Editor’s note: The following is part 3 of the comprehensive Season Preview Breakdown that can be found here, in pdf form. Follow @MGN_Breakdown for more stuff from Greg and @meangreennation for more MGN.
On the offensive side of the ball UNT will be trying to replace some of the most productive players and explosive players the program has ever had.
A quick look at what McCarney will be replacing: 7248 total yards, 44 touchdowns, 13 offensive line starts, and 60% of all the passing targets from last year. Gaudy numbers indeed. Replacing guys like Brelan Chancellor and Darnell Smith will not be easy. Offensive Coordinator Mike Canales will lean on Carlos Harris, Darvin Kidsy, and Darius Terrell. They should provide a solid group of targets for whomever wins the starting QB job.
Also look for production from Turner Smiley, John Chelf, and Carl Caldwell. It would also not be surprising to see one of the true freshmen make some kind of impact. The most dynamic of the freshmen group may be Tee Goree who destroyed his high school competition. The WR group looks to be a fun to watch once the fall rolls around. In discussing the receiving core one can’t forget the TE. Last year’s group was nothing flashy, but they were solid and did exactly what was needed. This year TE Marcus Smith returns and he looks to build upon what was a great ending to the year. If Smith can improve his catching he has the ability to be a difference maker for the Mean Green. At 6-4, 255 he is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.
At running back the program is loaded with good talent. Yes, Brandin Byrd was a great productive back, but together Antonnie Jimmerson and Reggie Pegram could match his production. That’s only two of the players who will get touches. Guys like Erick Evans, Mark Lewis, Rex Rollins, and possibly FR Willey Ivery could all get looks. All of whom have shown ability to make big plays. It will be a crowded backfield, but that’s exactly how UNT likes it. Each one of the guys mentioned brings a little something different. Jimmerson is shifty, while Pegram is a bruiser. Evans is lightning quick while Lewis excels in short yardage situations.
Finally, and what may be the most vital group to the team’s success is the offensive line. This group will return 4 out of the 5 starters. Two of the guys in this group Cyril Lemon and Antonio Johnson could end up being the guys that break the draft-drought for North Texas. Cyril Lemon has started every game the past three years, which is quite the feat. Lemon who has played OG for most if not all his time at UNT will get a chance to spread his wings this year with a move to OT. Moving into Lemon’s guard spot will be Shawn McKinney. McKinney played in 12 games last year and started 2 at RG. Shawn is a mountain of a man standing at 6’4 365 lbs, he will be a key part is clearing paths for the UNT run game. Center Kaydon Kirby was a great success story last year, coming from nowhere to earn the starting job. He is only a RS-Sophmore and should benefit from starting 13 games last year. Starting at LG will be SR Mason Y’Barbo. Y’Barbo is the nasty man of the offensive line. He not only looks the part of a tough rugged man he plays the part too. Finally at LT will be Antonio Johnson who has been a starter since his FR year. He has been a rock at the LT position for UNT. This group have been outstanding during their years here. The past two they have given up the fewest sacks in the country while also helping the running game amass over 4400 yards.
This year’s offense attack will not differ from years past under Coach McCarney and Coach Canales. It will be focused on a punishing running game and ball protection. Canales will also not shy away from taking shots down the field when it has the opportunity.
What is different from years past is that there is new quality talent ready to step up and replace the stars of the past right away. In 2011 & 12 it was a huge question mark if there were any play makers on the team– outside of a few names. Now it is a question of which guy out of 5 or 6 will step up. Unlike years past the talent is there; now that talent just needs to be paired with opportunity. There will be plenty of opportunity for the new guys to put their stamp on this 2014 UNT football team. This year’s offense has explosive ability. Five or six WRs have the ability to turn 5 yard catches into 20+. The running backs are explosive and powerful, and at least 2 or 3 of them could have 100+ yard games. The quarterback position is a question, but the guys battling for the job provide a boost in athleticism. UNT could also see more production from the QB-run game. It all adds up to an offense that has the potential to take people by surprise. The question is, how long will it take for everything to come together?
Coach McCarney lost two of his key assistants this offseason and both of them were on the defensive side of the ball. There are no worries because of his connections and respect in the college football landscape he was able to replace the departures with quality hires. The new DL coach is Kevin Patrick who spent time with Coach Mac in South Florida. In the secondary the new hires are Perry Carter (Safeties) and LaMarcus Hicks (Corners). Both of these guys spent time in the NFL as players. Coach Carter was recently coaching with the Houston Texans. Coach Hicks coached DB’s at Concordia University in 2013. Hicks is a previous player for Coach Mac at Iowa St.
The coaching staff at UNT is one of the best in CUSA and in the state of Texas. Most of the coaches have been with Danny Mac since he started at UNT. They’ve played a tremendous role in resurrecting UNT from the college football graveyard. While some fans criticize play calling, development, and other things I will chose to congratulate this staff on what they’ve accomplished. There are a lot of wise men on this staff and the fan base is lucky to have such a great collection of coaches for cheap.