Cyril Lemon stood in front of a lot of peering eyes on Monday, when the junior filled an unfamiliar role for North Texas.
UNT trotted out the monstrous offensive lineman at its media day at Apogee Stadium to model the throwback uniform it will wear during its season-opening game against Idaho on Aug. 31 as part of its 100-year anniversary celebration.
The new look honored some of the program’s great moments of the past on a day UNT expressed confidence that there are good times coming — hopefully this season.
UNT enters 2013 looking to snap a streak of eight straight losing seasons in its third year under Dan McCarney.
“There is a different look, a different feel around this football team,” McCarney said. “It’s a combination of a lot of things — maturity, development, leadership and a senior class that has said to the younger players: ‘Follow us on and off the field.’ They know what my expectations are. When you get ownership from the players, you know you have something special.”
UNT returns 16 starters from a team that finished 4-8 a year ago in the Mean Green’s final season in the Sun Belt Conference.
UNT will play its first season in Conference USA this fall. McCarney and his players acknowledged that moving to what is considered a higher-level league will make continuing its rise under McCarney more difficult.
UNT has won nine games in two years under McCarney after winning eight in the four years combined before his arrival.
UNT was picked to finish fifth in C-USA’s West Division in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll.
UNT’s players believe they are prepared for the challenge the new league will present.
“We have more guys who are buying in,” defensive end Aaron Bellazin said. “In previous years, we had guys who had one foot in and one foot out. We are all in now.”
The challenge the Mean Green faces as it heads into a new era in a new league didn’t temper the optimism at UNT on a day it unveiled its throwback jerseys. The uniforms incorporate elements of the jerseys UNT wore in four eras in program history — Hayden Fry, “Mean” Joe Greene, integration and the bowl teams from the 2000s.
“We are ready to show the fans and everyone else what we are capable of,” senior safety Marcus Trice said. “We are capable of being a good team, a bowl team and a team that wins conference this year. It’s a matter of putting it all together.”
Freshman QB in mix
Freshman quarterback Dajon Williams continued to be arguably the story of UNT’s fall camp during the Mean Green’s media day festivities when McCarney said that he is definitely in the mix to start.
“We have no intention of redshirting him after what we have seen,” McCarney said. “He’s in the mix at quarterback. No one has taken the job. It is wide open. I wouldn’t count him out of anything right now.”
Williams has quickly risen up the depth chart in the early part of fall workouts.
UNT offensive coordinator Mike Canales said that he would likely give Williams time with the second team after what he saw in the first scrimmage of fall practice on Saturday, when Williams played with the third team.
McCarney said at the time that UNT would evaluate film of the workout, which would give him a better idea of where the competition stood.
By Monday, McCarney was set on the idea that Williams will not redshirt and will compete with two-year starter Derek Thompson, backup Andrew McNulty and Kansas transfer Brock Berglund in the second week of fall practice.
McCarney said that UNT could use more than one quarterback this season.
More and more, it is looking like Williams could be one of them.
“Williams reminds me a lot of Bret Meyer, who played for me at Iowa State,” McCarney said. “He is smooth, doesn’t get shaken when something goes wrong, he has a good arm, good feet and good vision. He needs to gain some weight. We are working on that.”
CB Chad Davis, LB Fred Scott, LB Calvin Minor, LB Sed Ellis and S John Schilleci are all competing for playing time heading into their freshman seasons. … Freddie Warner, who has undergone reconstructive surgery on his ACL twice, has moved from cornerback to free safety. … DE Brad Horton will have arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder and has not practiced. Horton missed all of last season after having shoulder surgery. … RB Konockus Sashington has given up football due to lingering knee problems. … Mike Marshall has moved from safety to wide receiver.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.