They came from across the state, from Lake Travis to Denton, with some considered as top college prospects, like West Mesquite defensive back Will Earley, while others will be fighting for starting spots on their high school team this fall.
What they all shared Friday night was a decision to give up one of their last free Friday nights before the beginning of fall practice at high schools across the state to spend a few hours at “Friday Night Lights.”
North Texas’ final football camp of the summer attracted approximately 300 players, along with several dozen coaches and parents who watched workouts under the lights at Apogee Stadium.
“We had great numbers and outstanding high school kids here,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. “It was a lot of fun and another step in the direction we want to go with this program. We already had over 900 kids at the camps that we had in June and had another 300 for a one-night camp.”
Players went through position drills and worked with UNT’s assistants, who got a better look at some of the players they are targeting in recruiting after staging satellite camps across the state earlier this summer.
Hunter Siddons was among the players who were at UNT on Friday. The Lake Travis offensive lineman made an oral commitment to UNT this month.
Red Oak’s Jeremiah Gaines, one of the top tight end prospects in the country, was also on hand. Gaines has made multiple visits to UNT over the last few months.
“There are a lot of good high school players here, and a lot of them we are evaluating,” McCarney said. “These kids, from the minute they got here, seemed liked they wanted to get better and be coached. That is why they are here, and they got to have some fun doing it.”
UNT established a high energy by playing highlights from last season on the video replay board and keeping music blaring in the stadium throughout the camp.
McCarney brought the Friday Night Lights concept to UNT with him from Florida, where he was an assistant coach before taking over the Mean Green program.
The event was a hit last year and helped UNT gain commitments from a few key prospects. Offensive lineman Boone Feldt, arguably the top recruit in UNT’s 2012 class, attended the first edition of Friday Night Lights.
UNT is hoping for a similar payoff this season.
McCarney encouraged the players in attendance to follow UNT throughout the fall. The Mean Green improved dramatically in McCarney’s first year at the school, finishing 5-7.
Five wins is the most UNT has posted in a season since 2004.
UNT is hoping to build on that total and continue the program’s resurgence this fall.
UNT’s final camp of the summer has quickly become part of the staff strategy to build enthusiasm in the program among area high school players and coaches — not to mention a vital part of the Mean Green’s recruiting strategy.
“We all know that there is a lot going on and that kids have a lot of choices and things they can do,” McCarney said. “I love that so many of them came here. Everyone enjoyed it — the coaches, the high school kids and their parents.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com.