North Texas officials are keeping an eye on the path Tropical Storm Isaac is traveling in the Gulf of Mexico heading into its game against LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
The storm is expected to hit the Louisiana coastline as soon as late today into early Wednesday and is expected to be a hurricane by the time it reaches land.
The storm could have an effect not only on the game that will be played at 6 p.m., but also the Mean Green’s travel plans.
“We are on our normal schedule,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said during the Sun Belt Conference’s weekly coaches’ teleconference Monday. “God willing we can stay on that schedule. Our hearts go out to the people in that area. We have to stay flexible and have a Plan B. There isn’t a lot we can do. The airlines will dictate if there are any changes.”
The team is scheduled to travel to Louisiana on Friday and return after the game late Saturday night.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva issued a statement on the status of the game Monday.
“At this time we are planning to hold the game at 6 p.m. on Saturday as scheduled,” Alleva said. “We will evaluate the impact of the storm and its aftermath as we learn more throughout the week.”
The storm is projected to move out of Louisiana by the time the game kicks off.
The concern is the impact it could have on the Baton Rouge area, not to mention Tiger Stadium.
“Hopefully whatever happens will be through there by Wednesday and we can see what has to be done,” Villarreal said. “Our main concern is the safety of their team, the people of Louisiana and our kids.”
Dealing with weather issues is nothing new for UNT when it comes to games against LSU. The Mean Green was supposed to open the season at LSU in 2005, but saw that game pushed back by Hurricane Katrina.
UNT ended up opening the season at Middle Tennessee before facing the Tigers in late October.
UNT took on LSU again in 2008, just after Hurricane Ike made landfall in Southeast Texas.
Villarreal said that officials have not put a plan in place to move the game.
“If LSU wants to get on a plane, fly [up] here and play on Saturday, I’m sure we can work that out,” Villarreal said. “Right now we will wait and see what happens. Both of us need to play, but it won’t be at the sake of the safety of the coaches and players involved.”
The storm is already impacting Sun Belt members Florida International, Florida Atlantic and Louisiana-Lafayette, which are arranging alternative sites for practice.
Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said that league officials are monitoring the storm as well, although the conference office does not control member schools’ nonconference schedules.
“We will be watching [today] when the storm makes landfall,” Benson said.
UNT releases depth chart
UNT released its two-deep depth chart Monday for its season opener against LSU, and it includes 21 freshmen or sophomores.
Six of the eight players in UNT’s secondary are either freshmen or sophomores. Oklahoma transfer Marcus Trice will start at safety and will also see his first action with the Mean Green against LSU.
Junior cornerback Hilbert Jackson is the only returning upperclassman listed.
The overall youth of the team, and particularly the secondary, was no surprise, but there were a few position battles that went down to the end of fall practice.
Senior Coleman Feeley won the starting job at right tackle over junior LaChris Anyiam, while junior Brandin Byrd will start at running back.
Antoinne Jimmerson and Jeremy Brown are listed as Byrd’s backups, although all three are expected to see time against the Tigers.
More home games wanted
Several Sun Belt coaches addressed how their schedules are laid out this season, including McCarney.
UNT and Arkansas State will open with tough road games — the Mean Green at LSU and the Red Wolves at Oregon on Saturday.
McCarney and his players say they are looking forward to facing the highly ranked Tigers in the Mean Green’s 11th straight season opener on the road.
What McCarney isn’t looking forward to is having only five home games.
“Like most situations when you come in, you don’t have control of it,” said McCarney, who is entering his second season at UNT. “We are trying to build our attendance and we only have five home games. We don’t want that to happen again.”
The situation is one McCarney said UNT officials are working to avoid in the future.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com .