NEW ORLEANS — When it comes to all-conference honors, North Texas head coach Dan McCarney believes in an old theory: To the winner go the spoils.
That was true when the Sun Belt Conference released its preseason all-league team during its annual media day Monday.
Offensive lineman Cyril Lemon and punter Will Atterberry were the only UNT players named to the team that included seven players from Florida International — one of five teams in the league with at least four representatives.
Three of those five teams — FIU, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette — played in bowl games last season. Western Kentucky had four preseason all-conference players after finishing 7-5.
Only traditional Sun Belt power Troy had at least four selections after failing to be bowl-eligible in 2011. The Trojans finished 3-9.
“You have to win, be consistent and go to postseason play,” McCarney said. “When you do those things with your program, you are going to have more players on the all-conference team. If you don’t, this is what you expect.”
UNT did not have a player named to the preseason All-Sun Belt team in 2009, but had multiple players selected for the team in each of the last two years.
Lemon burst onto the scene last year as a true freshman and helped clear the way for Lance Dunbar to rush for 1,115 yards, including 313 in a season-ending win over Middle Tennessee. Dunbar broke Patrick Cobbs’ UNT career rushing record against the Blue Raiders in addition to eclipsing Jamario Thomas’ single-game rushing record of 291 yards set against Idaho in 2004. Dunbar posted 4,224 yards in his career that concluded last season.
“Cyril Lemon has maturity well beyond his age,” McCarney said. “He proved that last year. I saw the look in his eyes when we were down at Alabama playing the eventual national champions, and he was not scared. He’s something special.”
Atterberry led the Sun Belt in 2011 with an average of 43.5 yards a punt and had 26 attempts downed inside opponents’ 20-yard line and was named to the all-conference team.
“Atterberry is one of the best punters in the country based on performance,” McCarney said. “I hope that he goes after every record that North Texas has ever had and is one of the players everyone in the country is talking about in terms of punters.”
UNT to open at night
UNT’s season opener at LSU will be under the lights at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
The Southeastern Conference announced its full television schedule for the first three weeks of the season Monday, which included the Mean Green’s game against the Tigers that will kick off at 6 p.m.
The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
This will be the 11th consecutive year UNT has opened the season on the road.
Whitfield moving to corner
Zac Whitfield is moving from running back to cornerback, a late switch UNT is making to bolster its depth in its secondary.
Whitfield was not among UNT’s top three running backs after spring practice and moved to defense after starting cornerback Freddie Warner was lost for at least the first half of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
“I hope I like the move, but I have not seen him practice there once,” McCarney said. “It was after spring ball when we moved him. He was not in the three-deep at running back, Freddie Warner went down with a knee injury and we decided to make the move. He’s ecstatic with it.”
Lancaster out for the year
Roderick Lancaster, an incoming freshman wide receiver from Life School Oak Cliff, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee over the summer and will miss the 2012 season.
Lancaster was playing catch before he arrived on campus, landed awkwardly and suffered the injury.
“Lancaster hurt his knee before he got here,” McCarney said. “He was playing catch, went up to catch the ball, came down and hurt his knee. He won’t play this year. He ran a 10.5 100 meters. We will miss him.”
Summer goes well
McCarney and linebacker Zach Orr both said they were pleased with what UNT accomplished over the summer, when the Mean Green’s players were on campus to work out with the strength and conditioning staff.
“I love it,” McCarney said of the summer. “The great academic performance continues. We can’t watch the players lift and run, but we can talk to our players, and the feedback I get is that the chemistry, togetherness, leadership and confidence are really strong on this team.”
Orr credited the progress UNT made to the commitment the Mean Green has to a common goal.
“We did really good things over the summer,” Orr said. “We are all committed and motivated to win a conference championship and go to a bowl game.”
ALL-SUN BELT CONFERENCE TEAM
The following is the All-Sun Belt Conference team as selected by the league’s head coaches and select media members:
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ryan Aplin (Arkansas State, Sr., QB)
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tourek Williams (FIU, Sr., DL)
Ryan Aplin (Arkansas State, Sr., QB); Kedrick Rhodes (FIU, Jr., RB); Alonzo Harris (Louisiana-Lafayette, So., RB); Josh Jarboe (Arkansas State, Sr., WR); Javone Lawson (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., WR); Eric Thomas (Troy, Jr., WR); Jack Doyle (WKU, Sr., TE); Zack McKnight (Arkansas State, Sr., OL); Rupert Bryan (FIU, Sr., OL); Caylin Hauptmann (FIU, Sr., OL); Leonardo Bates (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., OL); Cyril Lemon (North Texas, So., OL)
Isame Faciane (FIU, Jr., DL); Tourek Williams (FIU, Sr., DL); Tony Davis (Troy, Sr., DL); Quanterus Smith (WKU, Sr., DL); Winston Fraser (FIU, Sr., LB); Kanorris Davis (Troy, Sr., LB); Andrew Jackson (WKU, Jr., LB); Don Jones (Arkansas State, Sr., DB); Jonathan Cyprien (FIU, Sr., DB); Melvin White (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., DB); Brynden Trawick (Troy, Sr., DB)
Brett Baer (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr. K); Will Atterberry (North Texas, Sr., P); John Evans (WKU, So., Return Specialist)