Players to watch this spring

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Outside linebacker Jeremy Phillips has long been one of North Texas top defensive players, but he is coming off an injury-plagued year. He will be one of the players to watch in spring practice.

Spring practice is important for every college football player for one reason or another, whether it is a chance to show improvement or nail down a starting job.

There is no denying that spring is bigger for some players than others, though. Here’s a look at a few players with a lot on the line this spring:

Jeremy Phillips, linebacker

Phillips was terrific two years ago, racking up 69 tackles to rank second on the team. He also had 6.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a couple of interceptions. Then came a series of injuries that limited Phillips to six games and 21 tackles last season. Phillips will have to show that he is back to form, not to mention beat out some other young outside linebackers like Mike Stojkovic and Will Wright this spring.

Hilbert Jackson, defensive back

UNT lost just about everyone other than cornerback Freddie Warner from its defensive backfield after last season, leaving plenty of opportunities for players like Hilbert Jackson. The junior has been a career backup. Considering UNT brought in JUCO corner D.Q. Johnson at the semester break and signed a couple of highly regarded high school players who will arrive in the fall, this could be Jackson’s best — and last — chance to claim a more prominent role.

Jeremy Brown, Antoinne Jimmerson and Zac Whitfield, running backs

Someone is going to have to step in for Lance Dunbar — one of the best running backs UNT has ever had — not to mention his trusty sidekick James Hamilton, who also graduated. Whitfield, Jimmerson and Brown are the top suspects. Dan McCarney said that battle for playing time will be one of the more interesting tussles of spring practice.

Andrew McNulty, quarterback

The backup quarterback is supposed to be the most popular player on the team among fans. The sophomore has to be the exception. McNulty was thrown into the fire over a more experienced player in Brent Osborn in a few key spots last year when Derek Thompson went down with injuries and struggled a bit. That should have been expected since he was a freshman from Iowa, who had played quarterback in high school for all of a year. McNulty became a big topic of conversation when he struggled. That won’t change with Osborn back.

Marcus Trice, defensive back

All the Oklahoma transfer is expected to do is become the second-coming of Jonas Buckles (one of the great safeties of the bowl era for those of you who are new to the scene). Trice has all the ability. UNT fans had just better hope this one turns out better than the last great hype from Oklahoma Tyler Stradford was supposed to save the Mean Green and turned out to be a huge bust.

Those are just a few players in the spotlight beginning today.