The video at the top of this blog is of Dan McCarney and I chatting a little about the spring game and how spring practice went in general for the Mean Green. McCarney has some interesting things to say, as always.
And while we are at it, I’m going to break one of my unwritten rules and allow myself to be drug into a ridiculous debate after being called out for not agreeing with a reader’s opinion on a topic that really doesn’t matter in the large scheme of things.
The topic? Is this the deepest batch of running backs UNT has ever had going into the 2014 season?
First off, I really like UNT’s running backs. Antoinne Jimmerson is a dynamic player and should really shine. Erick Evans has been a great find and UNT will only be deeper when Reggie Pegram comes back from knee injury he suffered last season.
UNT is deep and talented, but there is no way this is deep as the Mean Green has been. It’s not even close.
Let’s look at what UNT has this season:
Antoinne Jimmerson, 446 rushing yards in 2013 as a backup, 990 yards in two-year career, no starts
Reggie Pegram, 338 rushing yards at UNT in 2013, 116 yards in two seasons at Purdue, no starts at UNT, coming off a major knee injury
Rex Rollins, 92 rushing yards at UNT in 2013, spent time working as a defensive back, no starts at UNT, missed the spring due to injury
Mark Lewis, 63 rushing yards as a backup on 18 carries in 2013, no starts at UNT
Erick Evans, never played a down at UNT, walked on and has suddenly shot up to second string behind Jimmerson in the spring
Andrew Tucker, converted safety, no carries at UNT
Jamaine Wilhite, never played
Again, I like the group. Let’s compare it to what UNT had heading into 2004:
Patrick Cobbs, 2003 national rushing champion with 1,680 yards, 2,840 career rushing yards heading into the season
Jamario Thomas, freshman ranked No. 21 among high school running backs nationally, would go on to win the national rushing title as a freshman
James Mitchell, career backup who came into the season off a 46-yard year in 2003, went on to rush for 274 yards in his career, including 166 against Arkansas State in the 2004 season when Cobbs and Thomas were out
Kevin Moore, backup who rushed for 408 yards in his career and entered the 2004 season off a 267-yard season in 2003
Thomas Pratt, ranked No. 52 on the Dallas Morning News Area Top 100. Left the program when he realized he would never play because of all the talent in front of him.
What do we have? UNT’s running backs head into the 2014 season with 1,599 career rushing yards and no starts. Two of the guys who are expected to contribute — Pegram and Rollins — missed all of spring practice and there is some doubt to how healthy Pegram will be at the beginning of next season after suffering a major knee injury late last year. Rollins has minimal practice time at running back after spending time working out at defensive back. Lewis played a little last season, while Evans, Tucker and Wilhite have never played for UNT.
In 2004, UNT had a returning national rushing champion in Cobbs, who had more yards in 2003 than the Mean Green’s entire running back roster for 2014 combined in their entire careers. UNT also had arguably the most highly regarded player to sign with the Mean Green in the ratings era in Thomas arriving and two backups who had played in Mitchell and Moore. It also had Pratt heading into the season.
One could make the argument that we won’t know for sure until the end of the season how it all plays out, but the bar is set pretty high up there.
In 2004, UNT lost a national rushing champion in Cobbs to injury. Meh, UNT rolled out Thomas. He won another rushing title. When Thomas got hurt late in the year, meh, UNT rolled out Mitchell and watched him go for 166 against Arkansas State. Kevin Moore also rushed for 141 yards that season.
UNT became the only team in college football history to have two returning national rushing champions in 2005 because of the remarkable depth it had in 2004.
UNT has four guys who have played heading into next season, none of whom have started, two of them coming off injuries.
UNT has the potential to be deep and productive at running back, but saying it’s the Mean Green’s deepest group ever based on what one sees in spring practice is a huge stretch at this point. That is what they call wishing and hoping. There is a big difference between that and looking at what history tells us about what UNT has now and the performances of the past that set the bar for the program.