The summer of 2012 hasn’t been a good time to be a returning defensive starter for North Texas.
UNT lost starting cornerback Freddie Warner to a knee injury in the spring and linebacker Mike Stojkovic to a redshirt season he will use to work through some off-the-field issues. Both are sophomores, and Warner could possibly return in October.
Head coach Dan McCarney revealed Monday that the Mean Green’s problems run a little deeper.
Defensive tackle Ryan Boutwell, who started all 12 games a year ago, tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights over the summer and will be sidelined for at least the first two weeks of the season.
UNT began the off-season scheduled to have six returning starters on defense.
That total dropped to three for at least the first few games of the season by the time UNT began fall practice Monday night.
There isn’t a team in the Sun Belt Conference that listed fewer defensive starters returning in their preseason media guides.
“We are hoping for the third game,” McCarney said of the estimated return time for Boutwell. “The doctors say that will be the best opportunity for him to be back. I will not force him into anything. We have a long, long season with lots of games to be played. I don’t want any setbacks the next few weeks because we forced him into a drill too soon.”
UNT’s defensive line is one of the few places the Mean Green has experienced players returning and possibly the depth to handle an injury.
Defensive end Brandon McCoy and defensive tackle Tevinn Cantly join linebacker Zach Orr as the last three defensive starters still scheduled to be on the field when UNT opens the season at top-ranked LSU on Sept. 1. Cantly could be better equipped to play additional snaps after losing 20 pounds in the off-season to get down to 333 pounds.
UNT also has defensive tackle Richard Abbe, who played extensively last season, returning. Converted defensive end Alexander Lincoln showed signs of developing into a contributor at defensive tackle in the spring.
Austin Orr, who missed last season with an injury, also played well before dislocating his elbow in spring practice.
Boutwell missed spring practice with another injury.
“In the spring time we missed him [Boutwell] some and had Alex Lincoln fill in and do a good job,” UNT defensive coordinator John Skladany said. “Austin Orr looked impressive and then got nicked. We have some talent there. Those guys are young, but they have talent.”
Prior out for season
Backup tight end Daniel Prior will miss the season to recover from shoulder surgery, McCarney said.
Prior started two games and caught four passes for 23 yards in 2011.
UNT returns starting tight end Andrew Power and Drew Miller, another backup who caught six passes for 105 yards.
Two to graduate
McCarney rescheduled UNT’s scrimmage Saturday to allow Boutwell and quarterback Derek Thompson to go through graduation ceremonies.
Both will be juniors this fall and have two years of eligibility remaining.
“That is amazing,” McCarney said. “To get your work done and be that dedicated and committed to academics and have two years of eligibility left. We are going to let them enjoy that moment.”
Receiver to redshirt
Incoming freshman wide receiver Roderick Lancaster will have surgery on his knee today.
Lancaster was injured playing catch over the summer and will redshirt this season.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .