Since he arrived at North Texas, Dan McCarney has learned a whole lot about his team and his players.
But nothing that has happened since McCarney was hired in late November will tell him as much as he and his staff will learn during a key stretch of spring practice that will begin today when UNT will work out in full pads for the first time.
UNT worked out in shorts and helmets in the first two workouts of spring.
"This is when we will really find out," McCarney said. "You have to be a physical football player to have a chance to play. You can lift, you can run, you can be accountable, you can learn the offense and defense, but if you are not ready to make physical plays when contact starts, you are not going to play for me and this staff."
UNT will work out in pads in all of its remaining practices this spring, with the exception of the final workout before the Mean Green's spring game on April 16.
UNT will hit today, but will not tackle. No players will be taken to the ground.
McCarney has said since he took over the program that he wants to instill a physical attitude among his players.
UNT struggled at times to tackle over the last several years and ranked toward the bottom of the national rankings in several statistical categories defensively that are associated with physical play.
UNT ranked 114th out of 120 teams nationally in tackles for loss with an average of 4.08 a game and tied for 108th in turnovers forced with 15 in 2010.
Gill will help out as a volunteer this spring
Victor Gill, one of UNT's top players for the last few years, is making the transition to working with the team as a volunteer coach this spring.
Gill, an Argyle native, was a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection last season and started 34 games at left tackle during his career.
"Victor is on scholarship," McCarney said. "He came to me and said that while he is still getting his school paid for, he would like to help out. He is a phenomenal young man. I watched tape on him and wish he could still suit up. He would like to continue playing football at some level, but if it doesn't work out, he would like to get into coaching. Those are the types of young men you love to give opportunities to. He's smart, has unbelievable character and has the respect of his former teammates. He will make a tremendous coach some day."
UNT has a new offensive line coach in Mike Simmonds. Keeping Gill as a volunteer assistant coach will help the Mean Green make the transition to working with a new staff.
"Any time I can bring successful people around the team, I will do it," McCarney said. "There will be a lot of people who will come in over the next few years to talk with the team. It's always good to hear messages from more than one person so it is not the same voice all the time."
UNT wasting no time in installing schemes
UNT is working quickly on installing both its offense and a completely new defensive scheme under new coordinator Clint Bowen.
McCarney retained offensive coordinator Mike Canales. UNT averaged 33.8 points a game while Canales served as the Mean Green's interim head coach the last five games of last season.
UNT has a lot more to learn under Bowen, who came to UNT from Sun Belt rival Western Kentucky. He also worked as the defensive coordinator at Kansas.
"We threw so much at them the first two days," McCarney said. "I don't want to spoon-feed them and install all through spring. By next Wednesday, we will have about 90 percent of our offense and defense in."
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.