McCarney Appreciative of Richt, UGA
By BJ Bennett
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With over 35 years of experience, Dan McCartney recognizes rare talent at first glance. On the field and on the sidelines, he sees just that in his next opponent.
Dan McCarney knows football. The current head coach at North Texas, he has worked at Florida, Iowa, South Florida and Wisconsin as a position coach and coordinator. For a dozen years, he guided Iowa State to some of their most successful years in program history. McCarney, who took over after a winless season in 1994, led the Cyclones to a school-record nine victories in 2000 and seven wins on four more occasions. With over 35 years of coaching experience, he recognizes rare talent at first glance. On the field and on the sidelines, McCarney sees just that in his next opponent.
In their debut year in Conference USA, McCarney and North Texas will conclude their non-league schedule with a trip east to face 9th ranked Georgia. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools. It will not, however, be be an introductory experience for the head coach of the Mean Green as McCarney squared off with the Bulldogs from 2008-2010 as an assistant at UF.
"I've admired Mark Richt for many years, long before he coached at Georgia," he explained on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. "I coached against him when I was with Urban Meyer at Florida and know firsthand how well his players play."
Through all of his success to date, one of McCarney's most important mentors in his coaching career was Hayden Fry, a College Football Hall of Famer who once served as both head coach and athletic director at then-North Texas State. At his alma mater Iowa, McCarney spent a decade working as an assistant under Fry. There he learned the right and wrong way to do things from a gritty Texas-native, a Marine Corps captain who would ultimately go on to be one of the most respected coaches in the history of the game.
McCarney, much like the man who will stand across the field from him this weekend, has held close to those principles.
"Mark Richt just does it the right way. You talk about character, you talk about academics, you talk about mentoring young men and getting them ready for the rest of their lives. Oh, and by the way, you win a whole bunch of games, make a run at the SEC Championship and are in major bowl games every year," McCarney continued. "Wouldn't we all want that kind of track record as we go on in our careers as college coaches."
North Texas enters Saturday at 2-1, fresh off one of their most memorable comebacks in school history in a win over Ball State. While playing most major conference opponents comes with obvious challenges, Georgia just might have the most balanced offense in the nation. Despite playing two top ten teams, the Bulldogs are averaging 38 points and a division-best 540.5 yards per game. Quarterback Aaron Murray and running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall form a backfield trio that compares favorably to almost any in recent memory.
"I've seen 24 years in the Big Ten, 12 years in the Big 12, SEC, Sun Belt and now Conference USA, and there aren't many like those guys, believe me," McCarney acknowledged. "You just rarely see that type of explosiveness, talent, toughness, speed and the efficiency with which they play the game. Then you bring back all of the starters you had on the offensive line and the tremendous skill players, you can see why they put up those huge numbers and why they will make a run at the national championship."
Murray, in particular, is a player McCarney is familiar with. During his tenure with the Gators, Florida was in hot pursuit of the Tampa-native out of Plant High School. Ranked as one of the nation's best quarterbacks in the class of 2009, Murray chose Georgia over offers from, among others, Auburn, Notre Dame, Tennessee and UF.
"I know about him very well. We tried to recruit the heck out of him at Florida. We knew he was going to be a tremendous player, but we did have Tim Tebow and Cam Newton on our roster at the time, two future Heisman Trophy winners," McCarney recalled. "That sure wasn't a mistake by him to go to Georgia. He has had a heck of a career and he is a sensational football player."
With more of a bond than you initially might think, McCarney will bring North Texas to Sanford Stadium with an opportunity to measure his improving program against the best college football has to offer. In a sentiment he shares with his opposition, it's a distinction made by McCarney in more ways than one.