Mean Green football team looks to repeat past success

Mean Green football team looks to repeat past success

August 09
13:56 2014

Ehsan Azad / Staff Writer

The Mean Green football team has started fall camp with high expectations of a repeat performance of last season, which ended with a 36-14 victory in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

In its first year in Conference USA the team experienced its first winning season since 2004. However, one of the big challenges for the Mean Green is to replace the seniors who were starters last season.

“Our expectations won’t change no matter who takes the field,” head coach Dan McCarney said.

So far, the players have only practiced in shorts and helmets. McCarney is looking forward to seeing what the team looks like when the players’ pads are on and the real hitting begins.

Coaches aren’t allowed to interfere with players and their offseason development and must wait until the fall to evaluate them. But McCarney paid close attention to the team’s independent workouts over the summer.

“Other than six or seven guys, the team is in really good condition,” McCarney said. “For a first day, I was really pleased.”

One of the question marks going into the season is how to replace last year’s senior class. Of the 20 seniors on last year’s roster, 14 were starters. Seven of those 14 were starters on a defense that made national rankings throughout last season. McCarney said that it is impossible to tell if the new guys are ready to take over after one or two practices, but is happy at how quick the players have picked up the defense in these early practices.

“The alignment, the communication, all that stuff for the first day was pretty darn good,” McCarney said. “We have a long way to go and we didn’t answer any questions, but we have a better feel.”

The players on the defense know they have big shoes to fill for a defense that ranked No. 8 in total defense in the nation. They also were ranked No. 8 in the nation for turnovers with 34.

“We did lose a lot of players, but we got some players that can be good,” senior safety Lairamie Lee said.

Lee said that everyone on the team has been working hard over the summer and he has seen a lot of potential from the younger players.

The departure of seniors also left voids on the offense such as the quarterback position. The team lost starting quarterback Derek Thompson, who won the Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP trophy.

This year, four quarterbacks are vying for the position and competition is still close. The team has to make a decision before it opens the season against the University of Texas at Austin on Aug. 30.

“We got 29 practices before Texas, hopefully we make a decision before then,” McCarney said. “We have a lot of evaluations to make right now.”

McCarney said  the quarterbacks are progressing well in the limited time the coaches have worked with them. He said the turnovers were low and they made good throws during practice.

Of the four competing quarterbacks, junior Andrew McNulty has the most experience and was the backup to Thompson last year. McNulty said the competition is friendly, but it can get heated once they hit the field.

“When we are in the meeting room, we are all there to help each other out,” McNulty said. “When we are out in the field, it is go-time and we know only one of us can be out there.”

McNulty said the team chemistry overall is high and the expectations from the players are to continue from where they left off last year.

“We have the same motto this summer, to hit six (wins) and to get bowl eligible as fast as possible,” McNulty said. “Right now, we are just worried about that first game, which happens to be at Texas.”

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