained and red-zone defense.

The team is now looking for new leaders to help replace players who have graduated.  One of the players the team expects to be a leader is senior linebacker Derek Akunne. He said helping to mentor the younger players is one of his new responsibilities.

“The main thing we have to do is to teach the young guys how to practice,” Akunne said.

Akunne said it is important to let the younger players know that practice is just as important as playing on game-day. However, the older players also have to be mindful of how they approach coaching fellow players.

“You got to know the person and see how they respond to different things,” Akunne said.

Akunne also said one of the most important things is showing all the younger players how the team did things last year and keeping it up.

“We got to show them the progress and the process it took last year, doing things right every day” Akunne said.

Senior defensive back Zac Whitfield takes a more direct approach when it comes to helping out the young players.

“It’s a little bit of tough love but we also take them to the side and let them know what they did wrong,” Whitfield said.  “We also get inside the film room (to) let them see what they need to do for next time.”

Whitfield is using what he learned from some of the former defensive players who he once played with when he was younger. This knowledge has helped him in becoming a leader.

“I was a young guy still, trying to learn my position,” Whitfield said. “The way they led me was helping me get my playbook all the time and learn the game better.”

It’s not just the older veteran players who are helping the younger guys, but the coaches as well. Some of the first-year coaches, such as cornerbacks coach LaMarcus Hicks and safeties coach Perry Carter, are bringing that passion to practice and getting that same passion out of the younger players.

“Coach Carter and Coach Hicks, who work with the defensive backs, have been implementing their past knowledge and they are passing it on to us and letting us learn the game better,” Whitfield said. “Coach Patrick is bringing that nasty mentality to the defensive line and having those boys play really physical down there.”

The coaching staff is stepping up in their part to help integrate the new guys into the defensive game plan. Keeping the same defensive scheme from last year is helping to keep a sense of continuity, despite losing key players.

“A lot of those guys are gone, but the system remains,” head coach Dan McCarney said.  “The coaching talent and abilities and our abilities to elevate young men from where they are now to where they should be, that is what coaching is all about.”

McCarney said he is happy with how the coaches and players on defense are working together and they are bringing a certain energy that a lot of people in the country don’t know about.

“If you don’t have the energy, enthusiasm, emotion and passion on defense, then you have no chance,” McCarney said.

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