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NEW ... 2010 North Texas Preview
North Texas OG Kelvin Drake
North Texas OG Kelvin Drake
Posted Jun 20, 2010 2010 Preview - North Texas Mean Green

North Texas Mean Green

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Todd Dodge
4th year: 5-32
Ten Best North Texas Players
1. RB Lance Dunbar, Jr.
2. LB Craig Robertson, Sr.
3. WR Jamaal Jackson, Sr.
4. DE Brandon Akpunku, Jr.
5. OT Esteban Santiago, Sr.
6. OG Kelvin Drake, Sr.
7. C J.J. Johnson, Jr.
8. WR Darius Carey, Soph.
9. S DaWaylon Cook, Jr.
10. LB A.J. Penson, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 at Clemson
Sept. 11 Rice
Sept. 18 at Army
Sept. 25 at Florida Atlantic
Oct. 2 Louisiana
Oct. 9 Arkansas State
Oct. 16 FIU
Oct. 30 at WKU
Nov. 6 Troy
Nov. 13 at MTSU
Nov. 20 at ULM
Nov. 27 Kansas State

Five wins in four years isn’t exactly getting it done, but at least there were signs of life last year and there’s potential this season.

The one-time Sun Belt superpower hasn’t played defense in years, the offense has been wildly inconsistent, and the wins simply haven’t been there. How bad has North Texas football been? After going 7-4 in the 2004 regular season, starting with the loss to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl, the Mean Green have gone 10-50 with three of those wins coming over Western Kentucky and no wins over an FBS team that finished with a winning record. But it’s been easy to pile on the woes of UNT football, especially after Todd Dodge took over, and sooner or later, the team will get a little luck and the right bounce.

Last year’s team might have been miserable in several ways, but six of the losses came by a touchdown or less and all were winnable. While every team has close games to deal with, that hasn’t necessarily been the case for the Mean Green. Only one of the 11 losses in 2008 came by fewer than double digits and only four of the 30 losses from 2005 to 2007 were by a touchdown or less. So yeah, the program isn’t exactly Alabama, but there could be a few tweaks here and there and a few more wins could pop up. The difference between 2-10 last year and 6-6 this year isn’t that much.

The 2010 Mean Green aren’t going to win the Sun Belt, but they could be one of the year’s surprise teams with an offense that might finally be close to the consistency and the explosion that Dodge has been striving for. The quarterback situation is a bit iffy, with Riley Dodge, the one-time star recruit, moving to receiver, but Lance Dunbar might be the league’s best running back, the receiving corps is loaded with veterans and production, and the line gets four starters back, and a fifth who started most of 2007, and should be terrific.

The special teams need work and the defense hasn’t breathed on a quarterback in years, but the linebacking corps is experienced and could be among the best the program has had in a long while. There’s jumbo size at tackle, the safeties should be solid, and there’s depth and options coming in from the JUCO ranks.

Yes, UNT fans, there really is hope to finally turn a corner and become more than a punching bag. And if nothing else, your games will be fun shootouts. They might be fun-bad, but they’ll be fun. A little more from the defense, more timely play from the offense, and a solid field goal kicker, and UNT could be in the hunt.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Riley Dodge was a big-time recruit for the program and was considered to be the top quarterback prospect ever to play for the Mean Green, by far. But injuries and interceptions forced him to move over to wide receiver; he couldn’t stay in one piece and his arm didn’t have any pop. Nathan Tune and Derek Thompson are big, mobile passers who have just enough talent and just enough of a supporting cast to potentially make the offense shine. They have Dunbar to hand off to and an offensive line to work behind that doesn’t allow sacks. As long as they keep the interceptions to a minimum, the offense should be among the Sun Belt’s best.

What to watch for on defense: Cornerback. The Mean Green has a great pass rusher in Brandon Akpunku, but the team hasn’t gotten to the quarterback nearly enough over the last few years; there’s no reason to think the music will start now. The safeties are fine and the linebackers are experienced, but the back seven will get lit up without a few miracles at corner. D’Leon McCord is a JUCO transfer with decent upside, Chris Neal is a career backup who hasn’t done much, and sophomores Hilbert Jackson and Desmond Brigham need seasoning and time. It could be ugly early.

The team will be far better if … the defensive front plays up to its size. Beef doesn’t necessarily equate to production against the run, but with three tackles (Shavod Atkinson, Kelvin Jackson, and Kyle White) checking in at close to 310 pounds, and a solid 288-pounder in John Weber to be part of the rotation, size isn’t an issue on the defensive interior. Now there has to be some production after getting pounded for close to 200 yards per game. Considering the pass rush was among the worst in America, the line has to do something right.

The schedule: It’s all about a key three-game stretch in early October against Louisiana, Arkansas State, and FIU. The Mean Green has to come up big at home, and then with a winnable game against Western Kentucky to follow, the potential is there to go on a decent run. Going on the road to face Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic will be tough for any Sun Belt title hopes, and there aren’t any true layups with the season starting with Clemson and ending with Kansas State, to go along with dates against resurgent Rice and Army teams, but it’s a manageable enough Sun Belt slate to finally turn things around.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Lance Dunbar. After missing the second half of the 2008 season hurt, Dunbar was supposed to be a part of the running game, but not the main offensive cog. That changed early on, and after rushing for 97 total yards against Ball State, Ohio, and Alabama, he went on a tear ripping through the Sun Belt and finishing with eight 100-yard games in the final nine for 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns. A small, ultra-quick back who can catch, he has the potential to be the Sun Belt Player of the Year.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Craig Robertson. There haven’t been a ton of positives on the North Texas defense over the last few years, but Robertson has been one of the few bright spots. The veteran linebacker has made 248 career tackles and eight interceptions as one of the only playmakers. Only 6-1 and 221 pounds, he’s small, but he flies all over the field.

Key player to a successful season: Junior CB D’Leon McCord. It’s not like UNT is facing a who’s who of passing teams, and the stats shouldn’t be that bad just because everyone will spend so much time running the ball on the porous front seven, but a shutdown corner, or at least one that doesn’t trip over his feet, is a must. McCord, a 6-1, 176-pound JUCO transfer is one of several option to be the team’s No. 1 coverman, and he has the biggest upside and the most potential. If he’s good, the veteran safeties can do more to focus on the run.

The season will be a success if … UNT wins six games. That might be a tall order after winning five games in three seasons, but there are too many veterans on offense to not have one of the best attacks in the league, and the defense has just enough athleticism and just enough experience to be a wee bit better. If there isn’t a major sign of life this year, then there will be a new regime stepping in to start from scratch next year.

Key game: Sept. 25 at Florida Atlantic. The non-conference slate doesn’t matter; all the team needs to focus on is being better in the Sun Belt. Beating Florida Atlantic on the road would be a major announcement for a Mean Green program that hasn’t made any sort of a statement in years. With four of the next five conference games at home, beating the Owls might mean there’s a chance to be in the Sun Belt title chase into November.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: North Texas 13 for 81 yards – Opponents 12 for 93 yards
- Fourth Down Conversions: Opponents 11-for-21 (52%) – North Texas 4-of-13 (31%)
- Total yards: Opponents 4,948 – North Texas 4,904

- 2010 North Texas Preview | 2010 North Texas Offense
- 2010 North Texas Defense | 2010 North Texas Depth Chart
- North Texas Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006