North Texas will be without one of its top junior college additions for at least the first part of next season.
Quenton Brown, a former Eastern Arizona College standout who transferred to UNT at the semester break, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Saturday during the Mean Green’s first scrimmage of spring practice.
Brown underwent an MRI on Monday. UNT announced Tuesday that the exam revealed a tear in Brown’s ACL.
“It’s realistic to get him back for conference play,” UNT coach Dan McCarney said. “He won’t be back for nonconference. He has a great attitude about it right now.”
McCarney said that Brown will undergo reconstructive ACL surgery as soon as the swelling in his knee subsides.
UNT opens Conference USA play Oct. 5 at Tulane.
UNT brought Brown in to help fill the void left by the graduation of K.C. Obi, who led the Mean Green in sacks (5 1/2) and tackles for loss (10 1/2) last season.
Brown started his career at Central Florida under current UNT defensive coordinator John Skladany before transferring to Eastern Arizona, where he finished with 12 sacks as a sophomore.
Brown impressed UNT’s coaches during the short time he was on the field during spring drills.
“He showed that we made a good decision in bringing him in here,” McCarney said.
UNT knew heading into the workouts that it would be without several key defensive linemen for spring due to lingering injuries they suffered during the 2012 season. Starting defensive end Brandon McCoy and backup Daryl Mason were ruled out before spring practice began.
UNT also is without Ryan Boutwell, who started at tackle last season.
Redshirt freshman tackle Dylan McDorman had been ruled out and later had to give up football due to shoulder issues.
UNT will be shorthanded for the remainder of spring practice in terms of defensive linemen.
What is an even bigger concern is what UNT’s lineup will look like in the fall. UNT has already begun moving players to address its needs.
UNT moved outside linebacker Chad Polk to defensive end, a switch McCarney called one of the best the staff has made in his time with the program.
The Mean Green’s staff also is considering playing Boutwell at end and tackle next season. The senior is undersized for an interior lineman at 261 pounds.
“Defensive end is his natural position,” McCarney said. “He has to eat seven meals a day to be at the size to be a tackle. I have had guys who can play inside and outside. We will look at playing him in both spots. He would like to help us at end if he can.”
What could become particularly vital for UNT is having its other tackles progress in spring to the point that the team can afford to play Boutwell more at defensive end.
Richard Abbe is listed as a starter at tackle along with Boutwell.
Alexander Lincoln, Austin Orr and Dutton Watson are listed as UNT’s backup tackles. Lincoln (249), Watson (261) and Orr (268) are listed at less than 270 pounds.
Lincoln finished with 15 tackles last season, while Abbe added 13.
Series with ULL key for UNT
UNT has gone the entire Sun Belt season thus far without losing a conference series.
If UNT can keep that streak alive over the next couple of weeks — beginning at home this weekend against perennial conference power Louisiana-Lafayette — it could end up in contention for the league title.
UNT (18-14. 6-4 Sun Belt) will face the Ragin’ Cajuns in a 2 p.m. doubleheader Saturday before the series ends with an 11 a.m. game Sunday.
UNT enters the series in third place in the standings. Every team in the Sun Belt has at least three losses in league play.
ULL (22-11, 5-4) also is in the race for the Sun Belt title, as is South Alabama (29-7, 6-3). UNT will face the Jaguars next weekend.
“The next two series are the most important we have,” UNT coach T.J. Hubbard said. “We finish up with Louisiana-Monroe and Middle Tennessee, which are at the bottom of the league. To make a push to the top, we need to play well the next two weekends.”
UNT won two of three last week at Florida Atlantic.
FAU won the first game 3-2 before UNT exploded for 13 runs in the final two games of the series, winning 6-0 and 7-2.
Brooke Foster went 3-for-8 in the last two games of the series and hit a home run, her fourth of the year.
Track and field
UNT sees home meet as chance to crank it up
UNT will host its only home meet of the season this weekend, the North Texas Classic at Fouts Field.
UNT plans to take advantage by making a run at several national qualifying marks.
“The last three weeks we have been traveling, going back and forth and competing on Friday,“ UNT coach Carl Sheffield said. “This will be the first week that we will have five days to train, sleep in our own beds, get up and compete. We are looking forward to it.”
UNT enters the meet off a solid performance at the Texas Relays. Jo Adams finished third in the 1,500-meter run in a school-record time of 4:19.09. She was the top collegiate finisher in the race and now has the fifth-fastest time in the event nationally.
Matt Russ ran a personal-best 3:51.46 in the men’s 1,500.
UNT is hoping those performances are a sign of what is to come this weekend.
The hammer throw and the triple jump will take place Friday, with the majority of events to follow on Saturday. Field events begin at 9 a.m. with running events at 2:30 p.m.
“March for us is like the preseason,“ Sheffield said. “This weekend we will finally put everyone where they belong and go after qualifying marks for the national meet.”
UTA match canceled
UNT had its third match in the last three weeks canceled Tuesday, when the Mean Green’s showdown at rival Texas-Arlington was called off due to inclement weather.
UNT had a March 23 match against Columbia canceled due to weather and then had Georgia State back out of a match slated for Saturday in Louisville, Ky., because of budgetary concerns.
UNT will return to action Thursday when it hosts Tyler Junior College.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.