Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top 120 countdown
No. 98 North Texas
QB Derek Thompson (6-4/225, So.)
RB Lance Dunbar (5-9/203, Sr.)
RB Darius Carey (5-10/188, Jr.)
WR Michael Outlaw (6-0/191, Sr.)
WR Tyler Stradford (6-2/185, Sr.)
TE Daniel Prior (6-2/228, Jr.)
T Antonio Johnson (6-6/292, R-Fr.)
T Matt Tomlinson (6-5/300, Sr.)
G Aaron Fortenberry (6-4/292, Jr.)
G Mason Y'Barbo (6-2/288, R-Fr.)
C J.J. Johnson (6-3/288, Sr.)
E Brandon Akpunku (6-1/240, Sr.)
T Tevinn Cantly (6-4/336, Jr.)
T Brandon McCoy (6-2/265, So.)
E K.C. Obi (6-2/240, Jr.)
LB Zach Orr (6-1/245, So.)
LB Jeremy Phillips (6-3/212, Jr.)
LB Will Wright (6-2/204, So.)
CB Royce Hill (6-0/181, Sr.)
CB D'Leon McCord (6-1/180, Sr.)
FS John Shorter (6-0/195, Sr.)
SS Brad Graham (6-0/199, Sr.)
K Zach Olen (5-9/206, So.)
P Will Atterberry (5-9/195, Jr.)
KR Brelan Chancellor (5-9/168, So.)
PR Darius Carey (5-10/188, Jr.)

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COACH: Dan McCarney (first season at North Texas; 56-85 in 12 seasons overall)

: 3-9, 3-5 (T-6th in Sun Belt)

: RB Lance Dunbar ran for 1,553 yards and 13 TDs last season, and ranked sixth nationally at 129.4 yards per game. He had eight 100-yard games, including three with at least 215 yards. In two games against Big Six foes that went to bowls (Clemson and Kansas State), he rambled for 387 yards and three TDs. He also is a good receiver and obviously one of the leading contenders for Sun Belt player-of-the-year honors. But he'll run behind a line that is missing three starters - and each received all-league notice last season. C J.J. Johnson is a key; he was injured in the opener and missed the rest of the season, but he has all-league potential. Two projected line starters are redshirt freshmen. Derek Thompson was one of four quarterbacks who started for the Mean Green last season and one of three that suffered a season-ending injury (in his case, a broken leg). He's healthy now and won the starting job in spring practice, but he'll have to continue to fend off JC transfer Brent Osborn in summer camp. The quarterbacks have a solid group of receivers with which to work, led by Darius Carey and Tyler Stradford, who began his career at Oklahoma. Because of the quarterback injuries last season, Dunbar basically provided all the offense down the stretch. While the passing attack should be better this season, the rebuilt line means there are some questions about the running game.

: McCarney has a defensive background and was hired off the staff at Florida, where he was the defensive line coach. He needs to work some magic with the Mean Green's defensive line because UNT was weak against the run last season, allowing 184.9 yards per game. Both starting tackles will be new, but there is some size, most notably with 336-pounder Tevinn Cantly. Both starting ends return from a team that had 19 sacks; UNT has just 91 sacks in the past six seasons, and McCarney and new coordinator Clint Bowen must find a way to apply some pressure. Jeremy Phillips and Zach Orr head what could be a solid group of linebackers. The secondary looks fine. CB Royce Hill should contend for all-league honors, and there is a lot of experience at safety.

: Backup WR Brelan Chancellor was excellent as a kick returner last season, averaging 28.0 yards per return and taking two back for TDs. He and Carey shared punt returner duties, but neither did anything of note in that role. K Zach Olen was one of the better freshman kickers in the nation last season, going 13-of-15, including a 53-yarder. P Will Atterberry is fine, but the coverage units need to be shored up.

: McCarney, the former coach at Iowa State, takes over a program on a slight uptick. Injuries wrecked the Mean Green last season, but there is some talent on hand. Dunbar is a great building block, and if he gets some help from the passing attack, this could be quite a potent offense. McCarney kept offensive coordinator Mike Canales, so continuity on offense should be a plus. Still, UNT has to get a heck of a lot better against the run before it can hope to go bowling again. The early-season schedule is a bear. UNT opens at defending league champ Florida International, then plays Houston, Alabama, Indiana and Tulsa in the next four (Houston and Indiana are home games, in UNT's new stadium). The schedule then softens considerably, and a .500 season is a legit goal in McCarney's first season.

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