Five things UNT fans should know about SMU

SMU quarterback Matt Davis returns for his senior season at SMU this fall. Davis accounted for three fourth quarter touchdowns in a 31-13 win over North Texas last season. (The Dallas Morning News/Smiley N. Pool)

SMU quarterback Matt Davis returns for his senior season at SMU this fall. Davis accounted for three fourth quarter touchdowns in a 31-13 win over North Texas last season. (The Dallas Morning News/Smiley N. Pool)

North Texas will open its season by hosting traditional rival SMU on Saturday at Apogee Stadium. The two programs have struggled in recent years and will look to get a jump on posting a winning season in a showdown on Metroplex teams.

Here are five things UNT fans should know about the Mustangs:

1. Matt Davis is back at quarterback for SMU

Davis has enjoyed a solid career at SMU and is coming off a season in which he threw for 2,263 yards and rushed for 761 yards. The senior was included on the preseason Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Watch List. Davis said in the preseason that he is trying to stay in the pocket more and run less. He gave UNT fits last season when he threw an 8-yard touchdown pass and scored on runs that covered 50 and 14 yards in the fourth quarter of a 31-13 win over the Mean Green.

2. SMU has never won a game in Denton

The Mustangs have dominated their series with UNT, but have never won a game in Denton. The all-time tally is 29-5-1 in favor of SMU. The Mean Green are 2-0 at Fouts Field and 1-0 at Apogee Stadium. UNT’s 43-6 win over the Mustangs in 2014 at Apogee is the largest margin of victory for the Mean Green in the series.

3. SMU has a couple of former Denton standouts on its roster

Alex Honey, who played for Denton Guyer, is listed second on SMU’s depth chart at wide receiver and is expected to play against the Mean Green. J.T. Williams, a defensive tackle who played for Denton Ryan before a short stint at Trinity Valley Community College, is also on the Mustangs’ roster.

4. The Mustangs offensive line could be one of their weaker units

SMU lost starting left tackle Chad Pursley to a season-ending knee injury in fall camp. That was a big loss to the Mustangs line that is not one of its strongest units. Nick Natour moved into the starting lineup to replace Pursley. SMU gave up 41 sacks last season. UNT’s coaches believe their defensive line will be one of their stronger units.

5. SMU’s defense struggled last season

SMU’s defense was even worse than UNT’s was last season from a statistical point of view. UNT allowed 42.1 points a game, while SMU coughed up 45.7. The Mustangs return seven starters on defense and are hoping experience in Van Malone’s system will help them improve. The former UNT assistant is SMU’s defensive coordinator.

Big 12 cuts field for expansion, et cetera

The big story in college football over the last few months has been the Big 12 going through the expansion process.

North Texas isn’t a candidate, but a lot of the American Athletic Conference schools are under consideration. The ACC has made a habit of backfilling from Conference USA when it loses teams. UNT is in C-USA, so the story is worth watching.

I bring it up because there was a pretty big development last night.

TMGcollegesports.com, a website run by a group of former newspaper writers who are pretty wired in, reported that Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UConn, South Florida and Central Florida from the American Athletic Conference, two other unidentified schools from the league and BYU are finalists. Each school will make presentations to the Big 12.

Billy Embody from Scout.com reported that SMU is one of the other AAC candidates for a Big 12 slot.

East Carolina issued a statement that the school is out of the running.

Colorado State was once considered a strong candidate, but was not in TMG’s report. Neither was Boise State.

If TMG is right, the AAC appears all but certain to lose at least one team. The Big 12 is likely to expand by two teams or stick with its current lineup, according to ESPN. 

The Big 12 has done a whole lot of work to back out and stay with its current lineup at this point.

The question for UNT becomes, will the AAC reload and take a team or two from C-USA? And which team or teams will get the call?

Middle Tennessee has already contacted the the league.

UNT is still in rebuild mode. The school has only had one winning season in football the last 11 years and has seen its men’s basketball team fail to finish over .500 in four straight years since Johnny Jones left for LSU. UNT’s women’s basketball team hasn’t posted a winning season in a decade. UNT also averaged just 13,631 fans for home football games last season.

SMU seems like a longshot to receive a Big 12 invite and would be a huge roadblock if UNT wanted to make the jump to the AAC.

What happens in the next few weeks could go a long way toward determining the makeup of C-USA in a few years.

It’s definitely something to watch.

And in other news …

Here is a link to today’s UNT notebook. I led it with a good quote from Seth Littrell on the importance of the UNT-SMU rivalry to the Mean Green and their fans.

Littrell gets it. Beating SMU would be huge for him and the Mean Green early in his tenure.

The UNT volleyball team also picked up its second win of the season last night, sneaking past UTA in five sets. The win snapped a three-match losing streak for the Mean Green, who are now 2-3 on the year.

And while we are at it, here is an update for GYROTR (Get Your Rear on the Record), our annual contest to pick UNT’s season record. Send your guesses to bvito@dentonrc.com.

8-5 – Kevin Sparkman

8-4 — Miguel Robinson

7-6 — Rick Harold, David Larson

6-7 — John Lowe (eagle83)

6-6 — Ben Gooding, Kevin Cozart, Brandon Daniels, Andrew Morris, Jon Izquierdo (NT BA ’07), Jack Highfill (meangreenfan), Rex Winn (Greenrex)

5-7 — Tyler Maryak, Jeff Pergola (jperg2), Ryan Munthe, Greg (Gwag81), Bob Campbell (The Ozark Eagle), Joel Villanueva, Mike Moss, Matt Taylor (RealMeanGreenMatt), James McAnallen, Von Eaglin, Scott Campbell, Richard Steenson, John Davidson (MeanGreenTexan), Von Eaglin, Mike Moss (McGrn), Cody Valle, Ryan Alexander (Sig381), Jeff Withers

4-8 — Brett Vito, Jared Morris, Alec McKinley, Travis Miller, Tom Crothers (Eagle MBA), Scott Robertson, Brian Martin, Joe Eckstein, Darren Foyt (EagleD), Aldo, Steve Hammond

3-9 — Jim Hull, Aldofo Flores Jr. (Got5onit), Travis Scott, Will Manley, Rick Ashwander, Paulie Walnuts, Scott Hostenske, Robert Botts, Kristopher Kinard, Matt McCombs, Lee Hughes (3XNTGrad), Jonathan Percival (Dr. Seuss), Chris Hensley

2-10 — Kellen Jemeyon, John Lee Moses, Bryan Graves (UNTGuy5), Patrick McMullen (Greenflag), Adam Rosenfield, Sean Hiatt, Jeff Cameron

Tuesday morning notes — UNT vs. SMU is ESPN’s Pillow Fight of the Week

North Texas running back Antoinne Jimmerson celebrates with teammates after scoring on a 25-yard touchdown run during a loss to SMU at Ford Stadium last season. UNT and SMU will face off Saturday at Apogee Stadium in a game that will give one of the struggling programs a huge boost early in the season. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)

North Texas running back Antoinne Jimmerson celebrates with teammates after scoring on a 25-yard touchdown run during a loss to SMU at Ford Stadium last season. UNT and SMU will face off Saturday at Apogee Stadium in a game that will give one of the struggling programs a huge boost early in the season. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)

What was once a weekly staple here on the blog is back in play again this year unfortunately.

North Texas was nearly always ranked in ESPN’s Bottom Ten during the tenure of Todd Dodge before working its way out during the first four years of Dan McCarney’s tenure.

UNT crashed last season and found itself ranked for a big chunk of the year. The Mean Green finished third last season behind only UCF and Kansas.

This year’s ranking has yet to come out, but ESPN came out with a preview of this year’s Bottom Ten and has UNT vs. SMU as its Pillow Fight of the Week.

UNT finished 1-11 last season, while SMU wound up 2-10 and was also in the year-end Bottom Ten. The Mustangs were ranked sixth.

One of SMU’s two wins was a 31-13 win over UNT.

The winner of this weekend’s rematch will climb out of the Bottom Ten and will get a huge jump on having a successful season.

Plus, it’s not exactly optimal to lose the Pillow Fight of the Week.

It’s yet another reason why Saturday’s game looms large for the Mean Green.

And while we are at it, here is an update for GYROTR (Get Your Rear on the Record), our annual contest to pick UNT’s season record. Send your guesses to bvito@dentonrc.com.

9-4 – Miguel Robinson

8-5 – Kevin Sparkman

8-4 — Miguel Robinso

7-6 — Rick Harold, David Larson

6-7 — John Lowe (eagle83

6-6 — Ben Gooding, Kevin Cozart, Brandon Daniels, Andrew Morris, Jon Izquierdo (NT BA ’07), Jack Highfill (meangreenfan)

5-7 — Tyler Maryak, Jeff Pergola (jperg2), Ryan Munthe, Greg (Gwag81), Bob Campbell (The Ozark Eagle), Joel Villanueva, Mike Moss, Matt Taylor (RealMeanGreenMatt), James McAnallen, Von Eaglin, Scott Campbell, Richard Steenson, John Davidson (MeanGreenTexan), Von Eaglin, Mike Moss (McGrn), Cody Valle, Ryan Alexander (Sig381)

4-8 — Brett Vito, Jared Morris, Alec McKinley, Travis Miller, Tom Crothers (Eagle MBA), Scott Robertson, Brian Martin, Joe Eckstein, Darren Foyt (EagleD), Aldo.

3-9 — Jim Hull, Aldofo Flores Jr. (Got5onit), Travis Scott, Will Manley, Rick Ashwander, Paulie Walnuts, Scott Hostenske, Robert Botts, Kristopher Kinard, Matt McCombs, Lee Hughes (3XNTGrad), Jonathan Percival (Dr. Seuss), Chris Hensley

2-10 — Kellen Jemeyon, John Lee Moses, Bryan Graves (UNTGuy5), Patrick McMullen (Greenflag), Adam Rosenfield, Sean Hiatt

Follow-up thoughts on UNT’s two-deep, et cetera

Morris

Morris

UNT released its depth chart today, when Seth Littrell held his first weekly press conference of the season.

We went over the basics earlier today and included a link to the depth chart.

Here are a few follow-up thoughts on a few topics …

Alec Morris did exactly what was expected by everyone with a realistic view and won UNT’s quarterback job. He was the obvious pick from the start.

UNT’s other options were a late-arriving JUCO product in Devin O’Hara, a freshman with big potential who played at a tiny Oklahoma school in Mason Fine and a former walk-on in Quinn Shanbour.

The quarterback race played out exactly like it was supposed to at the top. The only surprise was how well Fine played and that he earned the backup job over O’Hara.

UNT is now in an interesting spot. Does Seth Littrell try to get Fine a little playing time or hold out and see if Morris makes it through the year — or at least until it’s clear if this team has a shot at a bowl game — to use Fine.

It’s a big decision. Getting Fine some time could help him get ready for next season, but it would also burn a season of his career.

Keep an eye on that one all year.

UNT has some really good young players who made the two-deep, including cornerback Jameel Moore and linebacker LaDarius Hamilton.

What one has to remember is that UNT has about 68 scholarship players. With that few, UNT was bound to have some newcomers on the two-deep.

UNT just has to hope that it has enough of those good young talents.

And speaking of recruiting, Littrell finally closed the door on the idea that defensive end Raveon Hoston would play for the Mean Green. He didn’t qualify academically.

UNT did a great job recruiting, but Hoston signing with the Mean Green seemed a little fishy from the beginning. He was committed to Nebraska and UAB. Alabama kicked the tires.

There is a reason a player that caliber of Hoston is on the market in the summer.

Now we know for sure why.

The tough part about the way it all played out for UNT is it rolled the dice on a few high-risk JUCO players and saw Hoston, linebacker William Johnson and offensive lineman Cody Hayes fail to qualify.

247Sports has a handy class calculator. Scratch those three players and UNT’s class drops from ninth to 13th in their rankings of incoming classes in Conference USA.

The  first edition of The Dallas Morning News’ rankings of the top programs in Texas is out.

UNT came in last.

I am a voter and had UNT rated higher.

And finally, here is an update for GYROTR (Get Your Rear on the Record), our annual contest to pick UNT’s season record. Send your guesses to bvito@dentonrc.com.

8-5 – Kevin Sparkman

7-6 — Rick Harold, David Larson

6-7 — John Lowe (eagle83)

6-6 — Ben Gooding, Kevin Cozart, Brandon Daniels, Andrew Morris

5-7 — Tyler Maryak, Jeff Pergola (jperg2), Ryan Munthe, Greg (Gwag81), Bob Campbell (The Ozark Eagle), Joel Villanueva, Mike Moss, Matt Taylor (RealMeanGreenMatt), James McAnallen, Von Eaglin, Scott Campbell, Richard Steenson, John Davidson (MeanGreenTexan), Von Eaglin, Mike Moss (McGrn)

4-8 — Brett Vito, Jared Morris, Alec McKinley, Travis Miller, Tom Crothers (Eagle MBA), Scott Robertson, Brian Martin, Joe Eckstein, Darren Foyt (EagleD), Aldo

3-9 — Jim Hull, Aldofo Flores Jr. (Got5onit), Travis Scott, Will Manley, Rick Ashwander, Paulie Walnuts, Scott Hostenske, Robert Botts, Kristopher Kinard, Matt McCombs, Lee Hughes (3XNTGrad)

2-10 — Kellen Jemeyon, John Lee Moses, Bryan Graves (UNTGuy5), Patrick McMullen (Greenflag), Adam Rosenfield, Sean Hiatt

Seth Littrell press conference notes

North Texas senior Alec Morris has been named the Mean Green's starting quarterback. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas senior Alec Morris has been named the Mean Green’s starting quarterback. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Littrell

Littrell

North Texas coach Seth Littrell officially named Alabama transfer quarterback Alec Morris the Mean Green’s starter heading into their season-opener at SMU on Saturday.

Morris competed with a host of players for the job throughout spring practice and fall camp before finally beating out freshman Mason Fine for the job. Fine is listed as UNT’s top backup on UNT’s depth chart for its season-opener against SMU, which you can see here: 4070_001

“Alec has gotten a lot better since he first got here in January,” Littrell said. “His biggest strides were from spring ball to fall camp. You really saw his leadership ability. He did a great job of getting our guys out there this summer and holding guys accountable. It really showed in the first couple of weeks of fall camp. We were better than we ever were in the spring.”

There were a few other key items of note Littrell covered, including …

– UNT has given up hope that highly regarded JUCO defensive end Raveon Hoston will ever play for the Mean Green. The Mean Green ended up losing three key junior college recruits when they failed to qualify. UNT also lost linebacker William Johnson and offensive lineman Cody Hayes.

– Littrell is comfortable playing Fine, if it becomes necessary. UNT’s coaching staff will sit down and talk with Fine and his family if a circumstance comes up later in the year, where he might have to burn his redshirt for a handful of games.

– Cornerback Chad Davis will be ready to go after missing a good portion of fall practice.

– UNT is still planning to play Sam Rice at both center and guard.

– Wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr., linebacker LaDarius Hamilton, cornerback Jameel Moore and safety Khairi Muhammad all made the two-deep as freshmen.

– Littrell named a few players who he believes are in for big years, including wide receiver Terian Goree, defensive ends Jareid Combs and Tillman Johnson.

The Sunday leftovers — UNT soccer team still unbeaten, et cetera

It’s Sunday night and time for the leftovers, where we run through the events of the weekend, reheat the good stuff — and some of the bad — while hopefully putting it all in perspective.

This is the final football free weekend of the fall, but there is still quite a bit going on. If you missed it, here is a link back to our first edition of the Friday Night Lights report, a look at how some of UNT’s football commits fared on the first weekend of the high school season.

The big news of the day is that the UNT soccer team is still unbeaten. The fact the Mean Green are 4-0 isn’t all that surprising. John Hedlund’s team is the best thing going in UNT sports.

What was a bit of a stunner was how UNT had to get there in a 3-2 win over winless Abilene Christian. The Mean Green were expected to pummel the Wildcats, but coughed up two early goals before rallying to win 3-2.

UNT hadn’t allowed a goal all season.

Being down didn’t fluster the Mean Green, who came back and won it on a Marchelle Davis goal.

UNT now faces a big test with games at Oregon and Oregon State next weekend.

The Mean Green received votes in the National Soccer Coaches Association Top 25 poll and were also ranked fourth in the Central Region last week.

The UNT volleyball team knew it was going to be in for a tough go of it following the departure of Carnae Dillard, one of the best players in program history. The opening weekend of the season reinforced that notion.

UNT managed to beat Nevada in five sets in its opening match of the weekend, but then lost three straight to Texas State, Ohio State and Texas A&M at home.

The Mean Green will host UTA on Tuesday.

And finally, here is an update for GYROTR (Get Your Rear on the Record), our annual contest to pick UNT’s season record. Send your guesses to bvito@dentonrc.com.

8-5 – Kevin Sparkman

7-6 — Rick Harold, David Larson

6-7 — John Lowe (eagle83)

6-6 — Ben Gooding, Kevin Cozart, Brandon Daniels

5-7 — Tyler Maryak, Jeff Pergola (jperg2), Ryan Munthe, Greg (Gwag81), Bob Campbell (The Ozark Eagle), Joel Villanueva, Mike Moss, Matt Taylor (RealMeanGreenMatt), James McAnallen, Von Eaglin, Scott Campbell, Richard Steenson, John Davidson (MeanGreenTexan), Von Eaglin, Mike Moss (McGrn)

4-8 — Brett Vito, Jared Morris, Alec McKinley, Travis Miller, Tom Crothers (Eagle MBA), Scott Robertson, Brian Martin, Joe Eckstein, Darren Foyt (EagleD)

3-9 — Jim Hull, Aldofo Flores Jr. (Got5onit), Travis Scott, Will Manley, Rick Ashwander, Paulie Walnuts, Scott Hostenske, Robert Botts, Kristopher Kinard, Matt McCombs, Lee Hughes (3XNTGrad)

2-10 — Kellen Jemeyon, John Lee Moses, Bryan Graves (UNTGuy5), Patrick McMullen (Greenflag), Adam Rosenfield, Sean Hiatt

Friday Night Lights report — Pearson shines in season debut

Pearson

Pearson

We are introducing a new feature on the blog this year, if I can manage to keep it going, called the Friday Night Lights report.

UNT has a few skill position players committed to sign in the Class of 2017. You can find out how they fared here on a periodic basis.

Here’s the first edition:

Texarkana quarterback Cade Pearson looks awfully good in his first game as a UNT commit. The senior threw for 439 yards and five touchdowns in a 44-21 win over Dallas Bishop Lynch. Pearson completed 25 of his 40 pass attempts.

Ryan running back/linebacker Tyreke Davis also excelled in the first game of his senior season, carrying the ball 18 times for 92 yards in the Raiders 35-23 win over Lancaster.

Belton wide receiver Remington Lutz caught two passes for 9 yards in Belton’s 28-20 loss to Temple.

 

MGB video, camp wrap — Littrell talks about UNT’s progress

Saturday officially marks the end of fall training camp for North Texas and brings the Mean Green’s season-opener against SMU on Sept. 3 one step closer.

The video at the top of this post is of new UNT coach Seth Littrell talking about where UNT is at now that camp has wrapped up.

Here are a few camp superlatives, based on what I have seen and been told by UNT’s coaches over the last few weeks.

MVP — Alec Morris: The Alabama transfer quarterback might not have had the best fall camp overall, but he was solid all the way through. And he’s the most important player on UNT’s roster. The Mean Green need a quarterback who can distribute the ball to make Littrell’s offense work. Morris showed he is capable and ready to go right away. Having someone ready to excel from Day 1 is vital for UNT because two of it most winnable games are in the first two weeks of the season. The Mean Green have to at least keep things interesting with SMU in their season-opener. A week 2 game against Bethune-Cookman might be the Mean Green’s best chance for a win all year. Morris appears ready to take on that challenge.

Best camp — Nate Brooks: UNT’s secondary will be its biggest strength this season. The Mean Green already knew they had a terrific safety tandem in Kishawn McClain and James Gray. The way Books played was a tremendous plus. The sophomore started the second half of his freshman season and looked like he could develop into a star during the offseason. Chad Davis, UNT’s other starting cornerback, missed a big chunk of fall camp and might not be 100 percent at the start of the year. That makes Brooks all the more important. Seeing Brooks have a great camp was a terrific sign for the Mean Green.

Biggest surprise – Mason Fine: The small school Oklahoma standout was something of a mystery coming into fall drills. Fine put up huge numbers against small-school competition in Oklahoma. The question was if Fine could translate that production to the major college level and overcome his stature at 5-11, 170. Fine excelled and appears to have locked up the backup quarterback job over JUCO transfer Devin O’Hara. Littrell said he won’t be afraid to start out the season with Fine as his No. 2 quarterback, if he is the best player. It appears that Fine is UNT’s best player at the position other than Morris.

Biggest strength — Defensive secondary: UNT’s secondary looked like its best unit heading into fall camp, and it didn’t disappoint.

Biggest concern I – Offensive line: UNT’s offensive line returns just one starter who is expected to be in the lineup again this fall in Sam Rice. UNT tried to shift Rice to center, but appeared to abandon that plan after he struggled with snapping. The Mean Green lack depth and experience. It  doesn’t help matters that UNT is moving to a passing offense. Jordan Murray is a huge tackle at 6-9, 360, but can he move well enough to protect the edge? Texas Tech transfer Trey Keenan will start at the other tackle spot and is just 272 pounds. Can he hold up on the other side? Can Creighton Barr hold up at center after barely playing last season?

Biggest concern II — Unproven position groups at WR, defensive front seven: UNT’s big concerns heading into the first season of Littrell’s tenure were a group of wide receivers that was unproven and a defense that was terrible last season. The Mean Green have essentially one proven wide receiver returning in Turner Smiley, and he is suspended for UNT’s season-opener against SMU. UNT’s defensive front seven is also a big question mark. The Mean Green return four starters in defensive ends Jarrian Roberts and Malik Dilonga and linebackers Fred Scott and Brandon Garner from a unit that 41.2 points a game. UNT added JUCO transfers Joshua Wheeler and Eji Ejiya at linebacker and Kansas State transfer Demonte Hood at defensive tackle. Those additions will help a lot, but it is far from the overall talent influx the Mean Green were aiming for. The question now is if UNT can improve dramatically with what it has to work with on defense.

Projected two-deep, picks contest update

North Texas senior Alec Morris remains at the top of the Mean Green's depth chart in our projection of what the school will release next week. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas senior Alec Morris remains at the top of the Mean Green’s depth chart in our projection of what the school will release next week. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas will release its depth chart for its season-opener against SMU next week.

If tradition holds, it will be up for all to see on Monday, when Seth Littrell will host his first game-week press conference.

The question is what that depth chart will look like. We are going to take a stab at it today.

This following projection is based largely off where UNT was at coming out of spring practice and what transpired in the last few weeks.

North Texas projected depth chart

Offense

Position Name Ht./Wt. Year
Left tackle Jordan Murray 6-9, 360 Sophomore
Chris Miles 6-4, 291 Sophomore
Left guard Sam Rice 6-4, 297 Senior
T.J. Henson 6-4, 315 Junior
Center Creighton Barr 6-3, 302 Sophomore
Sam Rice 6-4, 297 Senior
Right guard Garrett Gunter 6-4, 293 Senior
Elex Woodworth 6-4, 284 Redshirt freshman
Right tackle Trey Keenan 6-5, 272 Senior
Jalen Thomas 6-5, 295 Junior
Wide receiver O’Keeron Rutherford 6-5, 185 Sophomore
Rico Bussey Jr. 6-2, 175 Freshman
Wide receiver Kenny Buyers 5-11, 185 Senior
Connor Davis 5-10, 193 Senior
Wide receiver Kelvin Smith 6-2, 250 Redshirt freshman
Thaddeous Thompson 6-2, 202 Senior
Wide receiver Tee Goree 6-3, 173 Sophomore
Willie Robinson 6-0, 185 Senior
Running back Jeffrey Wilson 6-0, 195 Junior
Anthony Wyche 5-11, 195 Junior
Quarterback Alec Morris 6-3, 233 Senior
Mason Fine 5-11, 170 Freshman
Defense
Position Name Ht./Wt. Year
Defensive end Jareid Combs 6-3, 258 Senior
Andy Flusche 6-3, 261 Junior
Nose tackle Roderick Young 6-1, 287 Sophomore
T.J. Tauaalo 6-2, 287 Sophomore
 – or – Demonte Hood 6-0, 303 Senior
Defensive end Jarrian Roberts 6-2, 252 Senior
Malik Dilonga 6-4, 264 Senior
Outside linebacker Josh Wheeler 6-3, 240 Junior
Mylam Peters 6-5, 240 Junior
Middle linebacker Fred Scott 5-11, 233 Senior
Brandon Garner 5-11, 225 Sophomore
Outside linebacker Cortney Finney 5-11, 220 Senior
E.J. Ejiya 6-2, 205 Junior
Nickel Ashton Preston 5-10, 183 Sophomore
– or – Calvin Minor 6-3, 213 Junior
Cornerback Nate Brooks 6-0, 170 Sophomore
Eric Jenkins 5-10, 180 Junior
Cornerback Jameel Moore 5-10, 160 Freshman
Chad Davis 5-10, 184 Senior
Free safety Kishawn McClain 5-11, 201 Junior
John Schilleci 6-0, 201 Senior
Strong safety James Gray 6-0, 190 Senior
Taylor Robinson 5-11, 199 Redshirt freshman
Special teams
Kicker Trevor Moore 5-11, 175 Junior
Eric Keena 6-2, 175 Senior
Punter Eric Keena 6-2, 175 Senior
Trevor Moore 5-11, 175 Junior
Deep Snapper Trey Enterline 6-3, 225 Senior
Jake Davis 6-0, 210 Sophomore
Return specialist Turner Smiley 6-0, 189 Junior
Kenny Buyers 5-11, 185 Senior

Here are a couple of key points on this projection:

– Mason Fine will move into the backup quarterback role. Fine has had a terrific camp and has pushed projected starter Alec Morris. He is the future of the program at quarterback as things stand now. There is even some thought that he could start. I just don’t see it. If there is one way to destroy a quarterback’s confidence, it is throwing him out there before he is fully ready. I thought UNT would end up with Devin O’Hara as its backup. UNT signed the junior college transfer knowing is already had Morris and Fine. The way Fine played upset the apple cart. If it plays out the way it looks like it will, O’Hara becomes an insurance policy against a run of quarterback injuries. UNT had to sign him, though. It really didn’t have any other options outside of its two newcomers.

– Sam Rice ends up moving back to guard in our projection. Rice is UNT’s best and most experienced lineman. He just struggled a bit with snapping, which is a problem for a shotgun offense. Creighton Barr becomes UNT’s starting center. He has struggled at times, but improved as camp went along.

– Newcomers Rico Bussey Jr. and Anthony Wyche move into the two-deep on offense in our projection. UNT is going to play a couple of freshmen wide receivers. Bussey has been the best of the bunch. Wyche also had a terrific camp at running back and will get a lot of carries. He is pushing Jeffrey Wilson.

– UNT has to do something at the cornerback spot opposite Nate Brooks. Chad Davis has missed a lot of time due to injury and Eric Jenkins didn’t arrive until late in fall practice. Davis and Jenkins could be ready in time, but they might not. Jameel Moore has seen a lot of time with UNT’s starters and could end up being at the top of the depth chart.

– JUCO transfers E.J. Ejiya and Mylam Peters are going to see time with this team. The question is where they fit in. Ejiya could slide into the nickel spot that Ashton Preston has been playing or could land at outside linebacker. Peters looks great as a pass rusher, but I can’t imagine UNT putting him in the position where he would be involved in pass coverage — ever. I pegged them as backup linebackers.

– Demonte Hood is in our projection as a backup nose tackle in the 3-3-5. He will play a lot, but he also plays the same spot as Roderick Young, who Littrell has said may be UNT’s best player.

And finally, here is an update for GYROTR (Get Your Rear on the Record), our annual contest to pick UNT’s season record. Send your guesses to bvito@dentonrc.com.

7-6 — Rick Harold, David Larson

6-7 — John Lowe (eagle83)

6-6 — Ben Gooding, Kevin Cozart, Brandon Daniels

5-7 — Tyler Maryak, Jeff Pergola (jperg2), Ryan Munthe, Greg (Gwag81), Bob Campbell (The Ozark Eagle), Joel Villanueva, Mike Moss, Matt Taylor (RealMeanGreenMatt), James McAnallen, Von Eaglin

4-8 — Brett Vito, Jared Morris, Alec McKinley, Travis Miller, Tom Crothers (Eagle MBA), Scott Robertson, Brian Martin, Joe Eckstein

3-9 — Jim Hull, Aldofo Flores Jr. (Got5onit), Travis Scott, Will Manley, Rick Ashwander, Paulie Walnuts, Scott Hostenske, Robert Botts, Kristopher Kinard

2-10 — Kellen Jemeyon, John Lee Moses, Bryan Graves (UNTGuy5), Patrick McMullen (Greenflag), Adam Rosenfield