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2013 Pre-Season Preview: North Texas Mean Green

2012 Record: 4-8 (3-5 in Sun Belt)

Head Coach: Dan McCarney (9-15 at UNT, 65-100 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2004 New Orleans Bowl: lost to Southern Miss 31-10

Stadium: Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas (capacity = 30,850)

Home Field Advantage: ranked 22nd out of 55 mid-major teams

Affiliation: Will join Conference USA for 2013 season

Schedule Glimpse:

2013 Schedule Link

Out of Conference: 8/31 vs Idaho, 9/7 at Ohio, 9/14 vs Ball State, 9/21 at Georgia

Swing Games: 10/5 at Tulane, 10/31 vs Rice, 11/9 vs UTEP, 11/23 vs UTSA

Toughest Conference Games: 10/12 vs Middle Tennessee, 10/19 at La Tech, 10/26 at So Miss, 11/30 at Tulsa

 

Statistical Snapshot:

2012 Statistics Link

Stats to Fear: only converted 32.78% on third downs (9th in Sun Belt), scored on 71.43% of red zone trips (last in Sun Belt)

Stats to Cheer: only allowed five sacks (1st in Sun Belt), had 43.3 penalty yards per game (1st in Sun Belt)

Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 99th out of 124 teams

 

Personnel:

Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 8, Defense 8, Special Teams 1

Key Defensive Returnees: LB Zachary Orr (2 INT, 108 tackles), LB Derek Akunne (2 INT, 90 tackles), DB Hilbert Jackson (84 tackles), DB Lairamie Lee (72 tackles), CB Zac Whitfield (3 INT, 59 tackles), DB Marcus Trice (2 INT, 63 tackles)

Key Offensive Returnees: QB Derek Thompson (2629 yds pass, 14 TD, 14 INT), RB Brandin Byrd (890 yds rush, 4.3 ypc, 4 TD), RB Antoinne Jimmerson (544 yds rush, 5.0 ypc, 5 TD), G Cyril Lemon, T Antonio Johnson

2013 Recruits: CB Chad Davis, ATH Andrew Tucker, OG Cody Nelson, FB Fred Scott

 

Inside Scoop with Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle:

CFBZ: North Texas steps up from the Sun Belt to Conference USA this season. What will be the most intriguing thing for you about their inaugural season in C-USA?
 
Brett Vito: It has to be the bottom line of whether UNT can break through and finish .500 for the first time since the end of its four-year run at the top of the Sun Belt in 2004. If you look at UNT's roster, there are a ton of key players who are seniors — linebackers Zach Orr and Will Wright, safety Marcus Trice, defensive ends Brandon McCoy and Aaron Bellazin, cornerback Hilbert Jackson, quarterback Derek Thompson, wide receiver Brelan Chancellor and offensive lineman LaChris Anyiam among others.
 
If UNT doesn't get it done this year, the loss of so many key players could put the Mean Green back in rebuilding mode, especially on the defensive side of the ball in 2014, a season it has to go to Texas, to Indiana and play SMU, which has been on the rise the last few years.
 
This season represents a key window of opportunity. If UNT can get to a bowl this year, it could start the program on a roll. If this season is UNT's ninth losing year in a row, the hole will become that much harder to crawl out ot.
 
 
CFBZ: Dan McCarney has gone 9-15 in his first two years on campus. What do you think he is doing well and what does he need to work on?
 
Brett Vito: McCarney took over a total train wreck after the departure of Todd Dodge, a high school coach who is the worst coach in the history of North Texas athletics from a statistical standpoint and any other reasonable measure you want to use. 
 
McCarney has pulled UNT out of the ditch and put it back on a path to respectability. He's great in the community and his players and he has really improved to program.
 
UNT has struggled a little at times offensively due to a conservative approach. UNT is supposed to open it up this year, which could help quite a bit. UNT could also stand to upgrade its talent level. McCarney has brought in better players, but there is always room to improve, especially when it comes to landing high-profile talent.
 
 
CFBZ: Offensively, the Mean Green weren't very mean last season. Who are some players that need to step up this year if the offense is to improve?
 
Brett Vito: UNT has to be better at the skill positions other than running back, where the team always tends to be pretty good. UNT struggled at wide receiver last year, especially after Brelan Chancellor went down with a broken collarbone. Quarterback Derek Thompson had his moments, but was up and down all year. UNT needs him to improve or Kansas transfer Brock Berglund to become the player UNT hopes he can be.
 
 
CFBZ: What needs to happen for North Texas to have their first winning season since 2004?
 
Brett Vito: A lot.
 
UNT has to be better offensively, especially in the red zone and in the passing game. UNT's receivers will have to be better. The Mean Green will have to be better in the defensive secondary and improve its pass rush. 
 
UNT just has to be better across the board.
 
UNT tried to buy in a win by paying a hefty guarantee to bring in Idaho for its season-opener. UNT has to win that game and a few others it could be favored in — UTSA, UTEP and Southern Miss — and then hope it can pull a couple of upsets in games it won't be favored in to get to six wins.
 
 
Verdict:
 
This will be Derek Thompson's third year as starter and the Mean Green will need improvement from him. In both of his years as a starter, Thompson has completed just 57% of his passes (which last year ranked him 9th in the Sun Belt) and he has a TD to INT ratio of 5:4 although last year it was worse at 1:1. At RB, UNT has options with their top two backs from last season returning. They lose their leading receiver but Brelan Chancellor is returning from an injury that kept him out for the last three games of last season and he should be the go-to guy. The OL is in decent shape. They lose their top lineman but return three with 24 career starts and one more wth 6 career starts.
 
Last season, UNT had a middle of the pack Sun Belt defense but did finish third in the conference in points allowed. UNT returns a lot of starters on all levels of the defense. They will return six players with experience along the line (four of which are seniors). They return just about everybody of note in the secondary including four starters. The LB corps will return their two best players in Zachary Orr and Derek Akunne. This will be John Skladany's second year as DC (previously coached at UCF) and the defense made some modest improvements last season. I would look for this veteran group to continue it's improvement this season.
 
The schedule actually looks pretty tough on paper for the Mean Green. Their out of conference slate includes a probable win over Idaho, a loss to Georgia and two tough MAC match-ups that I would be surprised to see UNT win (Ball State and Ohio). In conference play they get Middle Tennessee, Rice, UTEP and UTSA at home and they travel to Tulane, La Tech, So Miss and Tulsa. Not a killer schedule and I do like their chances with their home conference schedule but for a team that doesn't have a recent history of winning it's a tough one. When I look at the schedule I see a five win season for the Mean Green. If the offense comes together they could grab six and make a bowl.
 
 
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:
Independent: Georgia StateOld Dominion
MWC- SDSU
The American- Memphis
 
Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, writer for Crystal Ball Run and founder of College Football Zealots

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