There was a time a few years ago when it appeared as if Coleman Feeley would make a run at the rare distinction of being a four-year starter at North Texas.
Feeley was thrust into the Mean Green’s lineup early in his freshman year and started the final seven games of the season.
That stretch remains the highlight of Feeley’s time at UNT heading into his senior year this fall, when he will have one last chance to become a staple in the Mean Green’s lineup.
UNT has four returning starters who have locked up jobs on its offensive front, leaving only one tackle spot up for grabs.
Feeley and LaChris Anyiam are in the midst of one of the more heated competitions in fall practice for that job.
“I have had a strange career here, starting seven games my true freshman year, redshirting the next year and then playing and starting at times the next couple of years until now. The joke I have always heard is that I’m trying to get back to where I was my freshman year, being a confirmed starter.”
Reaching that goal hasn’t been easy since Feeley’s freshman season at UNT, and doesn’t appear like it will be now.
UNT head coach Dan McCarney and offensive coordinator Mike Canales have consistently praised Anyiam during fall workouts.
“That fifth position is wide open right now,” McCarney said. “Whether it is Anyiam or Feeley, we are rotating, trying to find the best one. Some young guys are trying to get involved. That is the only job that is close.”
Whoever wins that spot will join arguably UNT’s best unit heading into the season and will have some big shoes to fill.
Guard Cyril Lemon was a preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selection. McCarney said that center Aaron Fortenberry has the potential to be an all-league pick, while guard Mason Y’Barbo and left tackle Antonio Johnson are both proven Sun Belt level starters.
The only hole UNT has is at right tackle, where it lost one of its top players. Matt Tomlinson was a first-team All-Sun Belt pick a year ago.
Feeley believes he is ready to step into that void.
“I have been ready,” Feeley said of moving back into UNT’s starting lineup. “I felt ready to start last year. I’ve been ready since I got here.”
Feeley showed he had the talent to contribute early in his career before an injury derailed him after a promising start. The former Austin Anderson standout had his knee scoped after his freshman year, when he replaced Tyler Bailey in UNT’s lineup, and spent the 2009 season as a redshirt.
Bailey recovered from the injury that opened up a spot for Feeley and hung onto the position for the remainder of his career.
Fortenberry has been a friend of Feeley in addition to being a teammate for years. He said UNT’s four returning starters would be comfortable welcoming Feeley back to the starting lineup.
Even if Anyiam wins the job in fall practice, Feeley will play a large role this season, when the Mean Green’s coaching staff said it will try to rotate more linemen to keep them fresh.
“Coleman and I have been playing next to each other since we got here,” Fortenberry said. “I feel good about our offensive line. It helps to only have one guy to replace. That’s a big deal with offensive lines, having that chemistry. We don’t even have to use whole calls. We can just call out a number and know what we are doing.”
Feeley has developed that continuity with the rest of UNT’s starters over the last few years, even though he hasn’t been in the lineup as often as he would have liked.
Depending on the way he performs in practice this fall, he could soon be back beside them as a starter once again.
Watson’s injury not serious
The knee injury freshman Dutton Watson suffered in UNT’s scrimmage Saturday was not serious, McCarney said Tuesday.
Watson sprained the medial collateral ligament in his knee. McCarney said UNT’s coaches have not ruled out Watson playing this season.
“At this stage we don’t want to rule anyone out with months and months of season to go,” McCarney said. “It will be day-to-day, week-to-week.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org