North Texas full squad going into C-USA debut

When Dan McCarney looks around the North Texas practice field,

the coach is finally seeing what most NCAA Division I programs take

for granted.

For the first time in McCarney’s three seasons, the Mean Green

have 85 scholarship players.

”More guys that look like Division I football players,”

McCarney said. ”It’s taken quite some time to replenish this

roster to get it to where we can be competitive.”

That translates to players, even the 16 returning starters,

having to work harder for jobs.

”Where there’s been no competition going on in many positions

the first two years that I’ve been here,” the coach said. ”There

were bodies there, but I’m talking about real competition, Division

I competition, guys that have a chance to play winning football at

this level.”

That comes at a good time with North Texas stepping up to

Conference USA after the past 12 seasons in the Sun Belt. The Mean

Green won Sun Belt titles and went to bowl games from 2001-04, but

won only 13 games the next six years.

McCarney is 9-15 so far. His goal in his third season?

”You just want tangible evidence of what we’re doing year-round

with this program, what we’re doing to change the culture of the

program, change expectations,” McCarney said. ”The reality was

this program was in bad shape when we got here. The perception was

even worse, and I’ve dealt with that for two years. … How do you

change perception? You make sure the reality of your program gets

better.”

Five things to watch with North Texas, which opens its season at

home Aug. 31 against Idaho.

1. QB RACE: Senior Derek Thompson is a two-year starter who

threw for 2,649 yards last season, but McCarney said the

quarterback job is ”wide open” and that more than one could play.

Andrew McNulty is back as a sophomore after redshirting last year

due to injury. There is also freshman Dajon Williams, a dual-threat

player who quickly caught McCarney’s attention. ”He’s in the

mix,” the coach said. ”We don’t have any plans of redshirting him

right now.” Sophomore Brock Berglund sat out last year after

transferring from Kansas.

2. NO SACK FOR YOU: North Texas led the nation by allowing only

six sacks last season, with none in nine games. ”We’re always

striving to do better,” said junior right guard Cyril Lemon, one

of three returning starters. McCarney said as many as nine

offensive linemen will be in the playing rotation.

3. D-LINE DEPTH: McCarney said that even on its best days the

last two seasons, the defensive line frankly was ”below average.”

In numbers and production. ”We have nine or 10 that we think can

give us a chance to play this year,” McCarney said. ”We’ve never

had more than four or five. … Hopefully those days are behind us,

and hopefully we can be a great solid contributor.”

4. EARLY AT HOME: The Mean Green play their season opener at

home for the first time in 12 years. They play two of their first

three games at home, something that also hasn’t happened since

2001. They were 7-4 at home the first two seasons in their new

stadium – after going 1-16 at home the three years before that.

5. LOVING LONE STAR: North Texas is one of four Texas teams in

Conference USA, giving them three games against in-state opponents.

The Mean Green played only one Texas opponent in each of the past

three seasons. Senior linebacker Zach Orr, who had 108 tackles last

season, said they look forward to finally getting to play against

”a lot of guys we played high school with or high school

against.”

Predicted finish in Conference USA West Division: 4th.

Online:

AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org