The ranks of returning starters for UNT on the defensive side of the ball were low following last season and have quickly dwindled since. Linebacker Mike Stojkovic will sit out the season to deal with off-the-field issues. That was a tough blow for UNT. What might be worse is that Freddie Warner, the Mean Green’s top defensive back and only returning starter in the secondary, is out for at least the first half of the season — and likely the whole year — with a torn ACL.
That leaves UNT with four returning starters from last season on defense. The return of Jeremy Phillips at linebacker from a knee injury will help, but there is little doubt that the pressure will be on the experienced players UNT has back on defense to have really good years.
Brandon McCoy has to be near the top of the list.
The military veteran had a good season for UNT last year at defensive end, finishing with 44 tackles, including 7.5 behind the line of scrimmage, and 4.5 sacks.
There’s a long list of reasons why McCoy is going to be even more important for UNT than his numbers indicate, starting with the fact that he is the best proven pass rusher UNT has returning.
Brandon Akpunku was UNT’s top pass rusher over the last few years and posted 7.5 sacks last season. AK ranks sixth in school history with 17.0 (UNT began keeping stats for sacks in 1983). AK was a little on the small side and struggled against the run at points against some BCS-level teams, but the bottom line is he produced when it came to getting to the quarterback.
McCoy finished second on the team in sacks last year.
The players who finished third (Julian Herron, 3.5), fourth (Forlando Johnson, 2.5) and tied for fifth (\Stojkovic, 2.0) have either graduated or are not playing this year.
K.C. Obi, UNT’s projected starter on the opposite side of McCoy, didn’t have a sack in 10 games last season.
McCoy will get a lot of attention this year from offenses looking to keep their quarterbacks upright. How McCoy handles that attention will have an impact on how UNT fares defensively.
McCoy is also a player a lot of UNT’s younger guys look up to — and for good reason.
Zach Orr will likely be a team captain again, but there is little doubt McCoy will also have to help set the tone for UNT, especially early in the season will be on the road for tough games at LSU, Kansas State and Houston.