We are closing in on the beginning of two-a-days pretty quickly, and as the days run down, I will be continuing a series of blog posts on key players for UNT this season. There are some that come to mind right off the bat — Derek Thompson was the first name on the list. Others are a little easier to overlook.
Marcus Trice is one of those players.
There was a lot of excitement when he transferred to UNT from Oklahoma, but months have gone by since. He sat out last year as a transfer and practiced with the team.
He had better be ready to go because he is going to have to be a key piece of UNT’s secondary that will be largely new heading into the 2012 season. UNT’s defensive backs were something of a punching bag last year, and at times those guys deserved to take some of the blame in a couple of losses.
The idea that UNT’s secondary was terrible a year ago was a little overplayed, though, in my opinion. UNT ranked third in Sun Belt Conference play with an average of 215.0 passing yards allowed a game.
If there is one lesson out there from recent UNT football history, it’s to never, ever say that it can’t get worse. UNT had a terrific year considering the circumstances last season under Dan McCarney. Before that things did get worse for UNT, pretty much on an annual basis, in one way or another for several years.
One of UNT’s biggest challenges this year is rebuilding a secondary that lost seven of the eight players on its two-deep at the end of last season (bad) and then lost Freddie Warner, its best cornerback who missed a big chuck of the previous season with a foot injury, when he went down with a torn ACL in spring practice (worse).
UNT came out of spring with Warner still listed as a starter at one corner with career backup Hilbert Jackson on the other side. JUCO transfer D.Q. Johnson and Kevin Maduka are the backups. Laramie Lee, a sophomore who made a grand total of seven tackles last season, is the starter at one safety spot with — and here is why he is important — Trice at the other spot.
When it comes to the best overall combination of talent, experience and leadership qualities, Trice is heads and shoulders above everyone else back there and is clearly the player UNT needs to step into the lead dog role.
There is a good chance Trice could be back there leading a secondary with no career starts between them when UNT heads to Tiger Stadium to take on LSU. UNT is bringing in some talented high school defensive backs this fall who could end up starting that game. About the only sure bet to start seems to be Trice. He has at least been on the field in some big games from his time at Oklahoma. UNT has some other defensive backs who have played a little, but no one has the overall experience on a big stage as Trice does, even if he only played on special teams and as a backup at OU.
That experience is going to be very valuable this fall when UNT will have to look to Trice to hold an inexperienced secondary together early in the season.