2013 North Texas Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - North Texas Mean Green Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: North Texas needs tighter play from its quarterbacks, or else there'll be a change at the position for the first time in three years. Derek Thompson is the incumbent, but he was a microcosm for an offense that sputtered badly to put up points, and lacked efficiency. Enter Brock Berglund, the ballyhooed former Kansas recruit whose ceiling extends higher than anyone else in Denton. A tender hamstring limited him in the spring, but he'll be back to compete at full speed in the summer. The Mean Green should be able to run the ball successfully this year behind a deep backfield that houses Brandin Byrd and Antoinne Jimmerson and a vastly underrated O-line. The front wall returns four starters from a unit that yielded a nation's-low six sacks in 2012. The staff is ecstatic about the healthy return of jack-of-all trades WR Brelan Chancellor, the versatile playmaker who missed the second half of last year to injury.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Brelan Chancellor
Passing: Derek Thompson
214-373, 2,649 yds, 14 TDs, 14 INTs
Rushing: Brandin Byrd
205 carries, 875 yds, 4 TDs
Receiving: Darnell Smith
28 catches, 379 yds, 2 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman C Kaydon Kirby
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Antoinne Jimmerson
Best pro prospect: Chancellor
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Chancellor, 2) Junior RG Cyril Lemon, 3) Junior LG Mason Y'Barbo
Strength of the offense: Backfield depth, pass protection, the guards
Weakness of the offense: Passing game efficiency, center, the receivers, third-down conversions, red-zone conversions
For the first time since 2002, the Mean Green started the same quarterback in consecutive years, 6-4, 220-pound Derek Thompson . Now the senior is trying to make it three seasons in a row at the helm. He's getting pushed, even as the incumbent. He went 214-of-372 for 2,649 yards and 14 touchdowns. The problem is that Thompson was also picked 14 times and lacked the consistency that the team needs at the position. He has adequate arm strength to go along with a good feel for the offense.
Sophomores Brock Berglund and Andrew McNulty are battling for more than just the No. 2 job. Head coach Dan McCarney has made it clear that the starting gig will be up for grabs in the summer. The 6-1, 202-pound McNulty is back after missing 2012 with an injury. He actually has a start on the resume, supplanting an injured Thompson in 2011. However, all eyes will be on Berglund, a controversial Kansas transfer ranked as the No. 26 quarterback of the 2011 class. The multi-dimensional 6-4, 215-pounder is hoping to reinvent himself in Denton after fending off assault charges in his home state of Colorado that were later dropped.
Watch Out For … Berglund's hammy. When the transfer got his shot in the spring, he sure looked like North Texas' most talented all-around quarterback. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury kept him from playing at full strength or making a serious run at Thompson's job.
Strength: A two-year starter. There's plenty of criticism of Thompson, much of which is justified. But there's something to be said for a veteran quarterback who knows the offense and who has been in a leadership position for the past couple of years.
Weakness: Mistakes. The fact that North Texas ranked 89th nationally in passing efficiency can be traced to the poor decisions and errant throws of Thompson. Facing Sun Belt competition in 2012, the Mean Green was last in the league in completion percentage, interception percentage and touchdown passes.
Outlook: Thompson is ripe for the picking. But can Berglund grab that low-hanging fruit? With a strong summer, there's no doubt that the sophomore will have an opportunity to begin his North Texas career as a starter. One way or another, the Mean Green has got to find a way to improve its efficiency in the passing game.
Unit Rating: 5
The Mean Green backfield is going to be deep and competitive, led by senior Brandin Byrd, who went for a team-high 860 yards and four scores on 205 carries a year ago. The powerful 5-10, 216-pounder got better as the season evolved, rushing for more than 100 yards in two of the last three games. He runs with good leverage, wasting little movement as he navigates the hole. If Byrd gets a few more touches this season, he now has the confidence and the head of steam to post a 1,000-yard campaign.
North Texas feels like it has two backups capable of doing more than just provide occasional blows for Byrd. Sophomore Antoinne Jimmerson was precocious in his debut out of Dallas, rushing for 544 yards and five touchdowns on 108 carries, while catching 12 balls for 205 yards and three more scores. The 5-9, 219-pounder runs low to the ground, with enough wiggle and cutback ability to make defenders miss in space. Jimmerson is being joined on the depth chart by Purdue transfer Reggie Pegram . The 5-9, 218-pound north-south runner played sparingly in West Lafayette, but did rush for two scores in the 2011 Little Caesars Bowl.
Watch Out For … the Mean Green to rush for a ton of yards, but have no individual 1,000-yard rusher. Byrd and Jimmerson are virtually interchangeable, and it's going to be hard to keep Pegram off the field. The coaching staff will gladly share the touches this fall, tending to fragile egos if it becomes a concern.
Strength: Power backs. The Mean Green has not one, not two, but three gifted runners who tip the Toledos at north of 215 pounds. This ground game will feature depth and assertiveness, the likes of which only a couple of other Conference USA teams will be able to boast in 2013.
Weakness: Explosive plays. Yeah, there occasional flashes from Byrd and Jimmerson a year ago, but North Texas tends to be a little methodical in its approach to the ground game. Despite ranking 51st in the country, the Mean Green was only 63rd in yards per carry, infrequently busting into the secondary.
Outlook: This could be Conference USA's premier backfield this side of Tulsa. The Mean Green ought to be good for at least another 2,000 yards rushing, spread nicely among three bruising runners. Deep and physical, the unit is capable of absorbing pressure from the D and carrying North Texas to an upset or two in 2013.
Unit Rating: 6
The North Texas passing attack just wasn't the same after 5-9, 183-pound senior Brelan Chancellor broke his collarbone on Oct. 27. At the time of the injury, the explosive all-purpose playmaker had caught 25 balls for 450 yards and five touchdowns, rushed for 155 yards and two scores and contributed on special teams. He's fast, acrobatic and tougher to bring down than his size might indicate. The Mean Green needs Chancellor on the field for all 12 games, because he opens up the field with his presence, and simply makes everyone around him a little more dangerous.
Senior Darnell Smith picked up some of the slack after Chancellor went down, finishing second on the team with 28 receptions for 379 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-1, 208-pound walk-on and Ellsworth (IA) Community College transfer earned a scholarship before last year's opener.
The staff would like to develop different ways to get the ball in the hands of 5-8, 173-pound sophomore Carlos Harris. Small and darting, he caught 19 passes for 263 yards and a score as a true freshman, including eight for 128 yards in the next to last game of the season.
The team is going to be experienced at tight end this season. Starter Drew Miller and backup Daniel Prior are both seniors, with five combined letters. Miller is a rugged 6-1, 260-pounder whose 18 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns ranked fifth on the team. Prior sat out last year due to injury.
Watch Out For … the impact of transfers Carl Caldwell and Darius Terrell . Caldwell is a 5-10, 169-pounder from Kansas Wesleyan, but the 6-3, 220-pound Terrell is who has generated quite a buzz. The former three-star recruit of Mack Brown at Texas began his college career as a tight end, but is making a switch to wide receiver.
Strength: Elusive playmakers. In Chancellor and Harris, North Texas has a pair of jackrabbits, the kinds of athletes who can contribute in myriad different ways. They're lightning quick, versatile and capable of making a quarterback's numbers appear gaudier than they really ought to be.
Weakness: Depth of talent. The drop-off after Chancellor is actually going to be rather steep unless Harris grows up very quickly, or Terrell is as good as advertised right out of the gate. This is neither a deep nor consistent unit, especially when the coaching staff is forced to look down the bench for assistance.
Outlook: Look out for Chancellor. He's liable to take Conference USA by storm in 2013. However, after No. 3, the Mean Green receivers become pedestrian in a hurry. Harris should further evolve in Year 2, but it would really help the team's quarterbacks if Terrell morphs into the type of threat the Longhorns hoped he'd be a few seasons ago.
Unit Rating: 4.5
After allowing just six sacks, fewest in the BCS, in 2012, North Texas is hoping to maintain a high level of play up front, with the insertion of a pair of new starters. The tandem of guards will challenge to become the most effective in Conference USA. On the left side, junior Mason Y'Barbo started all 12 games, earning honorable mention All-Sun Belt. The 6-2, 309-pounder has been in the lineup since his rookie year, and is arguably the strongest member of the front wall.
Over on the right side, hulking Cyril Lemon has started every game of his career in Denton, earning honorable mention All-Sun Belt in back-to-back seasons. Yeah, he'll need to improve his flexibility and conditioning, but when the slimmed-down 6-3, 313-pounder locks on to an opposing lineman, he's tough to escape. Now at the halfway point of a promising career, Lemon is bucking to raise his profile in a new conference.
The third member of the returning starting linemen is 6-5, 311-pound Antonio Johnson, the team's left tackle. He was the sentry for the quarterback's blindside, a key figure in a unit that yielded just six sacks in 12 games. The junior is poised to step out of the shadow of Y'Barbo and Lemon, his more heralded linemates.
Over at right tackle will be veteran LaChris Anyiam, a two-time letterwinner. The 6-4, 296-pound senior actually started seven games in 2012, splitting snaps with the now-graduated Coleman Feeley, and is supremely confident about being an every-down player.
Arguably the most important member of the 2013 O-line will be 6-3, 300-pound Kaydon Kirby . He's a redshirt freshman replacing First Team All-Sun Belt performer Aaron Fortenberry … at center. The preferred walk-on will work this offseason with ample motivation, a chance to earn a free ride at North Texas. Kirby will continue this summer to try holding off 6-4, 365-pound Trinity Valley (Tex.) Community College transfer Shawn McKinney and 6-3, 277-pound redshirt freshman Boone Feldt .
Watch Out For … Kirby's performance in the summer. The staff feels confident everywhere else, but the redshirt freshman still has plenty to prove before locking down the starting job at center. Nothing would make the Mean Green happier than to bestow a scholarship on Kirby at some point this summer or fall.
Strength: Pass protection. Basically, four-fifths of a line that led the country in sacks allowed is still in Denton. North Texas threw the ball 375 times in 2012, yet its quarterbacks were dropped on just six occasions. Heck, this group blanked the LSU front seven in last season's opener in Baton Rouge.
Weakness: Depth. The Mean Green justifiably loves its starting unit, but the falloff after the top four or five guys is precipitous. The program didn't have to use its bench much in 2012, but it's now paying the price with a B team as green as the team's jerseys.
Outlook: Kudos to assistant coach Mike Simmonds, who has quietly done brilliant work in Denton. His Mean Green is a scrappy, blue-collar bunch that's going to compete until the whistle blows. This unit will help give the offense a chance at success in a new conference, especially if Kirby gets protection from the veteran guards and plays a level above his pay grade.
Unit Rating: 6
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