Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN North
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2008 North Texas Offense
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What you need to know:
The offense got a jump-start in a huge way going from being
among the worst in America to becoming more explosive with a
high-octane, mistake-prone passing game. Now all the square pegs
forced into round holes last year know what they're doing, but a
newcomer, Riley Dodge, head coach Todd Dodge's son, could
instantly be the new star quarterback. If not, Giovanni Vizza
can run the attack helped by pass-catching machine Casey
Fitzgerald back as the elder statesman of a promising young
receiving corps. Micah Mosley and Cam Montgomery are talented
backs who'll produce when called upon, but they need room. The
banged up line, led by all-star C Kelvin Drake, gets almost
everyone back, but it has to find something it does well after a
disastrous first season under Dodge.
Passing: Giovanni Vizza
223-383, 2,388 yds, 17 TD, 20 INT
Rushing: Micah Mosley
94 carries, 461 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Casey Fitzgerald
111 catches, 1,322 yds, 12 TD
Star of the offense: Senior WR Casey Fitzgerald
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Sam Dibrell
Best pro prospect: Junior C Kelvin Drake
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Fitzgerald, 2) QB Riley
Strength of the offense: Passing game, experience on the
Weakness of the offense:
Pass protection, turnovers
Head coach Todd Dodge didn't have to go far to find the best
quarterback prospect the school has ever had. True freshman
Todd Dodge, the coach's son, bombed away for 3,445 yards and
39 touchdowns, and ran for 772 yards and 13 scores, for Texas
high school superpower Southlake Carroll last season and was
named the 2007 and 2007 Gatorade Player of the Year. At 6-0 and
183 pounds he's not all that big, but he's almost like a thinner
Chase Daniel, another Southlake alum. Dodge should have a good
command of the offense from day one and he should be the face of
the program for the next four years.
the quarterback situation is hardly settled, junior
Daniel Meager appears to have a handle on the starting job
coming out of spring ball. He hasn't exactly had a sterling
career completing 154 of 302 passes for 1,458 yards and eight
touchdowns with 14 interceptions, but he's not bad on his short
to midrange throws and has decent mobility. The starter over the
final six games last year, he's been the most consistent passer
so far in the new era. While the coaching staff hasn't given
Meager the starting job quite yet, it'll take a major effort to
knock him out.
Projected Top Reserves: It took a few games and a
lot of errors, but sophomore Giovanni Vizza came up with
an interesting season completing 58% of his passes for 2,388
yards and 17 touchdowns with 20 interceptions. He didn't go a
game without a pick and he struggled mightily with his
consistency, but he threw for 478 yards and eight touchdowns
against Navy and showed good mobility finishing third on the
team with 299 yards and two scores. The big concern is how he
finished with one touchdown and six interceptions in his final
three games against Arkansas State, Western Kentucky and FIU. At
6-1 and 195 pounds he's not that big, but he has a good arm and
a year of experience.
Watch Out For ... Dodge. It's not like Vizza won't
get a shot at the starting job, but Dodge is the talent the
program needs to make the offense fly. You don't get a recruit
like him and keep him under wraps.
Strength: Mobility. Along with the ability to bomb
away, Vizza and Dodge can move, adding another dimension to the
offense. They can be rolled out or used as runners when needed.
Weakness: Interceptions. There will be a ton of them. After 28
were thrown last year, more will come with the offense relying
on bombing away at least 550 times. This won't be the most
efficient passing game around.
Outlook: It's going to be fun. There will be lots
of passes, lots of yards, and lots of mistakes. There will be a
few games when the starter puts up eye-popping numbers, and
other times when there will be five interceptions and a lot of
hand-wringing. Dodge will have the inside line on the job this
fall, but Vizza is a good young player who can carry the offense
if he wins the starting job. Meager is an excellent relief
pitcher who could come in for a stretch.
Last year Micah Mosley had to split time with Jamario
Thomas, but when the now-sophomore got his chance, he was
effective finishing with 461 yards and five touchdowns,
averaging 4.9 yards per carry, while catching 11 passes for 88
yards and a touchdown. The 6-1, 205-pounder is a tough, quick
back who can be a 20-carry-a-game back if needed. That won't be
necessary, but he'll have to take advantage of the openings with
everyone paying attention to the passing game.
Projected Top Reserves: Former JUCO transfer
Cam Montgomery was a good enough recruit to be looked at by
Illinois and Boise State, but he wasn't able to do much with his
combination of speed, power and moves in a 6-2, 208-pound frame
because he got hurt. He only ran three times for seven yards and
caught a pass for five yards before getting hit with a hamstring
injury. On the plus side, he was able to take a medical redshirt
and is still just a junior. He should be a featured back at
Former fullback Keronna Henderson is a 6-0, 225-pound
power player who made his biggest impact on special teams. While
Mosley and Montgomery can use a little power, Henderson could be
the best option thumper on short yardage plays.
Watch Out For ... Mosley to flirt with 1,000 yards.
While Montgomery will see more than his share of work, Mosley is
the one who'll likely carry the ground game in key spots. The
coaching staff is paying lip service to having a bit of a
rushing attack, and while there won't be a balance, Mosley will
have a few big games.
Strength: Combinations of speed and size. Mosley
and Montgomery aren't the typical small, quick backs offenses
like UNT's likes to use. These two can run inside and out.
Weakness: Receiving. It would be nice if the backs were used
more in the passing game, and they'll get a few grabs here and
there, but they're not going to be the weapons who'll make
Outlook: UNT used to have some of the most
productive rushers in America, but the days of Patrick Cobbs and
Jamario Thomas pushing for 2,000 yards are gone. Mosley and
Montgomery are certainly talented enough to make the offense
grind it out, but that won't be their job. If one of them gets
the ball 15 times a game, it'll be a lot. Expect a good rotation
that'll keep each fresh. The talent is better than the
production will be.
Senior Casey Fitzgerald wasn't even considered to be a
likely factor as a starter. After all, he was a walk-on who
spent most of his time on the scout team and caught a mere four
passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role. But he
became one of the Sun Belt's biggest stars finishing third in
the nation with 111 catches for 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns
highlighted by the unbelievable 18-catch, 327-yard, two
touchdown day against SMU. He later caught 13 passes for 134
yards and five scores. He's an athletic 5-11 and 195 pounds with
just enough speed to hit the home run, like a 99-yard touchdown
play against ULM. He doesn't have elite wheels, but he's fast
Sophomore Sam Dibrell made a big impact as a true
freshman catching 28 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns,
including a 75-yarder. He had two huge games catching eight
passes for 121 yards and a touchdown against Middle Tennessee
and caught six passes for 113 yards and a score against Navy.
The ultra-productive former high school star is used to getting
work, he caught 20 touchdown passes his senior year and is
expected to soon be the number one target when it's not
The number two guy in the mix will likely be senior Brock
Strickler, a 6-3, 219-pound inside target who caught 37
passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns. Mostly a special teamer
early in his career, he stepped up and became a key target as
the year went on.
6-4, 215-pound redshirt freshman Sam Roberson brings even more size and upside,
but he could end up at safety if
need be. He's a talented, big target who was a star high school
defensive back and now appears ready to be a major weapon for
the passing game.
Projected Top Reserves: Somewhere in the mix to
replace Brandon Jackson, who caught 79 passes, will be Marcus
King, a great-looking 6-3, 200-pound prospect who was
unstoppable in high school despite playing in an offense that
almost never threw the ball. He redshirted last year and will
hit the ground running in a rotation with Walker.
Working behind Fitzgerald will be sophomore B.J. Lewis, a
promising deep threat who caught ten passes for 86 yards last
year. While he won't see much time in place of Fitzgerald, Lewis
should find his way on the field often to use his speed as a
Redshirt freshman Evan Walker has all the makings of a
possible star. A nice recruit, he has good hands, nice
quickness, and enough upside to have several plays designed to
go his way. He's 5-11 and 185 pounds and durable. He'll be able
to handle getting the ball in his hands across the middle
without a problem.
Watch Out For ... the redshirt freshmen. Fitzgerald
might be the star of the show, but Walker, King and Roberson
will form the foundation for the future. They have more raw
skills than the main targets going into the season, but the need
Strength: Fitzgerald. Even when everyone tried to
cover him he still made plays. His production was one of the
shockers of the season, and his presence will open things up for
Weakness: Inexperienced reserves. There was too much of a
reliance on Fitzgerald and Brandon Jackson last season, they
caught 190 of the 330 completions, and now the idea will be to
spread the ball around more. That means several untested players
have to step up and become major weapons.
Outlook: Raise your hand if you thought the entire
UNT receiving corps was going to catch 111 passes, much less
Fitzgerald by himself. The offense does wonders, and now the
veteran receivers know what they're doing. On the plus side,
there's a bigger upgrade in talent with all the young players as
good as any the program has had in a long time. Who's going to
be this year's version of Fitzgerald? It'll likely be Dibrell,
but Fitzgerald will get his catches, too.
There are problems on the line, but there's a good player to build
around in junior center Kelvin Drake. The 6-2, 300-pound
second-team All-Sun Belt performer is a tough quarterback up front and a
good all-around blocker. He could stand to be more consistent for the
running game, and he isn't built to be a pass blocker, but he can do
everything well. Most importantly, he made the quick transition to
snapping the ball in the shotgun formation without a problem, and he
toughed it out on a bum ankle.
6-5, 302-pound sophomore Esteban Santiago beefed up over the last
year and should be more of a factor. One of the team's best pass
protectors, the former defensive lineman will be a fixture at right
guard for the next three years. How fast did he pick things up?
Basically he spent a week on the offensive side last spring, was solid,
and kept the job.
Also back on the right side is junior Tyler Bailey, the team's
most versatile blocker. Able to play guard or tackle, he settled in at
right guard and will be moved around where needed. At 6-2 and 275
pounds, he's more of a tackle, and will likely end up on the outside,
but he started eight times last year at left guard only missing time due
to a concussion. He'll go into the fall at left guard.
Returning on the left side is 6-5, 275-pound sophomore Matthew Menard.
He had major problems in pass protection as he was still working out how
to play the position after mostly working as a defensive lineman in high
school, but he's a physical, athletic left tackle.
Looking to make an impact at right tackle is sophomore Victor Gill,
a woefully undersized 6-5, 235-pound former tight end who moved to the
line to provide an athletic pass protector. While he won't do much
against the run, he'll help out against speed rushers on the outside.
Projected Top Reserves: JUCO transfer Nate
Jenkins is a 6-4, 335-pound all-star as the anchor of the national
champion Pearl River CC line. A huge presence who can do a little of
everything well, he could be an instant factor at one of the tackle
Senior Chad Rose, the 2006 every day starting center will
eventually see time at guard when he comes back healthy after missing
time this spring. He's 6-3 and 285 pounds with four starts under his
belt at the spot when Bailey was out. While he's experienced, he needs
to be far stronger in pass protection.
6-3, 320-pound JUCO transfer
is one of the team's highest rated recruits and ready to start somewhere
from the moment he gets to campus. He's a huge option on the outside,
but his future could be at one of the guard spots.
Watch Out For ... the JUCO transfers. More production
is needed after a disastrous season, and with all the injuries and all
the uncertainty up front, Hollivay and Jenkins will have their chances
to start right away.
Strength: Experience. The only positive out of
last year was the experience. With so many players thrown into a new
offense and a tough situation, the production wasn't there. Now there
are four starters and promising backups returning to go along with the
two top JUCO transfers.
Weakness: Reliability. Who's healthy? Drake is the one shining
star up front and he's trying to get healthy, while Rose and Menard were
banged up this spring. Hurting the immediate depth was the loss of
Matt Tomlinson to a shoulder problem. The last thing the line needs
is inconsistency from injuries.
Outlook: The line was supposed to be a problem
going into last year, and it turned out to be worse than anyone could've
ever imagined. The running game struggled to get going and the pass
protection was non-existent. While the line won't be a strength, it
should be far better with Drake a good one to work around and promise at
the four other spots. Now the group has to find one thing it can do