#92 North Texas Football 2014 Preview

North Texas Mean Green

Overall Rank: #92
#5 Conference USA

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The 2013 season was a big one for North Texas and head coach Dan McCarney. After building up for a couple of seasons in the Sun Belt, the Mean Green hit their stride. At 6-2 in Conference USA play and 9-4 overall, North Texas proved that they were a player in their new conference. The win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl was huge for gaining momentum heading into 2014. However, there are a lot of holes to fill and now we will get to see how Coach McCarney’s decent recruiting classes over the last few years will play out.

2013 Record: (9-4, 6-2)
2013 Bowl: Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. UNLV (W 36-14)
Coach: Dan McCarney (18-19 at North Texas, 74-104 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Canales
Defensive Coordinator: John Skladany

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Antoinne Jimmerson, RB, 446 yards
Passing: Dajon Williams, QB, 55 yards
Receiving: Carlos Harris, WR, 553 yards
Tackles: Derek Akunne, LB, 90
Sacks: Chad Polk, DE, 3.0
Interceptions: Kenny Buyers, DB, 3; Lairamie Lee, DB, 3; Zac Whitfield, DB, 3

Other Key Returnees: RB Reggie Pegram, OL Cyril Lemon, OL Mason Y’Baro

Key Losses: RB Brandin Byrd, QB Derek Thompson, WR Darnell Smith, WR Brelan Chancellor, LB Zachary Orr, S Marcus Trice, DE Aaron Bellazin, DE Brandon McCoy

Even with just five starters returning on offense, Coach McCarney has a solid system setup. But perhaps more important than the system, for this year at least, is the fact that four of the five returning starters are on the offensive line. Beyond seniors Cyril Lemon, Antonio Johnson, Shawn McKinney and Mason Y’Barbo, the Mean Green boast more than enough experienced depth. That should allow the offense to move the chains relatively consistently. But, of course, finding a new running back to fill in for the departed Brandin Byrd is critical. Fortunately, Antoinne Jimmerson and Reggie Pegram got plenty of carries last season and are ready to pick up the slack. Those two combined carried the ball over 200 times and found the end zone on 13 occasions. The new quarterback should have plenty of time to make things happen too. Replacing Derek Thompson will not be easy, but North Texas will find a capable option among Josh Greer, Andrew McNulty and Dajon Williams. The top two receivers, Darnell Smith and Brelan Chancellor are also gone, yet there is talent down the ranks, most notably Carlos Harris.

It was the play of the defense that led to such a successful 2013 campaign. With just four starters back and fewer experienced options than the offense, the defense could keep the Mean Green out of the conference title race this time around. Defensive end Chad Polk is a proven talent, but this is a team that will be figuring out the rest of the rotation well into the fall. Linebacker Derek Akunne will have to turn into a leader after tallying 90 tackles a year ago. The strength of the defense is now in the secondary where Kenny Buyers, Lairamie Lee and Zac Whitfield return. While the secondary is in good shape, the defense pretty much has to take a step back.

The Bottom Line:
How big that step back turns out to be for the defense will be the difference between a team that competes for a conference title and a team that sneaks into bowl eligibility. The Mean Green do miss a couple of the top teams in C-USA, but picking up road wins at places like UAB, Rice, UTEP and Texas-San Antonio is not going to be easy. Non-conference games against Texas, Indiana and SMU will be even more difficult. Coach McCarney has this program headed in a great direction and reaching a bowl game in what should be a down year proves it.

Projected Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 180.7 (49th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 229.8 (66, 4)
Total Offense: 410.5 (63, 3)
Scoring Offense: 31.8 (49, 3)
Rushing Defense: 120.5 (14, 2)
Pass Defense: 227.8 (61, 9)
Total Defense: 348.2 (17, 2)
Scoring Defense: 17.8 (8, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.8 (15, 2)
Sacks:  3.00 (7, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 0.85 (7, 2)


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