BEVO BEAT

Q&A with North Texas beat writer

Posted August 29th, 2014

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Each week of the football season, Bevo Beat will interview a reporter who covers Texas’ upcoming opponent. Brett Vito, the North Texas beat writer for the Denton Record-Chronicle and The Dallas Morning News, answered five questions  about the Mean Green. Texas, a 25-point favorite, opens the season against visiting North Texas at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Q: Dan McCarney took his time assessing the quarterback battle before choosing junior college transfer Josh Greer over veteran Andrew McNulty. Why did McCarney take so long?

A: McCarney is adamant that he likes both quarterbacks and thinks UNT can win with either player. UNT’s practices are closed in the fall, so it is hard to say just how close the competition was outside of taking what the team’s coaches and players say at face value. I got the feeling that Greer was pulling away late in camp and that turned out to be the case. McCarney is big on not showing his cards until the last minute, but it does seem like it was a close race.

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A nine-win team returns nine starters, second fewest in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Do you see North Texas taking a step back in 2014?

To be perfectly honest, yes. UNT didn’t just lose the majority of its starters,  it lost several who are significant players in program history. Wide receiver Brelan Chancellor is UNT’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards with 5,503, linebacker Zach Orr finished his career tied for third in school history with 365 tackles and quarterback Derek Thompson finished second in school history with 7,447 passing yards. Even the powerhouse programs in college football have a hard time replacing all-time greats. UNT just lost three of its best players and a whole lot of other key contributors who made a great season possible. I do believe that UNT has turned a corner as a program and will still win seven games this year despite those losses, but it would be a big surprise to see the Mean Green win nine games again.

From an outsider’s perspective, how much of an edge factor has Texas lost in recent years? In other words, will North Texas be intimidated playing the Longhorns?

Texas doesn’t have the team it has in the past, but UNT doesn’t have the experienced players it did last year either. UNT was in a tie game in the third quarter of a game at Georgia in 2013. The guys from that team were not intimidated. One has to remember that UNT’s key seniors had played on the road against Alabama, LSU and Kansas State in the previous two years. The question is if several young players will be intimidated. I don’t think they will be, largely because of head coach Dan McCarney, a Hayden Fry disciple who is a master of motivating players and getting them ready to play.

Texas should have an excellent defensive line. Will North Texas be able to block them?

If there is one area where UNT can stack up with a team like Texas, it’s in the offensive line. UNT’s guards Mason Y’Barbo and Cyril Lemon are on the Lombardi watch list. Lemon is also on the Outland watch list. Both of those guys and tackle Antonio Johnson will be four-year starters. UNT has allowed just 17 sacks the last two seasons combined, the lowest total in major college football, despite playing some pretty good teams. I’m not saying that UNT will dominate the line of scrimmage, but I don’t think it will be a huge mismatch.

Finish this sentence. For North Texas to pull the upset, it must …

Have everything go its way, including have success running the ball to keep its defense off the field, create turnovers and find a way to at least slow down Texas’ running game, despite being undersized on its defensive line with four starters whose average weight is 253 pounds.

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