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What we lost and what's coming back

Posted by 97and03 , 14 March 2012 · 1,076 views

I thought I would look at the gaps in the line-up caused by the departure of our Seniors.

Position by position:

Quarterback - Not impacted, as everyone comes back.

Kicker - Not impacted* Olen looks to rebound after a down year between 40-49 yards.

Punter - Not impacted* One word: baller. Our punter rocks.

Inside Linebacker - Not impacted. As long as Orr returns at 100%, this is a great strength for North Texas. The best player on the team (arguably) starts and the backup Akunne got a lot of experience last year. Wright also saw time here last year, but was considerably undersized. A couple of the incoming freshman have the size to play here too, so you have to feel good about the ILB situation.

Defensive Tackle - Not impacted (but is damn thin anyway). Though no one graduated, two freshman that we hoped would get some time in the rotation are no longer at DT. NT also lost big Kyle White during the season. Fans are hoping Sir Calvin Wallace steps in immediately.

Offensive Guard - No impact, unless Fortenberry needs to move to tackle and Y'Barbo shifts to center. Otherwise, you are probably looking at Y'Barbo and Lemon together through the 2014 season. Ellard has been playing while Lemon recovers from a late season injury and Cam Feldt is seeing time at guard as well. The final impact here may be determine by what happens at tackle.

Tight End - Low impact. Though listed as a WR, I believe Greg Brown mostly played at tight end and will be missed, though mainly on special teams* (more on that below). Power, Miller, and Prior return, with converted WR Marcus Smith ready as well.

Center - Low impact. JJ Johnson was the guy we thought we would have to replace. An early season injury to JJ (again) meant that Aaron Fortenberry comes in with almost a full year of experience in the middle. Incoming freshman Boone Feldt provides depth and Y'Barbo is an option as well. Like the guard position, this could depend on the tackle situation.

Wide Receiver - Low-medium impact. Mike Outlaw was a fairly productive receiver for a couple of year and will be missed, as his senior year was clearly his impact year at UNT. Breece Johnson provided valuable depth and experience and came up with a few nice catches now and then. Olawale never had a strong impact in the receiving game, after moving over from TE. Stratford only lasted three games and did not do squat.
Three major contributors return next year, none of which were a known quantity before last year. It seems WR might be the easiest position to get unknowns to become solid players. Ivan Delgado, a former junior college and high school quarterback, was the 2011 poster child for the walk-on program. Bynes and Chancellor also had no proven track record prior to last season. Those three should form the core of the receiving core, but Canales will want to be confident in his fourth receiver and the back-ups. NT needs Chaz Sampson to be the player they think he is and have a couple of unknowns to break out. Vito mentions Pleasant as an off-season surprise, with Teegarden also in the mix. Hopefully those players, one of the Florida walk-ons, or true freshmen will provide the depth and a few catches that this receiving corps needs.

Offensive Tackle- Medium impact. Matt Tomlinson graduates and we wonder who fills the spot vacated by an All-Conference player. Some believe transfer Cam Feldt is destined for greatness here, while others say to forget the hype. Perhaps Ayodele Adedipe is ready to step up as a senior? Vito reports Feeley is currently the starter going into the spring. Other scenarios might include Fortenberry moving back to tackle with Y'Barbo or Boone Feldt at center. Mac puts the best players on the field and has no problem playing a freshman, so if Boone is ready, it could happen. Anyiam and Micah Thompson also could be in the mix and/or provide depth.

Defensive End - Medium impact. It seems strange to say medium impact after losing an All-Conference 4 year player, especially when that one is only one of two at the position. It will be very hard to replace his sacks (7.5) and overall production (3rd in tackles). But there is reason for optimism at DE. The first can be summed up in two words: The Sarge. McCoy returns for his junior year as a fan favorite after a very productive 2011, with 4.5 sacks and second in TFL (7.5). And the last two years have reaped a harvest of exciting and big DEs in the recruiting classes. Two backups return (Lincoln and Bellazin) as well as former starter KC Obi. In all there are 6 returning scholarship DEs, plus 2-4 more from the 2012 class (depending on where they end up on the field, as some may play at DT). AK47 will be missed, but there is good, quality depth here.

Outside Linebacker - Medium impact. This position on the surface looks pretty strong -essentially 3 starters return (Phillips, Wright, Stojkovic) at 2 positions. Furthermore, there are a couple of good-looking LB and RB recruits that might end up here as well, plus redshirt Polk from Mac's first class. So it looks pretty solid.
On the other hand, it would be very foolish to overlook the departures of Herron and Forlando Johnson, who both played a lot, including starting. Both made some big plays, especially Herron, who seemed to always be around to cause or pick up a fumble. Herron had four fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. One of those recoveries was six points for the Mean Green. And when the young players struggled or depth was reduced from injury, it was these two seniors that picked up a lot of the slack. Both these guys will be missed and at least one young player will need to step up and provide depth in the two-deep.

Cornerback - High impact. Royce Hill. I could stop there. Unfortunately, I can't because Ford also graduated. It is pretty hard to replace a four year starter, but even harder when the other corner also graduates. Hill had pretty good run at NT and will be missed. Ford was productive as a senior as well, with a couple of INTs, one for a touchdown. Fortunately, Freddie Warner gained starting experience as a freshman and Hilbert Jackson played meaningful minutes as well. Mac also brought in JC corner DQ Johnson. Hopefully, DQ comes in ready to try to take one of the open corner jobs. Highly regarded recruit Xavier Kelley might also have a shot at the two-deep.

Running back - Very high impact. Lance Dunbar was the offense and it is very likely he will be replaced with one player right away. I don't really need to go into how much he meant to this team or the fans, but I will simply saw that he was a player that other teams game-planned. Hamilton was often overlooked, but had great numbers as a back-up and was a real Wildcat threat. The running game really didn't drop off very much when Hamilton came in. Brandon Byrd will be the early favorite, with 20 carries last year leading all returning backs. Walk-on Jeremy Brown has impressed, and the two redshirt freshman will be counted on to compete for the starting job. There were several running backs signed in the 2012 class as well. With Coach Mac, the players that have the best spring and fall practices will play, so this position should be considered wide open. Scary, but at least there are several talented young players ready to contend for the honor of being the next running back for UNT.

Safety - Mega super high impact. All four players in the two-deep graduated. It is pretty hard to impact a position more than that. Downing and Graham were in the top four in tackles and each created turnovers. Shorter and McCord provided the depth. Only Laramie Lee returns with any game experience and that was quite limited. OU transfer Trice is expected to grad one starting spot, with Lee holding down the other at this point. Kerry Swarm was a three star recruit that redshirted last year. He will counted on to challenge for a starting spot this season, or at least provide quality minutes. And that means that a true freshman will probably need to crack the two-deep. Devante Davis out of Louisiana seems a likely candidate based on the recruiting hype. David Busby is another well-regarded prospect that could step in, though we don't know if he is a corner or a safety at this point.

*Special teams - medium-high impact. It is pretty tough to determine this category, as special teams is such a unique unit. But one thing is for sure, NT needs someone to replace long snapper Troy Kokjohn. I put the asterisk on both punter and kicker, since the quality of those positions is directy related to the quality of your long snapper. It is pretty hard to kick a 45 yard field goal without worrying about a bad snap. Coach Riddle will need to hope that Blake Dunham's scholarship was well deserved or that someone else can step up immediately.
The return and coverage units will also have to replace several players. Greg Brown and Julian Herron were essential pieces of the special teams unit and several other seniors contributed here as well (Olawale, January, Jamaal Wilson). Ford returned punts as well. NT will likely mostly rely on young players and walk-ons to anchor this all too important unit. With little depth at key positions, such as the entire secondary, it may be too daangerous to risk injury to a starter or key back-up flying down the field on kick coverage.

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Tight End - Low impact. Though listed as a WR, I believe Greg Brown mostly played at tight end and will be missed, though mainly on special teams* (more on that below). Power, Miller, and Power return, with converted WR Marcus Smith ready as well

We cloned Power! Love it.

Seriously, great analysis.
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Well done sir. It is time for the replacements to step it up. This program needs to take the next step. I guess we will see for sure.


RB is the most interesting of the competition. I see O-line as being a strength, so I wonder if we will in fact see a drop off in rushing game. Lance was one of our best ever. If the o-line makes holes, our new crop of rb's will go through 'em.
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Very solid analysis. I enjoyed reading this. A must read for anyone trying to get up to speed on the focus points in the spring.
Good catch, Life. I have corrected to Prior instead of Mini-Power.
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