CFN Preview 2013 - North Texas Mean Green
North Texasn WR Brelan Chancellor
North Texasn WR Brelan Chancellor
Posted May 17, 2013 2013 Preview - North Texas Mean Green

North Texas Mean Green

Preview 2013

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Dan McCarney
3rd year: 9-15
14th year overall: 65-100
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 15, Def. 21, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 13
Ten Best UNT Players
1. LB Zach Orr, Sr.
2. CB Zac Whitfield, Soph.
3. WR Brelan Chancellor, Sr.
4. LB Derek Akunne, Jr.
5. RG Cyril Lemon, Jr.
6. LG Mason Y'Barbo, Jr.
7. RB Brandin Byrd, Sr.
8. RB Antoinne Jimmerson, Soph.
9. FS Marcus Trice, Sr.
10. DE Aaron Bellazin, Sr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Idaho
9/7 at Ohio
9/14 Ball State
9/21 at Georgia
10/5 at Tulane
10/12 Middle Tennessee
10/19 at Louisiana Tech
10/26 at Southern Miss
11/2 Rice
11/9 UTEP
11/23 UTSA
11/30 at Tulsa
Every decade or two, North Texas becomes a dangerous mid-major that wins a bunch of games, competes for titles and sends a handful of its kids to the NFL. It's time for third-year head coach Dan McCarney to manufacture that kind of team again in Denton.

It's Year 3 for McCarney, who is facing the added personal pressure of suffering a stroke in February of 2012, and then undergoing a heart procedure this past April. On the field, he and his staff are busy transitioning the Mean Green into a new league, Conference USA, while attempting to reverse the school's recent struggles.

North Texas has been mired in a deep slump since 2005, reeling off eight straight losing seasons; this level of futility from a program that just prior to hitting the skids had won four consecutive Sun Belt Conference championships. A coach can win at this university. Darrell Dickey proved it a decade ago.

The Mean Green is coming off a disappointing 4-8 campaign, fading as the season came to a close. Still, the coaching staff likes its mix of talent on both sides of the ball heading into 2013. The offense boasts a deep backfield and a veteran offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the FBS a year ago. All eyes will be on Kansas transfer Brock Berglund, the biggest challenger to Derek Thompson' two-year hold on the starting quarterback job.

The defense has holes, many of which are blatantly evident from the film of the 2012 season. It also has an experienced back seven, led by Zach Orr and CB Zac Whitfield, which ought to spearhead modestly improved play this fall. The onus will fall on a suspect D-line to make more noise than it has in recent years.

There's tempered hope in Denton. McCarney's staff has a better foothold now that it enters its third year. Eight starters are back on each side of the ball. Apogee Stadium is one of the newest facilities in the FBS. And the North Texas campus is located just an hour north of Dallas, a hotbed for recruiting. Now all the Mean Green must do is start competing for bowl bids again, just as the slate of games gets tougher.

What to watch for on offense: Brock and roll. The Mean Green desperately needs to improve in the passing game after incumbent Derek Thompson threw as many interceptions as touchdown passes in 2012. Is transfer Brock Berglund the solution behind center? The former coveted recruit of Turner Gill at Kansas sure looked in the spring as if he had the highest ceiling among the quarterbacks. But a hamstring injury prevented him from showcasing his diverse skill set in March. The anticipation to see Berglund at full strength is rising as fall camp approaches.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary is a year older. Is it a year better? The defensive backfield played pretty well last season, giving up fewer touchdown passes than any other Sun Belt team. Now that all four starters return, North Texas should be up to the challenge of facing Conference USA passers. CB Zac Whitfield is a surging all-star. SS Lairamie Lee will crack the whip. And former Oklahoma Sooner Marcus Trice is an exciting playmaker at free safety, a potential Tyrann Mathieu-like defender for the Mean Green.

This team will be far better if … the D-line shows a pulse. North Texas has a decent array of talent on the back seven, but who'll know it if the linemen are unable to assert themselves? This group was thoroughly ineffective in 2012, a key reason why the D ranked 87th nationally in sacks, while allowing just under five yards a carry. If the Mean Green is going to have a chance of surviving in the face of better offenses, progress will have to start up front.

The Schedule: The Mean Green should be better, but the record probably won't show it unless they can handle a few 50/50 games at home. Middle Tennessee, Ball State and UTEP could all go either way, and UNT needs to win them all with a run of four road games in five and finishing up the regular season with a trip to Tulsa. The late part of the season is helped by not having any November road games until the finale, but there can't be any mistakes. Throw in away games at Ohio, Georgia and Louisiana Tech, and Idaho and UTSA become must wins.

Best Offensive Player: Senior WR Brelan Chancellor. Had the multi-dimensional playmaker not missed almost half of 2012 to a collarbone injury, he might not be such an anonymous figure today. Chancellor is the kind of offensive weapon who entices coaches to concoct new ways to get the ball into his hands. Reminiscent of former Florida International—and current Indianapolis Colts—all-around threat T.Y. Hilton, Chancellor is instant offense on the field. In just seven games, he caught 25 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns, rushed for 155 yards and two scores and contributed on special teams.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Zach Orr. Orr is coming off his best season in Denton, capping it with a second straight spot on the All-Sun Belt Second Team. He's smart, instinctive and fundamentally-sound, qualities that the staff looks for in a middle linebacker. The latest in a growing line of talented North Texas linebackers, the 6-1, 231-pounder has packed on some good pounds in the offseason, the first step toward toppling last fall's team-best 108 tackles, 3.5 stops for minus yards and two interception.

Key player to a successful season: Redshirt freshman C Kaydon Kirby. The Mean Green O-line was stupendous in 2012, leading the FBS in sacks allowed, and paving the way for a 2,000-yard season on the ground. The unit returns intact, with the glaring exception of Kirby who is replacing all-star Aaron Fortenberry. For the offense to stop sputtering, as it did a year ago, it needs sharper play from the quarterbacks, and it needs the line to remain a cohesive group as a wide-eyed player gets broken in at the pivot.

The season will be a success if ... North Texas reaches the .500 mark for the first time in almost a decade. Anything less than six wins is a failure in 2013, even as the team ventures into the unexplored waters of Conference USA. The Mean Green is a veteran team with a veteran coach. And the schedule isn't exactly littered with landmines. The program will have a number of chances for victories in the fall, facing Idaho, Tulane, Southern Miss, UTEP and UTSA.

Key game: Oct. 5 at Tulane. If there's such a thing as a must-win on the 2013 schedule, this trip to Louisiana could be it. North Texas has a past in the Big Easy, playing in four straight New Orleans Bowls from 2001-04. For the Mean Green, Week 5 will be a first-ever Conference USA game and a chance to measure itself against a new set of rivals. If it wins on the road, postseason hopes get a lift. However, losing to a team that's been equally futile in recent years could signal a bowl-eligibility death knell.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: North Texas 19 – Opponents 6
- Third-down conversions: North Texas 33%– Opponents 45%
- First-quarter scoring: North Texas 44 - Opponents 92

- 2013 North Texas Preview | 2013 North Texas Offense
- 2013 North Texas Defense | 2013 North Texas Depth Chart