Spring Scouting Report -- Mean Green RBs
Bevy Of Backs Look To Step Up, Seize Opportunity In 2018
DENTON – North Texas is coming off its first nine-win season since 2013 and first back-to-back bowl appearances since 2003 and 2004. The Mean Green shift their focus to 2018, and we take a look at one of the most intriguing position groups on the offensive side of the ball, running back, to see where it stands entering spring practice under the watchful eye of running backs coach Tashard Choice.
Nic Smith – redshirt sophomore
- Team’s leading returning rusher, carried for 684 yards on 138 carries with six touchdowns
Evan Johnson – sophomore
- Rushed for 239 yards on 43 carries with three touchdowns
Christian Hosley – redshirt junior
- Two yards on four carries
Anthony Wyche – redshirt junior
- Redshirted in 2017, 67 yards on 21 carries in 2016
Loren Easly – redshirt junior
- Redshirted in 2017, his first season in Denton after transferring from Stephen F. Austin
DeAndre Torrey – sophomore
- Mid-year addition, rushed for 1,298 yards on 185 carries, with 12 touchdowns in 2017 at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
Trever Merrell – redshirt sophomore
- Redshirted in 2017
Josh Adebayo – redshirt sophomore
- Did not play in 2017 after transferring from Howard
Looking Back at 2017, Looking Forward to 2018
The Mean Green’s running game was a three-pronged attack in 2017, led by NFL hopeful Jeffery Wilson. The Elkhart, Texas, native was a workhorse for North Texas, carrying 188 times for 1,215 yards and 16 scores, averaging 110.5 yards per game. Smith and Johnson were also key fixtures for North Texas, as the trio combined to average an impressive 5.8 yards per carry and 25 touchdowns on the ground.
The Mean Green ran for 15 or more yards on eight percent of its rushes, according to Pro Football Focus, something Wilson did 20 times and Smith did on 10 occasions.
There’s no doubt that Wilson will be missed in Denton. As he blossomed into an elite back in Conference USA, he put himself firmly in the NFL Draft conversation and he will compete at the draft combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 27-March 2.
When Wilson went down with an injury midway through the win against Army on Nov. 18, it was Smith and Johnson who stepped in to pick up the slack. After Wilson’s injury (including the Army game), the pair carried 69 times for 350 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and three scores.
Smith entered the season off his redshirt year as the No. 2 back, and the standout from Arlington Martin made his time on the field count. In addition to his success on the ground, Smith was also effective as a receiver, hauling in 18 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and was especially effective on flares out of the backfield, catching all seven of his targets.
Smith had two 100-yard rushing performances, in his first collegiate game against Lamar (18 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown) and at Rice in his first career start (18 carries for 178 yards and a score). Smith does a lot of his damage between the tackles, and according to Pro Football Focus, had 360 yards after contact. He will be expected to again be a big part of the North Texas ground game in 2018.
Johnson burst onto the scene after a stellar high school career in Loranger, Louisiana, and made an immediate impact for the Mean Green. In his collegiate debut, Johnson nearly broke the century mark, carrying 13 times for 98 yards in the win over Lamar in September. The 5-foot-6 speedster made his carries count, picking up either a first down or touchdown on a team-best 37.2 percent of his carries.
He impressed in a variety of areas during fall camp, earning spots on several special teams units in addition to his time in the backfield, climbing the depth chart into the No. 3 role by the time the season rolled around. Johnson was a primary kick returner who made some big plays late in home wins against UAB and Army. He also factored in on kick and punt coverage teams, as well as the punt block unit and returned a blocked punt for a score in the win over Old Dominion.
Torrey enters spring camp with an opportunity to compete for a major role in the offense in 2018 and his track record at the Mississippi junior college level is impressive. He arrives in Denton with three seasons to play.
Wyche redshirted during his second season in Denton and has a strong opportunity to contribute in the fall. The Philadelphia native has gotten his weight up to 191 and has worked hard to bulk up since his arrival in the fall of 2016. He carried 21 times that year and caught three passes for 31 yards out of the backfield.
Hosley, a member of the team’s leadership council a year ago, had four carries early on in the season and provides good depth at the position. He also was a key component for North Texas on special teams, specifically on kick coverage. The Howard Payne transfer could play a bigger role as he tries to climb the depth chart.
Easly’s role is a bit unknown, but he could get some key reps during the spring. He made 20 appearances for Stephen F. Austin as a freshman and sophomore, totaling 1,256 yards and 11 rushing scores.