After a brief hiatus, I am resuming my post-spring series on key players for UNT heading into the 2012 season.
In the wake of the news that came out of Sun Belt Conference media day, Jeremy Phillips has to jump toward the top of the list. Phillips has been a good player for UNT for a long time. The senior has 127 career tackles, including 10.5 for losses, and three interceptions.
Phillips was going to be a key player for UNT no matter what. He became even more important when UNT decided to redshirt Mike Stojkovic this season.
Phillips went down with a knee injury in the second week of the year and played sparingly the rest of the way, finishing with 21 tackles. Stojkovic stepped in for Phillips and finished fifth on the team with 48 tackles.
With Stojkovic out for the season and cornerback Freddie Warner out for at least the first half of the year with a knee injury, UNT has just four starters returning and available for the beginning of the season on the defensive side of the ball, and three of them play on the defensive line. UNT needs an influx of talented play-makers, especially on the second and third levels of its defense. Phillips could be that type of player and provide some much-needed experience for a defense that is going to be short on veteran players next season.
Only two of UNT’s top 10 tacklers from last season return.
The Mean Green’s depth at outside linebacker is also somewhat suspect. Phillips is expected to start at one spot with Will Wright on the other side. Wright made three starts and posted 31 tackles last season. Chad Polk and Kendall Washington, the two backups at outside linebacker, are both redshirt freshmen. UNT could also shift backup middle linebacker Derek Akunne to the outside.
Head coach Dan McCarney said every option is open after the decision to redshirt Stojkovic.
Those decisions will be a whole lot easier to make if Phillips returns to form.