In Search of Play Makers
In 2014 North Texas had to replace a ton of experience and production. The defense was loaded with young athletic guys that had potential and talent. Unfortunately the 2014 defense was unable to sniff the production and ability that the 2013 Mean Green defense had. Now as the page turns to 2015 the defense still has to replace a good bit of production,leadership, and break in a new Defensive Coordinator, but there is hope. That hope would be the amount of guys returning who played significant minutes and made key contributions last year. Also throw in the fact that NT went out an upgraded the defense with numerous newcomers. Yes 2015 should offer Mean Green fans the ability to see more sacks, more big hits, and a better defense overall.
NT fans had grown to love previous Defensive Coordinator John Skladany. Skladany had molded the Mean Green defense into a hard hitting force. In 2015 there will be no highlighter green shirt on the sidelines for NT fans to spot. Instead there will be a new man in charge. The Mean Green hired an experienced veteran in Chris Cosh. Cosh had been the defensive line coach at the University of Buffalo. Before Buffalo Cosh had stints at Kansas St, Maryland, and South Carolina as a Defensive Coordinator. As a fan don’t expect major changes with Cosh. Part of the reason NT hired Cosh was he brought the ability to be similar to Skladany, while adding in a few new dynamics. Those new dynamics will be a few new blitz packages and the use of 3 down linemen instead of 4 in certain situations. Cosh’s experience in the Power 5 conferences should help make the 2015 Mean Green defense a top unit in CUSA.
In order to be successful the 2015 NT Defense Must:
- Discover All-Conference potential play makers
- Improve the pass rush
- Be more aggressive
- Find run stuffers up the middle
- Be able to set the edge against running plays off tackle
- Fix the play action defense
- Boost on the field leadership
- Upgrade the pass coverage of LBs on RBs
I thought the DL last year was going to be a dynamic pass rushing group. I had high expectations. My expectations will carry over to this year. The Mean Green lost some key guys in DE Daryl Mason, DT Alexander Lincoln, but they are more experienced this year. They have returning contributors at DT Sir Calvin Wallace, Austin Orr, and Sid Moore. T.J Tauaalo redshirted and I have high hopes for him. NT lacked size up the middle last year. Also adding size will be FR DeMikal Harrison. Harrison could really turn some heads one he gets on campus. I think he will see playing time as a FR. At DE NT returns sack specialists Chad Polk, Jarrian Roberts, Tillman Johnson, Malik Dilonga, and Andy Flusche. A lot of buzz is surrounding Johnson who was really starting to come on last year before getting hurt. Roberts can be an explosive pass rusher, but struggled against the run. Dilonga had a great spring last year, but never really got going. This year NT adds Jareid Combs, Dakota Smith, and Eli Howard to its DE depth. Combs is expected to come in right away and start. Combs had 17 sacks as a JUCO last year. Smith was a JUCO LB who got moved to DE. Howard is a FR who has great size and upside.
Biggest Question Mark
No question this group can get after the passer, but can they bolster the run defense?
The LB group is now without all the key contributors from the 2013 bowl season. Akunne’s departure leaves this group in search of guys who can step up. LB Fred Scott has moved into Akunne’s spot. Scott is a physical LB who is tough against the run, but he struggled at times last year in coverage. The Coaches are expecting big things from MLB Blake Bean who moved into Scott’s old position. Bean transferred in from Buffalo and has spent time playing under new Defensive Coordinator Chris Cosh. The other LB spot was one that saw lots of rotation last year between Jamal Marshall, Calvin Minor, and Sed Ellis. Minor and Ellis will again be battling for that last OLB spot. Both of those guys are very athletic, but right now Minor has the slight edge. Oregon transfer Anthony Wallace returns, and there is still hope that he can live up to his potential as a four star recruit. Wallace will be backing up Bean at MLB. JUCO transfer Cortney Finney was all over the place in spring and he is pushing Fred Scott for playing time. That will be a tremendous battle in the fall. Both of those guys will be on the field a lot. Finney is a little bit more athletic and could end up playing more on passing downs. Other names to look out for are AJ. Smith, Jalen Montgomery, and Brandon Garner.
Biggest Question Mark
Who is the leader on the field with Akunne’s departure?
Last year the defensive backs were supposed to be a strength with Buyers, Lee, and Jones returning. James Jones played well, Buyers struggled, and Lee could never recover from the multiple string of injuries though his career. Plus the DBs couldn’t overcome the loss of Marcus Trice who was no doubt the leader in 13. This year Buyers is the leader and he is eager to erase the memories of last year. Other key contributors returning are S Kishawn McClain, and former LB now turned DB Jamal Marshall. S John Schilleci, CB Chad Davis, and S Matthew Dash also return. The biggest story in the secondary is the influx of new talent coming in. The Mean Green added 4 or 5 potential play makers in the off season. JUCO transfers S James Gray and CB Xavier Grindle add much needed athleticism. Gray has pretty much secured his spot as the starting safety opposite of McClain. Grindle was a highly recruited athlete out of high school and was ranked as the #16 best JUCO CB by 247 recruiting. NT also added S Jaki Moore who transferred from UAB. Moore will add depth to a Safety position that was sorely depleted last year. DB Cedric Fernandes walked on last year and really impressed in the spring workouts. Other newcomers who could see playing time included FR DB Asthon Preston, DBs Vershad and Rashad Jackson.
Biggest Question Mark
Will the play action pass continue to burn this group?
- 63 Career Starts
- 6 Starters
- 57% of the Total Tackles
- 69% of the Total Tackle for Losses
- 70% of the Total Sacks
- 33% of the Total INTs
- 30% of the Forced Fumbles
Mean Green Nation Preseason Preview Series
I’m no expert, but I enjoy putting together a decent preview for the NT football season. This year I’ve listed out what to look forward to in our Preseason Preview.
Previewing the North Texas Offense
Previewing the North Texas Defense
North Texas Player Ratings (Madden Style)
North Texas Stat Predictions
North Texas Bold Predictions
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