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North Texas head coaches reflect on upcoming seasons, training during quarantine

North Texas head coaches reflect on upcoming seasons, training during quarantine

North Texas head coaches reflect on upcoming seasons, training during quarantine
June 23
09:32 2020

The 2020 North Texas Coaches Caravan had a different look this year as a live Facebook event due to current social distancing measures. Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director Hank Dickenson met through a Zoom meeting with the head coaches and student-athletes from Mean Green football, soccer and volleyball to discuss the upcoming season and how they continued to work throughout the spring quarantine.

Football

Head coach Seth Littrell and junior linebacker KD Davis began the virtual event to talk about the cancellation of spring football. On March 12 the NCAA canceled all basketball tournaments and later all sporting events for the remainder of the spring semester. While all football programs are on a level playing field with limited ability to practice or workout, Littrell said he believes his team drew closer and developed during the time away from the game.

“We’re getting a team that’s growing closer together and that’s communicating better,” Littrell said. “We talk to guys on the leadership council on a weekly basis where they’re going a great job. We’re also holding position meetings where I’m communicating with guys every day that I normally wouldn’t be, and doing that will help leadership across the team grow overall.”

Last season Davis led the North Texas defense with 88 tackles, including seven tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks. He is one of the up and coming leaders in the program and is a part of the team leadership council.

Usually, Davis works with strength and conditioning coaches throughout the offseason. During the quarantine, Davis has to find time throughout his day to get in his own workout and make sure his other teammates are doing the same.

“With everything going on it can be hard to wake up and go workout on your own,” Davis said. “With my mindset, I know I wanted to come out bigger, faster and stronger so I’ve trained every day getting in as much work as possible. I wouldn’t let my teammates and coaches down because it was time to get to work.”

Mean Green football comes off a (4-8, 3-5 Conference USA) season in 2019 where Littrell’s core players like quarterback Mason Fine, defensive end Ladarius Hamilton and wide receivers Mike Lawrence and Rico Bussey Jr. played their senior seasons.

One of the biggest questions about the 2020 season is who will take the snaps for the offense after Fine left behind a record-breaking career at quarterback. It is still uncertain without spring football taking place and evaluation from the coaches to determine the quarterback competition.

“Going into the spring you need competition going on where all the different guys are stepping up,” Littrell said. “You never know how it’s going to unfold, I feel confident about our quarterback room. We have guys with ability, but when you lose someone like [Fine] everyone can be rightfully worried.”

While the NCAA still plans to continue with plans of playing football in the fall, a six-week plan was approved June 18 to allow teams to practice and participate throughout the summer.

Littrell said he used the time under quarantine to make sure his players and coaching staff stayed on top of their game and recognized they have to continue to be better on a daily basis.

“The one thing I told everyone was, ‘let’s make this an advantage for us and let’s make sure we come back a better team than what we left’,” Littrell said. “That’s something the coaches and players have really taken that to heart.”

Soccer

Sixteen-time C-USA champion head coach John Hedlund and senior captain Brooke Lampe joined the discussion after coming off a (15-6-1, 7-2-1 C-USA) record in 2019 to bring home their third straight conference championship.

Mean Green soccer in 2019 completed its 25th winning season in a row in Hedlund’s tenure while outscoring their opponents 10-3 in the conference tournament. The team returns 18 players from last year and brings in 11 new faces (10 freshmen) to continue on a 26th winning season.

“25 straight winning seasons and [having] zero losing seasons, along with 16 conference championships is embedded in my mind,” Hedlund said. “Obviously, at 16 championships we want to win more, but I’d love to end my career without having a losing season.”

Hedlund in the Zoom meeting discussed the emergence and growth of Lampe during her career as a utility player and her ability to be a versatile asset to the program.

“[Lampe] is a coaches’ dream to be quite honest,” Hedlund said. “The first time I noticed her in practice I looked over to the other coaches and said ‘wow this kid can play’. You find yourself moving her all over the field, and she has the mindset to not fight anything and just wants to win.”

The senior from Mansfield was named a captain in the 2019 season while earning a spot on the C-USA tournament team, including starting and playing in all 22 matches.

Like other athletes, Lampe is still training during quarantine by running and lifting weights to stay in shape.

“You need to have a different mindset now because you’re working out by yourself,” Lampe said. “It’s a big help from the donors at North Texas by giving us bands. This being my last season I was really happy where I was at leaving in the spring being in shape and didn’t want to lose that.”

Volleyball

North Texas volleyball head coach Andrew Palileo reached milestones in the 2019 season including his 400th career win at North Texas and the team reaching a 3.78 GPA where 10 of 14 players reached the president’s list.

“In my eight years [at North Texas] we’ve always aimed for the 3.7 mark and this was the first year we were able to get there,” Palileo said. “The discipline part is what we talk a lot about and wanted to make sure when we come out of the pandemic there are no unintended consequences.”

The team capped a (17-11, 10-4 C-USA) record to finish third in the conference behind Rice (27-4, 13-1 C-USA) and Western Kentucky (32-2, 14-0 C-USA).

Junior outside hitter Rhett Robinson joined alongside Palileo in the Zoom meeting to discuss how she keeps herself and other teammates accountable by getting their workouts in and studying.

“There are days that can be difficult while under quarantine because it’s easy to stay at home and be stuck on the couch,” Robinson said. “We’ve done a good job of hosting Zoom meetings and as a team we hold each other accountable by small groups. This whole thing has brought us closer.”

Eleven players return from last year’s team including senior outside hitter Valerie Valerian and Robinson who earned 1st Team All C-USA.

Palileo said the experience and discipline of his group is something he plans to use as an advantage in approaching the 2020 campaign.

“With the development and makeup of your team this the group you want because I believe the discipline and leadership are there,” Palileo said. “Over the last couple weeks on Zoom meetings we’ve focused on getting back into our discipline routine. The small groups have worked out together and it’s all worked in our favor.”

The second virtual North Texas Coaches Caravan will go live on Facebook June 24, 7 p.m. on the Mean Green Athletics’ Facebook page. Men’s basketball, men’s golf and swimming & diving will feature their head coaches and a student-athlete in the same format.

Courtesy 2020 Coaches Caravan Livestream

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Preston Rios

Preston Rios

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