Mike Stojkovic, a sophomore linebacker who stepped into the starting lineup in the middle of last season and became one of UNT’s top defensive players, will sit out the upcoming season while dealing with off-the-field issues, head coach Dan McCarney confirmed on Wednesday.
Stojkovic played as freshman. He will spend the upcoming season as a redshirt and will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2013. He will practice and will be among the 105 players who report for the beginning of two-a-days in August.
Stojkovic finished fifth among UNT players with 48 tackles last season, despite not playing in the Mean Green’s season finale.
UNT also lost senior Forlando Johnson from its corps of linebackers after last season. Zach Orr will return at middle linebacker, while Jeremy Phillips, the player Stojkovic replaced in the Mean Green’s lineup, will also return
UNT will turn to a series of young players to fill the void left by the absence of Stojkovic, including Kendall Washington, Will Wright and Derek Akunne.
“We feel like we have some guys who can step in,” McCarney said. “We have improved, but we are going to need some guys to step up.”
McCarney said UNT would put its best three linebackers on the field regardless of their background, leaving the possibility of Akunne, who filled in at middle linebacker when Orr was lost to injury late in the season, moving outside.
The loss of Stojkovic will represent another hit to the back end of UNT’s defense. The Mean Green lost seven of the eight players on its season-ending two deep in its defensive secondary and also lost its top cornerback in Freddie Warner in spring practice when he tore his ACL.