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2008 North Texas Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 9, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - North Texas Eagle Offense

North Texas Mean Green

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN North Texas Preview | 2008 North Texas Offense
- 2008 North Texas Defense | 2008 North Texas Depth Chart
-
2007 CFN North Texas Preview | 2006 CFN North Texas Preview

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.

Returning Leaders
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 Victor Gill
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 Dodge, 3) Drake
Strength of the offense: Passing game, experience on the line
Weakness of the offense:
Pass protection, turnovers

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter:
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.
Rating: 6

Running Backs

Projected Starter: 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 times. .

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 linebackers worry.
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.
Rating: 5

Receivers

Projected Starters: 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 enough.

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 Fitzgerald.

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 field stretcher.

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 experience.
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 everyone else.
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.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: 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 spots.

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
Gabe Hollivay 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 well.
Rating: 4.5