By Craig Fields
The University of North Texas Mean Green football team will be looking to improve on an abysmal 4-8 record from the 2014 season. This of course came after a storybook ending to a wonderful 2013 campaign, that saw a Mean Green team laded with 22 seniors and leadership, win its first bowl game in about 10 years and boast a 9-4 record in head coach Dan McCarney’s third season with the program.
Losing that talent really showed and took its toll on a program that has been trying to find a level of consistency since they were headed by coach Darrell Dickey and won four straight Sun Belt Conference titles. The inexperience and quarterback questions were really prevalent last year. Now with another year under their belt, hopefully the freshmen and sophomores that were asked to do so much last year, can now rise to the occasion.
There are three particular players on this year’s team that are getting preseason recognition for the talent they bring to the table and effort that they have shown on the field. Senior wide receiver Carlos Harris, sophomore place kicker, Trevor Moore, and junior center Kaydon Kirby have all been named to preseason watch lists.
Harris was named to the Biletnikoff and Paul Hornung watch lists. The Biletnikoff award is awarded to the most outstanding receiver in all of college football, while the Hornung award is awarded to the player that shows the most all-around talent or versatile skill in college football.
There are currently 48 players named to the Biletnikoff preseason watch list and Harris is one of those names. That is a big deal, and the senior knows it. “It doesn’t make me think that I am higher than anyone else. It just makes me want to work harder to achieve something of that status.” Seeing as how hard work is a mantra that coach McCarney has been preaching since he got to UNT, I’m sure that he is happy to hear that.
Moore, the place kicker for the Mean Green, came in on fire as a freshman and quickly turned out to be one of the team’s most reliable weapons, which is why he is named to the Lou Groza watch list. Even though he was not able to attempt a single field goal in his first game at the collegiate level, he still managed to go 5-5 in his second game. He also went 4-4 in the season finale. He set the school record for field goal percentage in a single season, managing an 88.2% success rate nailing 15-17 field goals. He was also perfect kicking extra points hitting 37 of 37, tying a school record. He was also the team leader in points scored last season with 82.
The freshman has a laundry list of accomplishments and he recognizes that while he may have had a good season last year, he will need to be even better in games to come. “I’m just a sophomore so I still think that I have tons of room to grow [and] learn. [I need to] get stronger [and kick with more] height more accuracy, don’t miss at all.” A reliable kicking game is often the most overlooked aspect of the game, but can brutally hinder a team’s success when not there. With Moore on the special teams, look for UNT to be comfortable taking 45+ yard field goals all season long, and look for Moore to be able to knock them down with consistency.
Offensive lineman Kirby joined Harris as being named to two preseason watch lists as well, the Rimington and the Lombardi. The Rimington is awarded to the best center in college football, while the Lombardi is awarded to the best lineman or linebacker. This is a true honor for the junior who, as a freshman, was a part of an offensive line that gave up the least amount of sacks that year.
He is a solid center that anchors the offensive line. He will need to be a leader in the locker room and take over the spot Mason Y’barbo occupied while he was on the line. Running behind Kirby and this stout unit will be undoubtedly fun for the shifty and quick running backs that North Texas has.
The most important position on any football team is the quarterback position. That is a hard fact to face if you are a Mean Green fan because the truth of the matter is that there is still a huge question mark there. Now true enough, senior Andrew McNulty is the starter, and has a few years under his belt, but he is also the same player who was replaced early in the season last year. He is a pocket passer with a pretty weak arm who struggles with mobility and making “the pass” when you need it most.
That being said, his backup junior college transfer, Josh Greer is not any better. In fact it can be argued that his arm is worse because he has a hard time throwing and completing a 10-yard out route with consistency and pace on the ball. He also struggles with mobility and does not consistently read defenses correctly.
These two quarterbacks have another year under their belts. It will be interesting to see what they can do this season. If the past is any indication of the future, then it may be a long season again for a program that needs and longs for success.
2015 Season Schedule
9/19 vs Rice
10/3 @Southern Miss
10/10 vs Portland State
10/15 vs W. Kentucky
11/7 LA Tech
11/21 @Mid Tenessee
11/28 vs UTEP