North Texas opens its football season at 7 p.m. Saturday at Texas. Here’s a quick scouting report of the Longhorns:
2013 record: 8-5
Key number: 0 — The number of times North Texas has beaten Texas in nine meetings.
1. A new era: Texas will have a new coach on the sideline for the first time since in 1998 in Charlie Strong. The former Louisville coach takes over for Mack Brown, who led the Longhorns to some lopsided wins over the Mean Green later in his career at Texas. The Longhorns beat UNT 65-0 in 2004 and 56-7 in 2006. Strong and his defensive coordinator Vance Bedford worked with McCarney at Florida.
2. A tough duo: One of Texas biggest strengths is the running back tandem of Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. The Longhorns’ star backs combined to rush for 1,684 yards in 2013 and will pose a big challenge for UNT’s defensive front that loses six of its seven starters from a year ago. Texas has yet to release its depth chart, but returns center Dominic Espinosa, who has played in 39 games at center and checks in at 308 pounds. UNT’s defensive line starters will average 252 pounds a man.
3. Ash back to guide the way: David Ash is back as Texas starting quarterback after missing most of last season with a concussion. Texas won’t ask Ash to win games, but rather manage them and let the playmakers around him take care of the rest. Ash threw for 760 and seven touchdowns in three games last season.
4. Longhorns long on experience on defense: Texas returns seven starters on defense, including Cedric Reed. The senior finished with 10 sacks a year ago and will present an interesting matchup for UNT’s stout offensive line. UNT has four of its five starters returning, but lost tackle LaChris Anyiam. Standout guard Cyril Lemon will slide to right tackle opposite Antonio Johnson. Shawn McKinney, who was in the rotation a year ago, will move into the lineup at guard. UNT has allowed a nation-low 17 sacks the last two seasons combined. Texas will test UNT to see how its new lineup holds up.
5. Shipley ready to deliver: Texas wide receiver Jaxon Shipley was cleared to play late on Tuesday. He led Texas with 589 receiving yards last season and will give the Longhorns’ offense a boost. UNT returns three of its four starters in its secondary from last season, including cornerbacks Kenny Buyers and James Jones. That group will be tested by Shipley.