Now that spring practice is over and UNT has all of its head coaches in place (let’s hope) it’s time to take a look at what the Mean Green has coming back in football next season.
I plan to run through UNT’s roster position by position as time and the news of the day allows. I might skip a day or two if something comes up, but over the course of the next few weeks, I should be able to run through all of the key spots on UNT’s roster.
Today we begin with quarterbacks.
Several years ago now, UNT thought it would be easy to replace Scott Hall, one of the great players from the bowl era. (He should be in the Hall of Fame along with Brandon Kennedy, but that is a subject for another time).
Since then, UNT has gone through Daniel Meager, Woody Wilson, Matt Phillips, Giovanni Vizza, Riley Dodge and Nathan Tune, just to name a few.
Some were pretty solid players, others complete busts.
Who would have thought that Derek Thompson would have emerged from that group to have arguably the best season for a UNT quarterback in years and become arguably the best of them all? I sure didn’t, but that is just what happened last year. Thompson threw for 1,759 yards and 11 touchdowns with just six interceptions in 11 games.
The former Glen Rose standout was terrific against Troy near the end of last season, throwing for 331 yards and two touchdowns.
The question is if Thompson can build on that performance this season without the benefit of having record-setting quarterback Lance Dunbar behind him. The passing game was clearly the second option for UNT last year when Dunbar became the Mean Green’s all-time leading rusher.
Thompson threw the ball all of seven times in a season-ending win over Middle Tennessee and finished with 86 passing yards in a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
UNT believes its running game will continue to be effective with a group of new running backs and an experienced offensive line, but the pressure will be on Thompson to consistently produce and stay on the field. He essentially missed two full games due to injury last season and was knocked out for the season two years ago in a loss to Army.
UNT won’t be able to afford to lose Thompson or see him struggle this season.
Thompson appeared ready for the challenge of taking on a more prominent role in UNT’s spring game when he threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns on six attempts. Granted, the fact UNT’s secondary looked flat terrible at times in the spring had something to do with that, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless.
UNT’s backup quarterback situation could be an interesting story in the fall. UNT’s staff threw Andrew McNulty to the wolves when Thompson was injured last season and watched him struggle a bit. Brent Osborn had college experience heading into the year and played well when he got the chance.
Osborn also played well in the spring and is listed as UNT’s backup quarterback heading into the season, which makes one wonder if UNT won’t try to redshirt McNulty this year.
History says that UNT will have to turn to its backup at some point in the season, so how that battle for the backup job plays out is worth watching.
Overall, there is a lot to like about what UNT has coming back at quarterback. Thompson has a year of experience under his belt and is a proven starter. The situation is one UNT has not enjoyed often over the last several years. There are some questions about who will play if Thompson has to miss time, but UNT has options there as well.
For UNT’s sake, one just has to hope the Mean Green won’t have to turn to them often.