2011 Record: (5-7, 4-4 in Sun Belt)
Head Coach: Dan McCarney (5-7 at North Texas, 61-92 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2004 Season New Orleans Bowl: lost to Southern Miss 31-10
Paying the Bills: 9/1 at LSU; 9/15 at Kansas State
Must Win: 9/8 vs Texas Southern; 9/29 at FAU; 10/27 at Middle Tennessee
Revenge: 10/16 vs Louisiana; 10/29 vs Arkansas State; 11/24 at Western Kentucky
Stat to Cheer: +0.67 turnover margin (first in Sun Belt)
Stat to Fear: Replacing Lance Dunbar and James Hamilton's combined 1521 yards rushing and 16 total touchdowns
Phil Steele's Returning Starters (Offense: 8; Defense: 5: Specialists: 2)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Zachary Orr (74 tackles), DE Brandon McCoy (4.5 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Derek Thompson (11 TD, 6 INT), WR Brelan Chancellor (37 rec, 3 TD), WR Christopher Byrnes (37 rec, 5 TD)
Inside Scoop with Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle:
CFBZ: Dan McCarney went 5-7 in his first year at North Texas. What is your take on the job McCarney did last year?
Brett Vito: McCarney did a terrific job last season. UNT won as many games last season as it did the previous two years combined and started to recover from one of the dark eras in program history under Todd Dodge. There is just no way to over state how bad of a state the program was in when McCarney took over, even though Mike Canales did a good job beginning the healing process as the interim head coach for the final five games of the 2010 season after Dodge was fired. McCarney rekindled enthusiasm for the program among boosters, fans and players. He did one of the best jobs among coaches in the Sun Belt last season
CFBZ: The Mean Green must replace start RB Lance Dunbar. Who will step up to fill his shoes?
Brett Vito: It won't be easy to replace Dunbar, who carried UNT at times offensively last season. Dan McCarney and offensive coordinator Mike Canales have said that they will use a committee approach with as many as four players -- Brandin Byrd, Jeremy Brown, Antoinne Jimmerson and Zac Whitfield. All bring different talents to the table. Byrd is a bigger power back. Brown might be the most elusive, while Jimmerson and Whitfield have good speed.
CFBZ: Who are some players to keep an eye on this year for North Texas?
Brett Vito: Derek Thompson could have a really good year at quarterback, if his receivers come along. UNT depended largely on Dunbar last year, but with him gone and a good offensive line protecting Thompson, he will have the opportunity to take more of a lead role. How he does will all depend on if UNT can develop some play makers at wide receiver.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2012 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
Brett Vito: UNT could be a better team this year and not have a better record, just because of the brutal schedule the Mean Green faces. UNT has games at LSU, Kansas State and Houston. The Sun Belt also has some teams that are getting better every year, which will make life tougher for UNT. If UNT can win six games with the schedule it faces and end its streak of seven straight losing seasons, that would be a highly successful season. Even winning five for the second year in a row would be a success considering the schedule.
It's interesting to look at the raw statistics of the 2011 Mean Green and compare it with 2010's team that won just three games. The 2010 team gained more yards, allowed less points and gave up less yards. But statistics don't always tell the whole story. In 2010, the Mean Green had a turnover margin of -0.25 and in nine losses it was actually -0.67. Fast forward to 2011 and the Mean Green was about the same in terms of holding onto the football but they did a much better job taking it away from their opponent (25 turnovers gained in 2011 vs 15 gained in 2010). It will be interesting to see if they can maintain that clip this season.
The big concern for North Texas is replacing Lance Dunbar and his production. In games that Lance Dunbar was held under 100 yards rushing last season, the Mean Green went 1-6. When he rushed for over 100 yards, they went 4-1. Quarterback Derek Thompson is a second year starter but will really have to blossom this season for North Texas to maintain and improve on what McCarney started last season. As Arkansas State and Louisiana proved last season, anything can happen in the Sun Belt. That being said, I think North Texas will have a tough time improving their record in year two under Dan McCarney unless they can find a viable replacement for Dunbar.
2012 Prediction: 5-7
Previous 2012 Previews: