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North Texas Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 8, 2006


North Texas Mean Green Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Finally, it’s JTT, any time, all the time – That would be Jamario Thomas Time, folks and the Mean Green offense couldn’t be in better hands.  Or, feet for that matter.  After apprenticing behind Patrick Cobbs last season, Thomas is itching for the ball again.  In 2004, Thomas took over for an injured Cobbs and led the nation in rushing, averaging an astounding 190 yards per game as a true freshman.  In 2005, Thomas took a backseat to Cobbs as he finished his illustrious career in Denton.  Take the ball away from a guy that was so dominant as a freshman and you’re liable to have a running back with a chip on his shoulder.  Now, Thomas was slowed by a hamstring injury last season, but that injury was made worse by his inactivity in the offense throughout the year.  Consequently, the junior has a point to prove and Thomas isn’t the type of back a defense is going to want to see when he’s got a point to prove.  His thick build and powerful stature is perfect for carrying the ball 30 times a game, and if he can hit that number of carries nearly every week, he’s liable to hit the 2,000 yard mark this season.  But, more importantly, the offense needs a foundation and Thomas’s ability to make twenty out of five, ten out of two, essentially something out of nothing is key to the Mean Green’s offensive fate.  He does get to run behind guard Dylan Lineberry, who might be the SBC’s best run blocking lineman, so don’t be surprised to see #20 running in his gaps many times this season.  Many, many times. 

2nd and Seven – Wanted:  QB who can put ball in end zone – Last year, watching the Mean Green offense was a little like having your teeth pulled.  If the running game was stuck in neutral, then the offense became monotonous as well.  Three plays, punt.  Three plays, punt.  Do the mamba to it.  Suffice it to say, the young, inexperienced rookies that played QB didn’t perform as well as head coach Darrell Dickey would’ve liked.  Daniel Meager and Matt Phillips saw time at the position in 2005 and neither one really latched on to the starting spot, laying a claim to the position for the foreseeable future.  The numbers aren’t even worth telling you about, let’s just agree on the fact that they struggled.  So, entering 2006, no position on this team must develop more than this one.  To help the situation, or at least that was the original point, juco transfer Woody Wilson, who is more of a dual threat QB, was brought in to challenge for the starting spot.  So, you do the math – the North Texas staff installed a few more aspects of the spread offense, they bring in Wilson who is a strong running QB?  But, then again, each one of this trio should enter fall camp with designs on being the starter.

3rd and Three – A taste of their own medicine – Nothing hurts a team, and a coaching staff, worse than watching teams destroy them, the way they had systematically destructed teams in the past.  In other words, after years of watching Patrick Cobbs and Jamario Thomas run up and down the field on Sun Belt foes, said opponents turned the tide last year and ran all over the North Texas front seven.  And, doing so to the tune of 221 yards per game.  Ouch.  Run the ball.  Stop the run.  Simple game, really.  But, the Mean Green defensive front didn’t do that last year in the slightest, and must be able to do so this year or a similar SBC bottom of the conference finish will arise.  Although adding some, if not all, of the aspects of the 3-4 defense will help, it’s never about the X’s and O’s, it’s always about the “Jimmy’s and Joe’s”.  Now, the 3-4 does allow a defense a bit more flexibility with run blitzes, stunts and some games up front (the “X’s and O’s”), but it still goes back to the players (the “Jimmy’s and Joe’s”) to make the plays.  As such, the pressure falls on projected starters in the defensive line Jeremiah Chapman, Sky Pruitt or Joseph Miller and Montey Stevenson to cut that 221 down to at least 150 per game.  Everyone in the defensive 11 has to play a role in stopping the run, but the bulk of the pressure will be on the DL to play much better than last year.

4th and One – Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down – In the world of sports, there are winners and there are champions.  Teams win league and national championships every year, but there are the rare few who expect to do it every year.  Two, three or even four in a row.  The expectation is not if you’re going to win one, but when.  However, even the legendary champions get knocked down every once in a while, but the champions always respond.  Sugar Ray Leonard got hammered by Roberto Duran in Montreal in their first fight, losing the first fight of his professional career, but he came back and proved his mettle by forcing Duran into the infamous “No mas” stance in their next matchup.  Now, take North Texas.  Here was a program that was the Sun Belt conference champion four years running – it was their trophy and their New Orleans bowl, but that incredible run came to an abrupt halt in 2005.  The champs had finally yielded to the up-and-comers and stayed home in December for the first time in the new millennium.  So, the question is whether, and how, the champs will respond.  Sugar Ray got up off the proverbial mat and hammered Duran into submission.  What will North Texas do in response to losing their coveted SBC crown?  Obviously, team sports are completely different from individual sports, but the concept of the champion taking back what they feel belongs to them is not.  Can and will North Texas rip away that crown for 2006?  We’ll see what kind of champion they are.

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