One of the first items on Dan McCarney's agenda after he took over as North Texas' head coach was to take a quick look at what his new team's needs were heading into the 2011 season.
It didn't take long for offensive coordinator Mike Canales and fellow assistant Scotty Conley, a pair of coaches he retained from the previous staff, to convince McCarney that finding a quarterback was at the top of the list.
UNT lost Nathan Tune to graduation and saw Riley Dodge decide to transfer, leaving the team without two players who combined to start 11 of the Mean Green's 12 games last season.
McCarney was pleased with the way his staff addressed that glaring need on national signing day.
UNT added Brent Osborn, a junior college transfer who could compete for the starting job right away, and two high school players to develop in Cooper Jones of Lone Oak and Andrew McNulty of Iowa City, Iowa.
"I feel really good about the quarterbacks we brought in," McCarney said. "There was no doubt that we needed to sign a good junior college quarterback and two high school quarterbacks. We feel like we were able to do that."
Osborn transferred in at the semester break and will be able to participate in spring practice. He threw for 2,014 yards and 18 touchdowns last season at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
"Brent has ability. He has a quick release and is tough. I like his intangibles. I was around a pretty good guy with pretty good intangibles with Tim Tebow," said McCarney, who came to UNT from Florida, where Tebow played before being drafted by the Denver Broncos. "I have a pretty good measure with quarterbacks and their intangibles."
Osborn will compete with Derek Thompson for the starting job. Thompson played one series as a freshman and then played in three games in 2010 before seeing his season come to an end in a loss to Army.
Thompson broke his leg and was lost for the season in the only start of his career thus far.
"I feel good about the situation, but Derek is working hard coming back from his injury and we have two awesome guys coming in," Osborn said. "It will be very competitive in the spring. I am excited about it."
Defensive tackle situation still in doubt
One of UNT's biggest areas of need coming into 2011 is defensive tackle, where the Mean Green lost both of its starters in Kelvin Jackson and Shavod Atkinson.
UNT signed five defensive linemen, but none of them came from the junior college ranks. The Mean Green offered a few, but saw Butte (Calif.) Community College product Ronnell Wright back out of his commitment to UNT to sign with Arkansas State.
Despite not signing any junior college tackles, McCarney said he felt good about UNT's situation under defensive line coach Mike Nelson.
"We offered a couple of junior college tackles," McCarney said. "It didn't work out. I feel great about the five we signed to come play inside. I wouldn't have retained Mike Nelson if I didn't think he had a chance to get us to where we need to be. The defensive line is the heart and soul of any defense, the heart and soul of any team. We will challenge the guys who are here."
How those players fare could well determine how successful UNT is next season.
"If we are going to start winning games, we have to play good defense and play well on the defensive line," McCarney said. "I don't know if any of the five guys we are bringing in can play. I haven't coached them. We are going to give them a chance."
McCarney said that Galena Park North Shore defensive back Kendrick Ruben and San Antonio Warren wide receiver Marcus Smith are no longer a part of UNT's plans. Both players committed to UNT before McCarney arrived at the school. … McCarney said he expects all of UNT's signees to qualify academically. … McNulty's father, Jim, played with McCarney at Iowa. … Michael Stojkovic's father, Mike, played football for Cincinnati, while his sister, Caitlin, played soccer for Oklahoma. … UNT has one scholarship remaining.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .