Dan McCarney wasn’t on any ballots on Election Day, but he hit the stump nonetheless, selling the hottest thing going in Denton since perhaps the last stone was set on the courthouse some 118 years ago.
Needless to say, the popular North Texas football coach would presumably outpace all comers in a race for the city’s top political office.
Not that he’ll have time. A contract extension for the coach is imminent, a university official said while introducing McCarney, who worked up a sweat Tuesday just talking about spring practice.
No one will soon forget this past season — one of the best in the program’s 100 years, nine victories and a win in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, all in the team’s first season in Conference USA.
But it’s time to move on to the next charge of becoming anything other than a one-year wonder.
“The challenge ahead is this: Are we a real program?” McCarney said during a news conference Tuesday in advance of the first of 15 spring practice dates. “No matter who you lose, can the next group come in here and replace them and keep the beat going.”
“Or do we disappear off the college football landscape for another 10 years before we have success again. We want a program that we can be really proud of. That means every year.”
The Mean Green’s test is immediate and guys, who McCarney said, haven’t done a “damn thing” yet need to step in.
The team’s shopping list includes replacing crucial elements off a 9-4 team, most importantly four starters on the defensive line, its star middle linebacker and the quarterback, Derek Thompson, the bowl MVP.
The depth chart is wide open, said McCarney, who has said in the past the key to turning the program around has been in the competition for positions.
Five starters return on offense; four on defense.
McCarney’s and defensive coordinator John Skladany’s preference is a defensive line that rotates eight or nine throughout a game.
“We want to make that our standard,” said McCarney, who mentioned redshirt freshman Sid Moore as one to watch this spring. “We need to find another eight or nine. This time last year, we didn’t have eight or nine that I believed in.”
The Mean Green finished the season ranked 17th in total defense and second in the nation in preventing scores inside the red zone.
The line was a big player, but so was linebacker Zach Orr, gone now to pursue the NFL.
A leading candidate to replace Orr is Anthony Wallace, who is eligible this season after sitting out 2013 after transferring from Oregon.
Five guys vying to be the quarterback are in spring camp, including 2013 backup Andrew McNulty, who has the most experience, though little playing time.
Coaches liked what they saw from Dajon Williams, who challenged Thompson for the job in the fall before being redshirted. Sophomore Josh Greer, an Arlington native who transferred to Denton from Navarro College, is on the practice field, as are true freshmen Connor Means of Deer Park and Quinn Shanbour of Oklahoma City.
“The MVP of the bowl game is gone. It’s wide open, it’s exciting,” McCarney said. “It’s an every day evaluation.”
Briefly• Running back Reggie Pegram (ACL) will not participate in spring drills, and running back Rex Rollins was limited to only noncontact activities. Tight end Chris Loving and cornerback James Jones (intestine surgery) will also not practice.
• McCarney formally introduced new hires to his staff Tuesday. Perry Carter and LaMarcus Hicks were hired late last month to coach safeties and cornerbacks. They replaced Noah Joseph and Ryan Walters, who left to pursue other opportunities.
• The buzz about the football program is evident through season ticket sales. A university official said sales have increased by 600 “accounts” from the same period a season ago.
• The Green and White game that concludes spring practice is at 2 p.m. April 12 at Apogee Stadium.