COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
C-USA West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Dan McCarney, 9-15 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mike Canales | DEF. COORDINATOR: John Skladany
Derek Thompson became the first multi-year starting quarterback for North Texas in a decade last season, and he should make it three years in a row in 2013. That adds stability to an offense already returning a solid stable of running backs and a superb offensive line. Three starters are back for a line that allowed an FBS-low six sacks last season. UNT relied on a trio of running backs last season, and the same will likely be true again. Purdue transfer Reggie Pegram will join returning backs Brandin Byrd and Antoinne Jimmerson.
“We had three different guys rush for 500 yards last season, and we may have to do it again,” UNT coach Dan McCarney says. “I can’t say we have first-round draft picks, but we’ve got good Division I running backs that can do the job.”
UNT would like to get some rushing production from its quarterback, but that’s not Thompson’s forte. Kansas transfer Brock Berglund, often compared to Johnny Manziel out of high school, came to UNT as a dual-threat option to push Thompson. But injuries limited Berglund in spring practice, and he’s far behind in the playbook. An upgrade at receiver is sorely needed. Texas transfer Darius Terrell and previously injured Brelan Chancellor are among the possible remedies for a lackluster unit.
Linebackers Zach Orr and Derek Akunne will be among the best duos in the conference after racking up nearly 200 tackles combined last season. The entire secondary returns, led by all-conference cornerback Zac Whitfield.
There are few issues in the back seven, but that’s countered by several concerns on the defensive front. The line lacked explosive plays last year, and its lone productive pass-rusher, K.C. Obi, graduated. Injuries both in 2012 and this spring hampered optimism. Ryan Boutwell and Brandon McCoy missed spring with injuries, and Richard Abbe missed time last season. The trio combined for only two sacks in 2012. Junior college transfer Quenton Brown also tore his ACL in spring.
“We need to make major improvements up front, but with all these offseason surgeries, it makes it hard,” McCarney says. “The defensive line makes all the difference. A good defensive line disrupts everything, it collapses the pocket, it dictates the game. We have to get more of that.”
Chancellor, a senior, owns the top two single-season kick returning yardage totals in program history. He and Carlos Harris will handle kick and punt returns. Senior Zach Olen is a seasoned kicker with 32 career field goals, including a 9-of-9 clip on attempts of less than 40 yards last season.
The schedule sets up reasonably well. North Texas plays its season opener at home for the first time since 2001, as Idaho comes to Denton. And in their first year in Conference USA, the Mean Green will play three straight home games against Texas schools with late-season contests versus Rice, UTEP and UTSA.
“The first game being at home is a big deal,” McCarney says. “Every offseason, we sell our program and all the excitement around it, and then the first thing we do is get on a plane to play somewhere else. But this year is our 100-year celebration. We have intrastate rivalries starting up. And the program is getting where we want it to be. There are good vibes in the air here.”
Regardless of the optimism, UNT remains a solid yet unspectacular team. The Mean Green went 4–8 last season and have shown moderate improvement under McCarney, and they seem to be on the same steady path in C-USA this season.