We reached another milestone in the run-up to UNT’s season-opener at LSU this week when the Sun Belt Conference held its annual media day over in New Orleans. Since the end of basketball season, I have gone through a series of key questions heading into spring practice and run through UNT’s roster position by position.
We still have some time left, which leaves a few days to go through the players who will determine how the year comes out for the Mean Green.
Some of them are pretty obvious, some less so.
Either way, looking at each gives one a little more perspective and a lot to consider heading into the season.
First up, we have Derek Thompson. He’s the obvious pick as UNT’s starting quarterback.
UNT turned to Thompson last season in the hope that he would end what had become a seemingly never-ending and very painful annual shuffle at the position. There was a feeling around UNT years ago that Scott Hall would be easy to replace after he graduated following the 2004 season, when he earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors. He was a first-team pick in 2003.
UNT hasn’t had an all-conference quarterback since.
Thompson was competent last season. At UNT that made look terrific considering what the team had gone through the previous few years. Thompson threw for 1,759 yards and 11 touchdowns.
There were times Thompson was great, including when he threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Louisiana-Monroe and times when he struggled, like when he went 11-for-22 for 86 yards in a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
Thompson also missed the Tulsa game with an injury.
With Lance Dunbar now with the Cowboys and no proven running back returning, the pressure will be on Thompson to be consistent and lead UNT offensively.
Thompson made a living last year throwing the deep ball on play-action when opponents stacked the line to stop Dunbar.
UNT has a good offensive line returning, but that is no guarantee that opponents will have to continue to respect the Mean Green’s running game like they did last year. Brandin Byrd rushed for 83 yards and is the Mean Green’s top returning running back.
It could be up to Thompson to lead the way in a season, when he will receive a whole lot more attention from opposing defenses. How he fares could go a long way toward determining how UNT does this season.