Aug. 4, 2014
DENTON – Football season has arrived as the Mean Green hit the practice fields today for the first workout of fall camp in preparation of the season opener against the Texas Longhorns on August 30.
Coming off the a nine-win season that culminated with a Heart of Dallas Bowl victory, North Texas was picked as the preseason favorite to win the West Division of Conference USA.
Head Coach Dan McCarney, entering his fourth season, welcomes back only nine starters on both sides of the ball, the second fewest in the nation heading into the 2014 campaign.
Offensively, the Mean Green brings back nearly the entire offensive line, with four of the five starters returning. The offensive line features Cyril Lemon, a preseason Lombardi and Outland Award Watch List candidate, and Mason Y’Barbo. Both players earned all-conference honors in 2013. Also back on the offensive line is four-year starter Antonio Johnson and center Kaydon Kirby, who was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team in 2013.
The biggest question heading into the fall camp will be who replaces Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP quarterback Derek Thompson. Junior Andrew McNulty, sophomore transfer Josh Greer, and freshmen Dajon Williams and Connon Means will battle to take the spot.
At running back spot, North Texas must replace leading rusher Brandin Byrd, but depth isn’t an issue with Reggie Pegram, Antoinne Jimmerson and Rex Rollins returning.
At wide receiver junior, Carlos Harris leads the pack returning along with sophomore Darvin Kidsy, who was the fifth leading receiver last season as a freshman.
On defense, NT must find four new starters on the defensive line, but the pool of candidates has plenty of playing experience. Alexander Lincoln, Austin Orr, Daryl Mason, Jarrian Roberts and Chad Polk have all seen playing time on the defensive line over the last few years. Sid Moore and Andy Flusche will figured into the mix as well after redshirting last season.
At linebacker, Derek Akunne is the veteran of the group, coming off his second-straight 90-tackle season. The Mean Green is searching for a replacement for Zach Orr and Will Wright, and Fred Scott and Jamal Marshall will each get a chance to vie for the starting spots.
The secondary is the most veteran and experienced group for defensive coordinator John Skladany. Kenny Buyers, James Jones and Zach Whitfield are all back at the cornerback spots, while hard hitting safety Lairamie Lee returns for his senior year. Buyers and Lee were both all-conference performers last season.