Reason for Hope – The spread up tempo offense is here to stay. Coach Mac has adjusted to the times and realized that it was important to adjust his offense to the type of talent in Texas. What I saw was a simpler offense that allowed his QB’s talent to come forward. It’s an offense that suits McNulty, Dajon, Connor Means, and JUCO DaMarcus Smith. The new offense will take the reigns off of some of those playmakers. It will allow UNT to create space for the new speed that will be on the field. Next year’s North Texas offense has the potential to be a lot more explosive than this past year.
Cause for Concern – I’m not one of those people who are in awe of the passing stats put up by the offense in the spring game. Yes McNulty threw for over 300 yards, but a lot of those yards came on busted coverage. Plus it was against a defense who is still learning a system. So I’m not sold on McNulty as a winning QB. The offensive line has a few kinks to work out. Outside of Carlos Harris the receiving crew is all potential. If the QB position isn’t really good the WR could also suffer even more.
Reason for Hope – What North Texas has is a group of guys with equal talent who could develop into a solid defense. I’m not talking about 2013 good, but good enough to win six games with some help from the offense. It will take all 11 guys on the field functioning together to make the 2015 defense solid. Another reason for hope is the amount of guys that UNT has who can play on the FBS level. I would say that depth wise this may be the most UNT has had under Mac. I feel comfortable saying that North Texas has at least 10-12 DL, 4-6 LB, and 8-9 DBs who could play and play well this fall.
Cause for Concern – There are no all conference players or proven playmakers on this defense. Sometimes a player misses or blows an assignment. Its good to have a guy you know who can make up for that. Its also good to have a guy that opposing defenses fear. North Texas doesnt have that guy right now. I’m not saying it wont happen during the fall or season, but after watching this spring its clear UNT lacks a playmaker or an elite difference maker.
Reason for Hope – The QB position is better than it was last year. Andrew McNulty stepped his game up this spring and distanced himself from all the competitors currently on the roster. Was McNulty great? No. Was McNulty good? Not really. He was average. There are 2 reasons to have hope for the QB position. The first is that there is a good amount of playmakers surrounding whoever the starting QB is. Second is DaMarcus Smith could catapult this team into a CUSA title contender. He has enough talent to be the difference maker for this team. Even though Smith is behind the new offense shouldnt be too hard for him to pick up in the fall.
Cause for Concern – Again I’m not buying into this team being able to win six games with McNulty at the helm. He would not be a starting QB for any other CUSA team. Another concern is having DaMarcus Smith miss spring ball. He will be behind when fall camp starts. A ton of UNT fans are hoping Smith can come in and beat out McNulty in the fall camp.
Incoming Help – DaMarcus Smith
Starter at SMU – DaMarcus Smith
Position Grade (1-10) – 4
Reason for Hope – Jeffery Wilson and Antoinne Jimmerson should be able to provide an explosive 1-2 combo. The shift to mainly being a spread team should allow these guys to find open lanes. Beyond these guys you can’t forget about speedster Rex Rollins or Willy Ivery. When you talk about the 2015 UNT RB unit one word comes to mind – PLAYMAKERS.
Cause for Concern – I’m not really concerned that the RB’s won’t/can’t be productive. What I’m worried about is if they will have open lanes to run through. The other concern would be injury/attrition. Hopefully Jeffery Wilson can stay healthy this year.
Incoming Help – None
Starter at SMU – Jeffery Wilson
Position Grade (1-10) – 7.7
Reason for Hope – The WR position looks to have been the position that was most upgraded this spring. Last year it was Carlos Harris on his own out there with no one to take the attention away from him. This year it looks like Harris will have some help. Turner Smiley showed some deep threat ability. Tee Goree and O’Keeron Rutherford certainly look like they can contribute. Combined with the TE’s the receiving threats look like a legitimate FBS group.
Cause for Concern – Carlos Harris is really the only proven threat out of this group. The potential is high, but until we see it on a Saturday during the season it will remain a question mark. Another concern would be how the QB play affects the WR’s.
Incoming Help – Thaddeous Thompson
Starters at SMU – Carlos Harris, Turner Smiley, Darvin Kidsy
Position Grade (1-10) – 6.3
Reason for Hope – During the spring game both Marcus Smith and Chris Loving showed why they will be offensive threats next year. North Texas will be able to split these guys out wide and could create mismatches. I have big hopes for Marcus, because I think he is one of the few draftable prospects on next years team.
Cause for Concern – Same concerns with the WR’s can the QB get them the ball. Also both these guys are not great blockers, but rather just adequate.
Incoming Help – Kevin Dillman
Starter at SMU – Marcus Smith
Position Grade (1-10) – 6.8
Reason for Hope – Chris Miles had a great spring and really entrenched himself as the starting RT, which is great news. The starting 5 has a lot of talent, they may take a little time to gel, but by season’s end they could be a solid unit.
Cause for Concern – Depth is one concern for me. I would say North Texas has only 1 or 2 back-ups who could step in and contribute. Another concern would be pass protection. Any long yardage situations where the QB has to wait for routes to develop down field could be an issue for this OL.
Incoming Help – None
Starters at SMU – Michael Banogu, Sam Rice, Kaydon Kirby, Brian Ochs, Chris Miles
Position Grade (1-10) – 5.5
Reason for Hope – Depth. UNT has 10-12 guys with legitimate FBS talent who could contribute this upcoming year. If Kevin Patrick keeps developing these guys he may end up in the North Texas Hall of Fame too. I actually think this group was a surprise this spring.
Cause for Concern – Size. North Texas showed some alignments with 3 down linemen this spring. If you’re going to do that you need a guy who can draw a double team. I’m not sure UNT has that space eater on this roster. I also don’t believe they have star pass rusher. I think they have some guys in Tillman Johnson, Roberts, Combs, and Polk who could get to the QB. However, none of those guys scare me if I was an opposing coach.
Incoming Help – DeMikal Harrison, Jareid Combs, Eli Howard
Starters at SMU – Jarrian Roberts, Jareid Combs, Austin Orr, Sir Calvin Wallace
Position Grade (1-10) – 6.2
Reason for Hope – Athleticism won’t be on short supply with this group. Fred Scott looks like he has added some quickness. Cortney Finney will be on the field a lot this fall. The 2014 Defensive Player of the Year in the NJCAA showed North Texas fans that he has a ton of ability. Sed Ellis and Calvin Minor both have another year under their belt and should be able to contribute more.
Cause for Concern – For a number of years now UNT has had a difference maker at LB. This year there doesn’t appear to be a playmaker/difference maker at the LB position. Another concern would be pass coverage ability. It was a problem last year and I didn’t see as much progress during the spring as I would have liked. Part of the problem could’ve been from just worrying about getting lined up in the correct position. If you’re worried about what your assignment is it can take away from your ability to play fast. I saw some of that during the spring game.
Incoming Help – None
Starters at SMU – Fred Scott, Blake Bean, Sed Ellis
Position Grade (1-10) – 5.7
Reason for Hope – Kenny Buyers returns and his hungry to improve off of last year’s disappointing season. Chad Davis had a pretty good spring and increased his chances of starting against SMU. Jamal Marshall, who was battling Davis, brings size and strength to the position. Marshall is a guy who could play a number of roles in the new defense. Cedric Fernandes also turned in a good spring. He will contribute to depth at the position. When Xavier Grindle steps on campus he will challenge immediately for a starting role with Davis and Marshall.
Cause for Concern – Someone has to step up and take over for the vacancy left by James Jones. UNT is really counting on some unknowns here. I have no doubt that they have FBS level talent to replace Jones, but I’m not sure how those guys will react once the bullets start flying.
Incoming Help – Xavier Grindle, Ashton Preston
Starters at SMU – Kenny Buyers, Chad Davis
Position Grade (1-10) – 5.9
Reason for Hope – Kishawn McClain and James Gray could develop into a pretty dynamic 1-2 combo at safety. Both of these guys could develop into true playmakers for this defense.
Cause for Concern – Both McClain and Gray don’t have a lot of FBS experience. McClain got a good amount of playing time last year, but is still learning the safety position. Gray is a JUCO and will have to get adjusted to the FBS level.
Incoming Help – None
Starters at SMU – Kishawn McClain, James Gray
Position Grade (1-10) – 5.9