UNT seniors — Are they more important than we think?

North Texas wide receiver Brelan Chancellor (80) is lifted into the air by offensive linemen Aaron Fortenberry and Mason Y'Barbo. Fortenberry will be one of a few key seniors who could be tough for UNT to replace next season. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

One of the big topics of conversation at press conferences on a week like this (team is out of the bowl hunt and playing out the string) is the senior class.

Dan McCarney talked about his seniors this week and got a little choked up. He really cares about his guys, and even though that is the case with nearly every coach you run into, it’s a trait you have to admire.

The point is, McCarney and his players have mentioned a few times that UNT has a small senior class and that a lot of key guys are coming back.

They’re right.

I just can’t help but wonder if UNT isn’t really going to miss several key guys who are walking out the door following UNT’s game against Western Kentucky.

McCarney has mentioned a few times that there are no draft picks on UNT’s roster. Fair enough.

There might not be a whole lot of all-conference picks, either, but there are some guys who have been pretty vital this year and won’t be easy to replace.

Aaron Fortenberry to start with.

UNT’s center might be the best player on the best position unit the Mean Green has, and his backup is senior Nick Summerfield. UNT seemed to be set when it signed highly regarded center Boone Feldt, but he was immediately sent home with injury issues. He’s back, but there is no telling if he will be ready next year. The fact UNT has an offer out to Shawn McKinney, a JUCO center, makes me wonder.

UNT will be fine at the other spots on its line due to some solid recruiting, but Coleman Feeley is one of the six guys playing up front and is also a senior.

Tight end Andrew Power does not seem like an obvious big loss on paper considering he has just 14 catches for 180 yards, but we found out how vital he is to UNT’s running game when he missed UNT’s win over Florida Atlantic and the Mean Green’s running game went kaput to the tune of 56 yards on 30 carries.

McCarney mentioned this week that South Alabama came out in a goal line defense in a loss to UNT earlier this year. There has not been a lot of respect given to UNT’s passing game. Ivan Delgado isn’t UNT’s best receiver — that would be Brelan Chancellor — but he is UNT’s leading receiver despite missing a game with 40 catches for 555 yards. Chris Bynes has had a disappointing year with 15 catches for 196 yards. But those are two options that won’t be there next year.

UNT is flush at running back with Antoinne Jimmerson and Brandin Byrd back and Reggie Pegram coming off a redshirt year, but UNT is losing one of its speed guys in Jeremy Brown.

Defensive end K.C. Obi leads UNT in sacks and tackles for loss and Tevinn Cantly has played quite a bit. Those are two more guys who will be gone, and Cantly is a defensive tackle, a spot UNT does not have a lot of depth.

Jeremy Phillips has also been productive at linebacker and ranks seventh on the team in tackles with 48.

Will Atterberry may be a punter, but he also may be UNT’s best player. The guy has six punts of more than 50 yards and has dropped 22 inside the 20.

I’m not trying to be a doom and gloom guy here. UNT has some guys waiting in the wings to take over for a few seniors. I just wouldn’t automatically assume that this team is losing a bunch of guys who will be easy to replace.

UNT hoped wholesale changes in its defensive secondary would help make the Mean Green dramatically better.

It’s hard to make a direct comparison from year to year due to all the factors that go into it, but if you look at the statistics, UNT allowed an average of 215.0 passing yards a game last season in Sun Belt Conference games, a total that ranked third in the league. UNT heads into a game at Western Kentucky on Saturday ranked seventh at 278.3 yards allowed a game, although that total might drop considering the Hilltoppers do not throw it around like Troy or Louisiana-Monroe.

The point is, I wouldn’t assume that all of the guys UNT is losing are going to be easy to replace. UNT should be better next year, but this team will have some holes to plug.