UNT was a narrow pick to win Conference USA’s West Division in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll that was released this morning.
UNT received 66 points in the poll, just edging out Rice and UTSA, which received 65 and 62 points, respectively.
The Mean Green had two players named to the preseason all-conference team in senior guards Cyril Lemon and Mason Y’Barbo.
The honors come after a breakout season that saw the Mean Green finish 9-4 and beat UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Here is the full West Division poll:
|1. North Texas||66|
|4. Louisiana Tech||38|
|5. Southern Miss||24|
So what does the poll/team tell us?
Well, for one, UNT enters the season as the target for everyone else in the league.
The situation will be something new for a team that lost several of its key players and leaders after last season, including Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP Derek Thompson at quarterback and first-team All-C-USA selections in linebacker Zach Orr and safety Marcus Trice.
Those players helped UNT break a string of eight straight losing seasons a year ago, when UNT won a bowl game for just the third time in program history
The question will be how the Mean Green handles that challenge of being the team everyone is trying to take down.
The all-conference team reflects what we already know. UNT has a ton of talent and experience on its offensive line and a host of questions everywhere else.
UNT’s offensive line will provide a solid foundation. The Mean Green also has a few experienced skill position players who are productive, including running back Antoinne Jimmerson and wide receiver Carlos Harris, but no proven all-conference caliber talent at running back or wide receiver.
And UNT has big questions/issues at quarterback and in its front seven on defense.
Can Andrew McNulty or Josh Greer handle the quarterback job? And what about guys like Alexander Lincoln and Daryl Mason on UNT’s defensive line?
Those players will have to step forward in a major way.
The coaches who voted in the poll and for the preseason all-conference team knew those issues were there, just like they knew UNT had some really good offensive linemen coming back.
In the end the positives far outweighed the questions.
That’s how UNT ended up No. 1 in the poll — and with a big target on its back heading into the season.
Here’s the Preseason All-C-USA team:
Offensive Player of the Year
Rakeem Cato, Sr., QB, Marshall
Defensive Player of the Year
James Rouse, Sr., DL, Marshall
Special Teams Player of the Year
Hunter Mullins, Sr., P, UAB
First Team Offense
QB Rakeem Cato, Sr., Marshall
RB Kenneth Dixon, Jr., Louisiana Tech
RB Aaron Jones, So., UTEP
OL Scott Inskeep, Sr., UTSA
OL Chris Jasperse, Sr., Marshall
OL Cyril Lemon, Sr., North Texas
OL Clint Van Horn, Jr., Marshall
OL Mason Y’Barbo, Sr., North Texas
WR Jamarcus Nelson, Sr., UAB
WR Tommy Shuler, Sr., Marshall
WR Jordan Taylor., Sr., Rice
TE Eric Tomlinson, Sr., UTEP
First Team Defense
DL Vernon Butler, Jr., Louisiana Tech
DL Christian Covington, Jr., Rice
DL Ra’Shawde Myers, Sr., Marshall
DL James Rouse, Sr., Marshall
LB T.T. Barber, Sr., Middle Tennessee
LB Evan McKelvey, Sr., Marshall
LB Andrae Kirk, Jr., Florida Atlantic
DB Kevin Byard, Jr., Middle Tennessee
DB Bryce Callahan, Sr., Rice
DB D’Joun Smith, Sr., Florida Atlantic
DB Triston Wade, Sr., UTSA
First Team Special Teams
K Sean Ianno, Sr., UTSA
P Hunter Mullins, Sr., UAB
KR Autrey Golden, Jr., UTEP
PR Kenny Harrison, Sr., UTSA
LS Jesse Medrano, Sr., UTSA