UNT will quickly turn the page from Conference USA media day over the next week or so.
Practice will start, and with it, there will be a whole new set of storylines with players who are moving into the two-deep and injuries that could impact the roster. We will talk about the race for the starting quarterback job — and we’ll talk about it a lot.
The point that linebacker Zach Orr brought up that I didn’t delve into beyond mentioning it is that UNT is loaded with seniors, and they are not just minor contributors.
Orr might be the best linebacker UNT has had since Cody Spencer, who was the last player the Mean Green had drafted in 2004. Brelan Chancellor is arguably UNT’s best playmaker. Derek Thompson hasn’t played at an all-conference level yet at quarterback, but was solid last year. By UNT quarterback standards that makes him look like John Elway, considering some of the guys the Mean Green has run through there since Scott Hall graduated in 2004.
And that is just for starters. Here’s some of the other seniors on the roster this year:
S Marcus Trice — OU transfer had 63 tackles, includiing 6.5 behind the line of scrimmage, last year
LB Will Wright — Projected to start this season
DT Richard Abbe — A solid starter back in the fold after some off-the-field issues
OL LaChris Anyiam — A key member of UNT’s offensive line who started seven games last year
DE Aaron Bellazin — An overlooked contributor who had 5.0 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss last season
DT/DE Ryan Boutwell — An undersized battler who has contributed throughout his career
RB Brandin Byrd — Rushed for 875 yards last year, solid player
CB Hilbert Jackson — Another solid player, was UNT’s third-leading tackler last year
DE Brandon McCoy — Posted 8.5 career sacks, another solid player
TE Drew Miller — 18 catches last year
TE/UB Daniel Prior — Contributed throughout his career, when he has moved around quite a bit
WR Darnell Smith — Former walk-on who had 28 catches last year
Now, I’m not saying any members of that group other than Orr and Chancellor are huge losses individually, but as a group that is a lot to replace in one year. UNT has some redshirt freshmen who should help and another recruiting class to plug holes.
But UNT’s success in replacing that group will depend largely on how the team plays this year.
If UNT has a great year and gets to a bowl game, recruiting with naturally improve. If UNT stumbles to a ninth straight losing season, life gets a lot tougher on the recruiting trail.
UNT has to keep upgrading its talent if it wants to improve its performance on the field.
That is going to be a whole lot easier to do with a few more wins on the board.
UNT’s schedule also won’t be easy next season with games at Texas and at Indiana along with a home date against an SMU team that has played in bowl games the last four years and won three of them.
Orr reiterated something I’ve heard from UNT’s seniors over the last couple of seasons. The players in UNT’s senior class feel like they are one of the most talented classes to come through the school in some time. They want to take advantage of that talent before its too late.
If UNT can do just that, it could be a springboard season for the Mean Green.
UNT is going to have to rebuild after the 2013 campaign.
Like Orr said, this could be a make-or-break year for the Mean Green.