Preview 2017: North Texas Mean Green
Previewing and looking ahead at the North Texas season – and what you need to know.
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What You Need To Know About The North Texas Offense
Former Texas Tech star quarterback Graham Harrell was able to improve the offense, but it still finished 117th in the nation and averaged just 25 points per game. It was a step forward, though, for a team and an attack that did absolutely nothing two seasons ago.
The passing game needs to first settle on a quarterback, with Mason Fine and Quinn Shanbour battling it out for the gig, and the receiving corps should be okay as long as Turner Smiley can be a No. 1 target and some of the relatively new options are as strong as they were in spring ball.
Jeffery Wilson is one of the best all-around backs in Conference USA, and he’s got some help with a surprisingly deep group that should be able to rotate in. But will there be any blocking? This might be the team’s biggest work in progress going into fall camp – there will be plenty of shuffling.
Biggest Key To The North Texas Offense
Consistency, especially on the ground. The Mean Green passing game should be better, but it’s still not going to be dominant. As long as Jeffery Wilson and the rushing attack can crank out regular production, the offense will work. Last season, North Texas was 4-0 when it ran for 200 yards or more, 1-8 when it didn’t. 16 of the 24 rushing touchdowns came in the five wins, the other eight were spread out over the eight losses.
What You Need To Know About The North Texas Defense
Defensive coordinator Troy Reffett made a big improvement, but there’s a whole lot more to do.
The secondary was solid at times, and it managed to not allow a touchdown pass in five games and 18 of the 20 came in six of the eight losses. S Kishawn McClain leads a good-looking veteran crew, with CB Nate Brooks looking ready to come up with a huge season.
There’s little depth at linebacker, but the starting three should be good enough to get by, working behind a potentially fantastic front three. Former defensive tackle Roderick Young should be stronger on the end, while Kansas State transfer Bryce English boosts up the interior. The pass rush needs to be better, but that should come from the linebackers.
Biggest Key To The North Texas Defense
The run defense has to hold up better. The stats are a bit skewed with two games and 782 yards or production allowed to Army, but just about everyone ran well on the North Texas front six. It wasn’t just that the Mean Green were porous – they were gashed for way too many big gains. They didn’t win a game – going 0-7 – when allowing five yards per carry or more.
North Texas Will Be Far Better If …
The Mean Green can start to win third downs. Yeah, the offense likes to dictate the tempo, but that only works when you keep the chains moving. UNT only converted 35% of its third down chances, the defense was rolled by offenses that converted 48% of their tries, and the team only possessed the ball for 27:30 per game. The Mean Green have to do a better job of controlling games.
Best North Texas Offensive Player
RB Jeffery Wilson, Sr. – Can he stay in one piece? The 6-0, 193-pounder was banged up early in his sophomore year, and missed two games last season. Even so, he finished with 936 yards and 14 scores, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
He’s not too much of a workhorse, but he’s great in open spaces and has a nose for the goal line, with three scores against both Rice and Army and two against Bethune-Cookman and Marshall. North Texas won all four of those games.
2. OT Jordan Murray, Jr.
3. WR Turner Smiley, Sr.
4. PK Trevor Moore, Sr.
5. RB Nick Smith, RFr.
Best North Texas Defensive Player
S Kishawn McClain, Sr. – The veteran playmaker who lived through the awful times as one of the few bright spots, he followed up a 110-tackle sophomore season with a team-leading 91 tackles and three picks in an all-star season. The 5-11, 194-pounder isn’t all that big, but he’s extremely quick and he’s not afraid to provide the big pop. Steady, he came up with double-digit stops four times in a five-game midseason stretch, and was good throughout they year – again.
2. CB Nate Brooks, Jr.
3. LB Joshua Wheeler. Sr.
4. CB Eric Jenkins, Sr.
5. LB Brandon Garner, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Mason Fine, Soph. – If it really is Fine at quarterback. He was one of the big keys to the middle of the season, but he missed the final three games with a shoulder problem and is hardly a sure thing to take back his gig. He hit 59% of his passes for 1,572 yards and six touchdowns with five picks, but he’s being pushed by Quinn Shanbour – a walk-on who’s at least the No. 2. No matter who’s the starter, the passing game has to be more efficient and the offense more dangerous. It was way too inconsistent, and the quarterback play way too mediocre.
The North Texas Season Will Be A Success If …
It gets back to a bowl game. Yeah, the Mean Green might have gotten in on a technicality, but a bowl game is a bowl game. This time around, it would be nice to win six games and get a bowl bid without any help from the APR. Lamar, UAB, UTSA, UTEP, at Rice – there are several winnable games. UNT won’t win them all, but there’s enough to form a decent base. Come up with a few upsets, and being at least one win better might not be asking for the world.
Key Game To The North Texas Season
Sept. 9 at SMU – After the rough second half of last season, it would be a massive plus if the Mean Green could get off to a hot start to prove that any of the successes were for real. With Lamar first, and UAB coming up after a sure-loss at Iowa, beat SMU in the Conference USA opener, and they might be able to crank up a 3-1 start before going to Southern Miss.
2016 North Texas Fun Stats
– Rushing Yards: Opponents 3,114 – North Texas 1,736
– Sacks: Opponents 43 for 293 yards – North Texas 26 for 184 yards
– Time of Possession: Opponents 32:30 – North Texas 27:30