As of this writing, we are less than a week away from the 2012 season. Last year was mostly about Apogee and new beginnings. This year, we will know more about the direction of the program that Dan McCarney is guiding in his second season. It is still a season of transition and silliness. Past decisions still affect the current edition. The schedule includes only five home games because of concessions made for Apogee’s inaugural year. The roster is a mix of unproven guys that don’t necessarily fit the program philosophy or, according to Coach Danny Mac, FBS quality. Everyone said Dan can coach and the program is lucky to have hired him. We have seen first hand that he at least knows how to make the team look like a real college football team and not the hilarity that was on the field for a few years under Dodge.
There is a lot to look forward to. Jamize Olawale is bringing attention to North Texas the way that we expected Lance Dunbar to do, and the move to CUSA brings some in-state rivals next season. Tony Mitchell and the run of sustained success the basketball team has had brings the school more attention and thus North Texas Football has another chance to shine. Failing that, it at least has a chance to look respectable.
Lord knows that for all the glory brought to us from the Super Pit, UNT won’t be taken seriously in the Metroplex unless the football team is winning. That is the unhappy truth we must live with.
“It makes us feel good,” UNT wide receiver Brelan Chancellor said. “[Coach McCarney] has faith in us, and we have faith in him. We are going to go out there and compete with a hard-edge mentality and try to win games. That’s what we need, for him to put the pressure on us. That will get us going.”
// DRC //
That Brelan quote is in response to Coach Mac being all inspiring and whatnot. That 5-7 season that felt so good? He says it is unacceptable. It is all a matter of perspective, you see. Being an also-ran in the ‘Belt with a just-under .500 record made a good number of die-hard fans feel like we won a gold medal. We didn’t, though. A good leader knows when to congratulate and when to motivate. Danny Mac is a good leader and is done congratulating. Now he is motivating.
So now we are going for wins. It seems obvious, aren’t we always trying to win? Not really. Sometimes teams try to win with conditions. Some teams try to win by doing it their way. They don’t like getting wins however they may come. What kind of team will the 2012 UNT Mean Green Eagles be? Well, let’s find out.
Former Interim Coach Mike Canales will continue his changing of the offense from a dink and dunk super finesse spread to a physical, running balanced spread. It isn’t so much about tight ends or getting under center as an attitude and philosophy. Mike Canales is willing to run the ball — and his head coach wants tough, big and strong lineman. Pair that with the good fortune that North Texas has in finding a quality running back and we might just have a quality rushing attack by accident. This isn’t the first time we went into a season without a no-doubt starter in the backfield. When Jamario Thomas graduated we went into the next season thinking the story was going to be about Cam Montgomery. Lance Dunbar stole the show. He is only the most productive back in UNT history.
RBs: Brandin Byrd,
Reggie Pegram (appeal denied), Antoinne Jimmerson, Jeremy Brown, Jamarcus Jarvis and Mark Lewis.
The good news is that we have everything we want in a running back in this group, albeit spread among the members. There is strength, experience, speed and quickness, and the competition should have ’em all really motivated. The by-committee approach may be ugly but PreSnap Read thinks it’ll be slightly more effective than the Dunbar-led attack last season. Think of it as a variation on the Ewing Theory. I figure we’ll get something along the lines of Brandin moving the chains and Jimmerson hitting home runs. So far in practice, AJ is shaking people up, yo.
WRs: BRELAN! (Brelan Chancellor), Chris Bynes, Ivan Delgado, Chaz Sampson, Derrick Teegarden, Lynrick Pleasant, Nick Shrapps, Carlos Harris, John Chelf (Iowa Transfer that will play), Darnell Smith (JUCO walk-on).
Darius Terrell lost his appeal for a waiver. He’ll have to sit out a year. Roderick Lancaster, (whose NCAA 13 version led my UNT squad in receiving as a freshman) hurt his knee and will be out for the season. This isn’t the most intimidating wide out corps but it has some potential. Brelan is a playmaker. We will be trying to get him the ball anyway we can, in every place we can. The defense knows this, too. The good news? We don’t need a standout guy. It would be really nice, but it isn’t necessary. It is very possible to have a productive offense with a good line, a solid running back and three sold receivers. By most accounts, we have all these. Chancellor, Bynes, and Delgado combined for 100 receptions 1204 yard and 10 scores. Given another year together it isn’t unrealistic to predict a 10% increase in production from those guys (and Derek Thompson). The unproven guys just need to combine for something like 99 catches 1000 yards and 4 scores to equal last years total. With Andrew Power, and Drew Miller looking good, just one of five Other Guys needs to be decent.
A good spread offense is one where the ball finds the open players. You shouldn’t have to force the ball to a guy to get yards. That is the thinking at least. I dare say this group can be solid. No scoring records will be set, yet I don’t foresee the terribleness that was the final year of the Dickey era.
It all rests on the shoulders of . . .
QBs: Derek Thompson (recent grad!), Brent Osborn, Andrew McNulty (likely redshirting).
We have seen what happens when an injury plague visits upon this position. It was a whole lot of scrambling and hoping for broken tackles on screen plays. Thompson had himself a solid fall practice. He went out and got himself a degree quicker than most of you did yours. He looks comfortable and has the confidence of his teammates (named team captain again). The offense primarily rests in his right arm. He will be responsible for getting the ball into the right hands at the right time.
This isn’t 1975 anymore. The reason there is a premium on quarterbacks and quarterback play is that the person in that position is making nearly all the important decisions and reads every play. I do believe we have a solid enough guy that can do good things for the offense. What more can a fan ask for?
Well, we can ask for a higher completion rate. In the first six games in which he threw more than ten passes he was completing 52% of his throws. In his last three games in which he threw more than ten passes he was tossing the ball around at 65%. We need more of the latter and less of the former. I fully expect we’ll get something like this in most games excluding the LSU matchup.
Brent Osborn and Andrew McNulty battled out for second throughout spring and fall. Who wins that battle is mostly a matter of preference. Osborn was the guy with the JUCO experience but McNulty played well in spots as a freshman. He is more of the future than Osborn is but that means a whole lot of nothing. Dan McCarney seems more interested in winning now than saving up talent for some undefined future. I like this.
They both can play and might get some reps if/when Derek Thompson goes down with an injury.
Offensive Line: LT Antonio Johnson, LG Mason Y’Barbo, C Aaron Fortenberry RG Cyril Lemon RT LaChris Anyiam RTColeman Feeley, BACKUPS of note: Cam Feldt, Travis Ellard, Injury of note: Boone Feldt was sent home from camp because of shoulder and neck injuries.
Hey! What do you know? This is a spot where we are deep and talented. This line managed to protect Thompson and open up some holes for Lance Dunbar. It is always dangerous to feel too good about a position group for fear of crossing the football gods, but it is hard to feel pessimistic about this group.
TE: Andrew Power,
Daniel Prior (injured shoulder — done for year), Drew Miller, Cooper Jones, Marcus Smith, and Tanner Smith.
Not all spreads are alike. Mike Canales likes tight ends and H-Backs because of their versatility. They are useful in sussing out the intentions of linebackers when trying to run sweeps and options and obviously for catching passes. I think he prefers the former over the latter and that is why Jamize Olawale wasn’t getting much playing time. Perhaps he likes the hulking blocker type over the versatile H-back? Who knows?
We do know that Andy Power is a good blocker and will continue to have those duties. The others will get time in the double TE sets and when spelling Power. This is a solid group without any game-breakers.
It seemed for a while that when Dickey left he took any knowledge of this side of the ball away. Todd Dodge’s teams were historically bad on defense. For all the good that Rick Villareal as done, his greatest mistake wasn’t hiring Dodge — a rising star in the coaching ranks — it was letting him bring his high school staff.
Disaster it was. /Yoda voice.
So we now are assembling the makings of a solid defense. It may not look it given the 30+ PPG scoring defense and the dearth of defensive backs with experience on the roster. Dan McCarney brought in Clint Bowen last season. He molded the squad into something looking respectable. North Texas has improved statistically over the last couple of years. Last season, it seemed we could get to the quarterback. That is good news considering the secondary is comprised of new faces and unproven freshman and transfers. The thinking goes like this: getting to the quarterback will make take a lot of pressure off the new guys. That seems pretty sound, right? Worst case scenario is that the secondary is so porous that the front four don’t have enough time to get out of their stance before passes are flying over their heads.
I doubt this will be the case.
Everyone runs a version of the spread now, but Houston and Troy are the only two teams that spread to pass as a rule. Kansas St. and LSU are just more talented, the rest of the schedule is beatable. That means the defense will be stressed in two games, overwhelmed in two and in the spotlight in eight others.
DLine: DE Brandon McCoy, DE Daryl Mason, DT Ryan Boutwell (out first two weeks), DT Richard Abbe, DT Andrew Lincoln, DT Tevinn Cantly, DE KC Obi, DE Aaron Bellazin.
This is that defensive line that is expected to carry the load and create space for Zach Orr to make tackles, and relieve pressure on the secondary. As I mentioned, this unit made some strides last season, getting 26 sacks last season but the tackles didn’t really get into the backfield. With a another year of defensive line coaching from savant Dan McCarney, another year in the weight room, and just another year to mature, I figure we should see further improvement from this group. I mean, we’ll need it.
LBs: Zach Orr, Derek Akunne, Jeremy Phillips, Will Wright, Chad Polk, Kendall Washington, Jarrian Roberts.
The name that is conspicuously absent is Mike Stojkovic. He is out for the year with personal issues to take care of. Zach Orr is getting the press because he is expected to be the guy. He is the sole returning backer from last season’s group. He spent some time injured last season and that is the only worry surrounding this upcoming season. That injury opened up time for Derek Akunne and Will Wright. The latter is interesting because of his speed. He is a converted safety. Now, moving safeties up to play linebacker isn’t anything new or groundbreaking, but it is good to know that we’ll be a little speedy in our 4-3. (I won’t even get into the fact that most 4-3 sets are really just 4-2-5s. Will Wright will be that Rover guy.) Jeremy Phillips has played before and is back from injury. All in all this isn’t a bad group. New DC John Skladany coaches linebackers in addition to his main duties so I expect to see some solid play from this group.
DBs: Marcus Trice, Lairamie Lee, Hilbert Jackson, Devante Davis, Xavier Kelly, Freddie Warner (maybe — still hurt), Kenny Buyers, Mike Marshall, Kevin Maduka, and DQ Johnson.
This group has drawn the most spotlight because, well, they are unproven and young. Fall camp has shown us that Coach Mac likes Devante Davis and that Marcus Trice is a playmaker. Xavier Kelly is a three-star guy and DQ Johnson is a JUCO addition. Dan McCarney has been touting the competition as healthy and good for the team. I don’t disagree but I’d really like some stability back there. Sometimes a constant shuffle means you have no one that you trust. With fall practice being closed, it is difficult to suss out the differences and figure a true depth chart. Lists mean little, however. Come Sept 1st, we will see who is starting and who makes plays. Having such a young group portends good things for next year, if you want to look on the bright side. This year we will likely see some miscommunication and terrible defending. Don’t be too harsh. It is better to build with four-year guys than to bring in JUCO mercenaries for a season or two as a stop gap. I like the plan. We just have to be patient.
P: Will Atterbury.
K: Zach Olen
- SEPT. 1 at #1L.S.U. LOSS
- SEPT. 8 Texas Southern WIN
- SEPT. 15 at Kansas St LOSS
- SEPT. 22 Troy WIN
- SEPT. 29 at F.A.U. WIN
- OCT. 6 at Houston LOSS
- OCT. 16 La.-Lafayette WIN
- OCT. 27 at MTSU. WIN
- NOV. 3 Arkansas St. LOSS
- NOV. 10 South Alabama WIN
- NOV. 17 at La.-Monroe WIN
- NOV. 24 at WKU. WIN
Last season, the guys surprised me by winning more than they seemingly should have. This is without Lance having a Lance-type year. Maybe it is normal pre-season hopefulness, or maybe I’m still riding the good vibes of that destruction of the Blue Raiders. I am feeling confident today.
Sunbelt teams are indistinguishable, for the most part. WKU and Ark St came out of nowhere last season thanks to some talent and a lot of good coaching. Outside of the secondary, UNT has just enough talent and solid-to-good coaching. Something the difference between a winning season and a losing one is belief. Coach Mac has Brelan believing and now he has me believing, too.
Go Mean Green.
//Hat tip to Denton RC, Football Study Hall, Pre-Snap Read, GoMeanGreen.com for their UNT coverage that heavily influenced this thing.