The football team began Spring practice only because technically they are the Spring semester. We are still in winter until March 20th. The Spring game, now moved to the 24th of March — a Saturday — is rightly named. However, for the plants, Spring has started in some parts of Texas already.
The nature of sports blogging is that you find yourself writing something with the nagging feeling that you have written these same words before.
And so it is. This season is slightly different than others. NT has not been to back-to-back bowls since the early aughts and certainly has not had the reigning offensive player of the year entering his JR season coming back with all of his pass-catchers ready also. Like in 2012, we are wondering about replacing a running back legend. Jeff Wilson is damned-near irreplaceable in a yard-for-yard, block-for-block sense and that is fine. As NT transitions the focus to Mason Fine more fully, the offensive line is still a question.
Things went poorly in the final three games, when NT gave up the same number of sacks as it had in all the previous games combined. It was not just the fierce FAU and Troy defensive lines wreaking havoc, but the Rice Owl line as well. NT has some new faces in old spaces and will hope that the new combination of things shores things up a bit. Mason Fine is tough, as everyone notes, but no one wants him to display that toughness quite so often.
Defensively, there are the same issues as before albeit with less of the solid secondary. There is evidence to suggest that the returning secondary is more important to a defense than any other unit, but considering the performance last season that may not hold in all cases. North Texas was vulnerable on pass downs and the issue was pressure up front. NT’s new crop of defensive lineman are looking to improve upon last year’s pass defense while also living up to the run defense. Considering the focus on the mistakes, the successes of the line were overlooked. There was some good play up front that was squandered by poor play on pass downs.
So it goes.
As always, caution yourself against making too many proclamations from Spring practice. This is a time to get better and a time to make mistakes while trying new things. There is a whole summer to improve — and also get worse. The goal after this Spring is to get better and stay injury free.