Dan McCarney started taking about reaching heights North Texas hasn’t seen in years before the end of last season, continued right on through spring practice, Sun Belt Conference media day in July and his team’s own preseason media event that preceded the official opening of two-a-days Monday night.
McCarney even went on record as saying that UNT’s record last season — a 5-7 finish that represented major progress for the Mean Green from a wins and losses perspective — was downright unacceptable.
That position seems like it puts a whole lot of pressure on UNT’s players to do what they haven’t done since 2004 — post a winning season.
And that’s perfectly fine with them.
“It makes us feel good,” UNT wide receiver Brelan Chancellor said. “[Coach McCarney] has faith in us, and we have faith in him. We are going to go out there and compete with a hard-edge mentality and try to win games. That’s what we need, for him to put the pressure on us. That will get us going.”
McCarney has tried to hit the reset button when it comes to the feeling of what is possible at UNT ever since he arrived at the school before last season. UNT matched its win total from the last two seasons combined a year ago, a performance that helped him gain his players’ trust.
That performance also helped him build the belief that UNT is capable of doing more in a season when the Mean Green is expected to take a step back, not forward.
UNT finished fifth in the Sun Belt in 2011, but was picked to finish eighth in the preseason coaches’ poll this year. UNT finished off 2011 by beating Middle Tennessee 59-7.
The Blue Raiders were picked to finish one spot higher this year in this year’s preseason poll.
McCarney said he could see the reason for that pick from an on-paper perspective. UNT did lose record-setting running back Lance Dunbar to graduation and the Dallas Cowboys.
There was a huge class of seniors and a total of 27 lettermen that left the program last year after that season-ending win over MTSU.
That victory was preceded by a seemingly endless string of introductions for seniors, who are now gone.
McCarney firmly believes that UNT can overcome those losses, largely because of the expectations he has established.
“We have come a long way,” McCarney said. “When you put a foundation in place, the first thing you have to do is eliminate the outside expectations and start developing and installing your own expectations. The neat thing about it is we can define who we are and how far we go.”
UNT began to set those expectations in a meeting before the beginning of practice.
McCarney said UNT’s players and coaches talked a lot about what the perception of the program is among people not directly connected to it.
“Coming into the off-season, we all had the same goals,” UNT running back Brandin Byrd said. “Regardless of what other people think, we know what we have. We are anxious to go out there and show it. I like the higher expectations.”
Those expectations are something McCarney has talked about all summer.
The more UNT’s players have heard about them, the more they have become ingrained in a team that has taken on more of its head coach’s personality and drive to win.
“That is just the kind of guy Mac is,” UNT linebacker Zach Orr said. “He’s competitive and wants to win. We want to be champions. That is why we came here, not to go 5-7.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .