The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team was picked to successfully defend its American Southwest Conference Championship in the league’s 2014 Preseason Coaches and Media Poll.
That was no surprise.
The Crusaders were picked as high as No. 2 in America by some national magazines.
That really was no surprise either.
In fact, all these high expectations suit
UMHB’s outstanding defensive coordinator Larry Harmon just fine.
“We want to be picked to win our conference every year,” said Harmon. “And we want to be thought of as one of the strongest Division III teams in the nation.”
Harmon begins his 13th season as UMHB’s defensive coordinator and 15th season overall on head coach Pete Fredenburg’s staff.
“But while all of those preseason rankings are pleasant to read,” Harmon said, “as a coaching staff, we’re anxious to ask our players, ‘Where do you want to go? What’s your goal?’
“I know our goal is to be the very best football team in the nation. Then, from there, as coaches and players, we must figure out how we can make that happen.”
One way to help make that happen is for UMHB to play defense throughout the 2014 season like it did in 2013.
In eight of 14 games, Harmon’s defense allowed 10 or fewer points.
In the 2013 postseason, neither Redlands nor Rowan managed more than one score. While the Cru lost to eventual national champion UW-Whitewater 16-15 in the national semifinals, Harmon’s defense held the Warhawks to their fewest points and fewest yards of the season.
UMHB’s first 2014 practice is Aug. 13.
“We won’t talk about the preseason rankings,” Harmon said. “We will ask the players, ‘What do you want to do? What is your goal?’
“And, again, it’s not being arrogant and it is not being cocky but our goal is to win a national championship. That’s what we will talk to our kids about. That’s what we as coaches want. So we want to find out, ‘Is that what you want? Are you on the same page as us?’ ”
Fredenburg started the UMHB program from scratch in 1998. He picked Harmon to join his staff two years later. Since then, UMHB has a superb overall record of 152-22.
The Cru have come close to a national crown several times.
“Winning it all is the only thing missing for us,” Harmon said. “But, first things first, we must make sure that we get better every single week.”
Harmon was pleased by the attitudes of his players in the offseason.
“I got the sense that we have a lot of guys that have bought into what we are all about,” Harmon said. “This group has convinced me that playing winning football is important to them.”
The Cru have four home games in 2014.
When asked about the defense specifically, Harmon said, “Our fans can expect to see a group of guys on defense that will line up right, make their calls and fly around that football. Our guys will play hard and get after it. We want to see how good that opposing quarterback can be.
“We’ll be getting after that quarterback.”