2011 North Texas Preview – Offense

Posted Jul 15, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - North Texas Eagle Offense

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Preview 2011 - Offense

- 2011 North Texas Preview | 2011 North Texas Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense was supposed to be special under former head coach Todd Dodge, but the attack got worse and worse. While finishing fourth in the league in total offense isn't that bad, the passing game stunk and RB Lance Dunbar carried the team. With the uptick in production over the final part of the year when Mike Canales took over the coaching duties, that was enough to keep him on as offensive coordinator for the new coaching staff. The key will be the health of the quarterbacks with Derek Thompson needing to come back from a broken leg to give the attack a passing game again, while the offensive line combination has to be figured out to pave the way for Dunbar, who has Sun Belt Player of the Year potential. Darius Carey and Tyler Stradford should form a terrific receiving pair.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Chase Blaine
26-53, 257 yds, 4 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Lance Dunbar
274 carries, 1,553 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Darius Carey
38 catches, 524 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Lance Dunbar
Player who has to step up and be a star: Redshirt freshman OT Antonio Johnson
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OG Aaron Fortenberry
Best pro prospect: Dunbar
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Dunbar, 2) WR Darius Carey, 3) C J.J. Johnson
Strength of the offense: Dunbar, Carey & Stradford
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback Health, Pass Protection


State of the Unit: The Riley Dodge experience is over. Arguably the biggest recruit in the history of North Texas football, he did what he could despite several injury problems and bad teams around him. When his dad, the head coach Todd Dodge, got canned, Riley bailed for Tulsa. That's fine considering the program had several quarterbacks waiting in the wings and now have several options to try to pick up a passing game that finished 96th in the nation and was 80th in efficiency.

Sophomore Derek Thompson was going to play a big role and played in three games completing 11-of-18 passes for 83 yards before suffering a broken leg. At 6-4 and 225 pounds he has excellent size and good mobility able to be used as a rushing threat from time to time. A great talent, he has been excellent in practices over the last few years and if he can stay healthy, he'll be the face of the program for the next three years.

6-4, 212-pound sophomore Brent Osborn is a former JUCO transfer who has the size and the arm to bomb away deep, but he doesn't have the mobility or athleticism of Thompson. He's the type of leader and has the type of attitude that should make him an ideal backup quarterback. There won't be a problem staying ready in case disaster strikes.

Junior Chase Baine was thrown into the mix when injuries blasted the other top quarterback options. He got two starts including against Arkansas State, and the 6-0, 210-pounder ended up completing 26-of-53 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown with an interception. A great runner, he tore off 109 yards in his limited time.

Watch Out For … Osborn. Considering Thompson can't seem to play for more than ten minutes without getting hurt, Osborn has to be ready to roll. Four quarterbacks saw time last year, and while Baine could see time if needed, Osborn was brought in as the insurance policy.
Strength: Several different options. Thompson is the best player and has the most talent, but Osborn is more than fine as a fill in. Baine got hit feet wet last year and isn't a bad emergency option.
Weakness: Injury history. North Texas can't seem to get anyone to stay healthy on a regular basis. Just when it seemed like Thompson was ready to take over and become a big factor, he broke his leg against Army. Former starter Nathan Tune was knocked out with a hip injury when he got his chance. There hasn't been any good injury luck whatsoever.
Outlook: The passing game was supposed to be explosive under Todd Dodge, but it was a complete and utter disaster because the quarterbacks couldn't stay healthy. Thompson has all the skills and all the tools to be a Sun Belt star, while Osborn is a big, solid passer who can keep the offense moving if needed. As long as everyone can stay healthy, everything will be fine.
Unit Rating: 5

Running Backs

State of the Unit: The running game bailed out an offense that was supposed to have a decent passing game and was supposed to be able to bomb away against anyone. Instead, the quarterbacks played a key role and 12 different players ended up getting carries, but the attack came down to just one player who became everything for the team.

Senior Lance Dunbar came up with a First Team All-Sun Belt season in 2009 with 1,378 yards and 17 scores, and then he took his game up a few notched running for 1,553 yards and 13 scores, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, and finishing third on the team with 28 catches for 332 yards and three scores. Steady as well as explosive, he started off the season with 117 yards against Clemson and ended up running for 100 yards or more in eight games including 200+ yard performances against Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, and a brilliant 270-pyard, three touchdown day against Kansas State. At 5-9 and 203 pounds he's small, compact, and can cut on a dime, and he also has the hands and the move to be used as a regular receiver. There's an NFL future for him as a possible third down back.

Sophomore Brandin Byrd was supposed to be thrown into the mix right away, and he was seeing time in every game and finishing fourth on the team with 169 yards and a score. Mostly a special teamer, he ran for 83 yards in the blowout of WKU and was a part of the rotation over the second half of the year. At 5-10 and 199 pounds he has decent size and he's a speedster and potential gamebreaker. He only caught one pass for six yards, but he should quickly become much more of a factor.

5-8, 184-pound senior James Hamilton is a fast, slippery runner who ran for 214 yards and a touchdown, averaging 8.2 yards per carry, in just five games of work. He ran for 122 yards and a score on just 11 carries against Florida Atlantic, but suffered a foot injury the next week and was lost for the season. If he's right, he's the team's second best rushing option.

Watch Out For … Byrd. Dunbar needs more of a break after handling the ball more than 300 times last season, and with Hamilton still trying to fight past his injury, Byrd has to play a big role as a relief pitcher. He showed last year that he could handle the work when needed.
Strength: Dunbar. WKU's Bobby Rainey might be the Sun Belt's most talented back, but Dunbar has been among the most durable and best all-around offensive weapons the league has ever seen. If he stays healthy, he'll finish his career with more than 5,000 yards of total offense.
Weakness: A sure-thing workhorse of a No. 2 back. Can Byrd handle the work if Dunbar goes down for any significant stretch? He's still a bit of an unproven commodity, while the rest of the backs all have question marks. Dunbar is a special player and isn't easily replaceable.
Outlook: As long as No. 5 is fine, the running game will be among the best in the Sun Belt. After finishing first last year, the ground attack will be just as dangerous and effective because QB Derek Thompson is mobile, but Dunbar is the franchise. The more the other backs get into the equation, the better.
Unit Rating: 7.5


State of the Unit: The receiving corps was supposed to be terrific going into last year, and partly because of the inconsistent quarterback situation, the overall results were disappointing. RB Lance Dunbar finished third on the team in receptions with 28, but two of the top four receivers are back and there are more than enough good targets to improve the passing game.

Leading receiver Darius Carey is back, but his production dipped catching 57 passes as a true freshman and just 38 catches for 524 yards and five scores last year. The 5-10, 188-pound junior is a former high school quarterback with excellent quickness and 4.5 speed. The team's best punt return option, he's excellent whenever he has the ball in his hands and he'll be a No. 1 target to revolve the passing game around.

6-2, 185-pound senior Tyler Stradford is a former JUCO transfer who was expected to play a big role right away, and he did catching 24 passes for 268 yards and two scores including a big 75-yarder in the win over Rice. Hurt in the middle of the year after getting cut badly trying to jump a fence to get away from a pit bull, he returned to become a big factor with 15 catches over a three game stretch. The former Oklahoma Sooner has the size, the body control, and the physical ability to grow into a star with more work thrown his way.

It'll be an ongoing battle for the third starting spot and the backup jobs. Redshirt freshman Derrick Teegarden, was supposed to be a quarterback, but the 6-0, 177-pound athlete will move into a possible starting job. While he has a nice, accurate arm, it's not a big one and he wasn't a fit for the backfield. He'll combine with 6-1, 220-pound junior Chris Bynes, a former JUCO transfer who caught five passes for 51 yards in four games before getting knocked out for the year hurt with a torn Achilles heel. Also fighting for time in the rotation is 6-1, 187-pound senior Breece Johnson, who caught three passes for 17 yards in limited action.

6-2, 228-pound junior Daniel Prior is a linebacker by trade and was a good recruit for the program a few years ago, and last year he moved over to tight end seeing time in every game getting a few starts. Mostly a blocker, he came up with just one catch for six yards against Middle Tennessee, but he also worked as a special teamer and saw time on defense. JUCO transfer Andrew Power is a bigger more physical options. The 6-5, 258-pounder can catch as a midrange target.

Watch Out For … the No. 3 wide receiver job. There will be a long fight to try to find more options next to Carey and Stradford, and while there are options, there aren't any sure-things to step in and become a major factor.
Strength: The top two. Carey has been a good playmaker over the last two seasons and knows what he's doing as a very quick, very athletic No. 1 target. Stradford could be the team's most talented target and now he knows what to do.
Weakness: Tight ends. The offense is relying on a JUCO transfer and a former linebacker to fill the spot. The quarterbacks need as many sure-thing targets as possible and they need outlet valves. The jury is out on whether or not Prior and Power can handle the job.
Outlook: If the quarterbacks can stay healthy the receivers should be fine. Carey and Dunbar could be one of the Sun Belt's best twosomes, while there are some decent-sized players ready to be a part of the rotation. This won't be an elite receiving corps, but it'll be fine with a little bit of time for the reserves to develop.
Unit Rating: 5

Offensive Line

State of the Unit: The line did a nice job of paving the way for Lance Dunbar and the running game, but it was awful in pass protection and struggled with its consistency. The left side got 12-game starts from Victor Gill at left tackle and Kelvin Drake at right tackle, but they're gone and only two starters are back.

Trying to take over for Gill at the key left tackle spot is redshirt freshman Antonio Johnson, a 6-5, 292-pound physical blocker who has defensive tackle size, the athleticism and blocking ability to be a fixture for the next four years. Adding more size to the spot is 6-5, 313-pound junior Ayodele Adedipe, a former JUCO transfer who saw backup time in seven games.

The other big opening is at left guard where redshirt freshman Mason Y'Barbo will step in for Drake. The 6-2, 288-pounder isn't all that big, but he's a good run blocker and he showed enough this offseason to be a decent pass protector. 6-5, 299-pound junior Coleman Feeley got four starts last year working in place of Drake, and while he has time and starting experience, he has to be consistent.

Back at center after missing almost all of last year with a broken leg is junior J.J. Johnson, who started against Clemson before getting hurt. At 6-3 and 288 pounds he has tackle size and has two years of starting experience. Great on the move and a smart leader for the line, he's a steady, talented blocker who'll make a big difference for a line that needs veteran leadership. If he can't go, 6-1, 265-pound sophomore Nick Summerfield is a smallish, quick option.

Also back in a starting role is 6-5, 300-pound Matt Tomlinson, a 6-5, 300-pound veteran who started the first three games at right guard before taking over the rest of the way at right tackle. Hurt most of 2008, he has managed to be durable and steady for the ground game ever since. Now he has to be a key blocker on the young line, while 6-5, 292-pound sophomore LaChris Anyiam is in after seeing time in a few games. He's a good-looking prospect who'll likely be the starter going into 2012.

6-4, 292-pound junior Aaron Fortenberry was a decent reserve two years ago and he took over at center after the third game of the season. He has good size and he's versatile enough to play anywhere on the inside, and now the hope is that he can grow into an anchor after being one of the team's best run blockers. 6-3, 280-pound sophomore Nick Leppo took over the starting center job after Johnson got hurt, played two games, and was knocked out for the year with a torn ACL. He'll see time at right guard but could move back to center if needed.

Watch Out For … lots and lots of shuffling. The left side has to be figured out, and the backup situation needs a little while to figure out who fits where, but there are some decent figures to play around with. It'll take the entire offseason to settle on a starting five.
Strength: The coaching staff. Dan McCarney knows how to put together strong offensive lines, and line coach Mike Simmonds knows what he's doing. If nothing else, the teaching will be better up front than it's been in years.
Weakness: Pass protection. The line allowed just 13 sacks two years ago, and then it struggled throughout last season giving up 30 sacks despite the experience returning. There won't be a huge turnaround right away, even with the new coaching.
Outlook: Injuries were a major problem as the UNT line started six different line combinations. With the healthy return of Johnson and with the emergence of Fortenberry, there's a good nucleus to work around. Can the redshirt freshmen shine in starting roles? This should be a decent Sun Belt line, but it'll need at least half the season to jell into a great one.
Unit Rating: 4.5

- 2011 North Texas Preview | 2011 North Texas Offense
- 2011 North Texas Defense | 2011 North Texas Depth Chart