North Texas coach Dan McCarney named Derek Thompson his starting quarterback Monday.
A day later, he left open the possibility that he could play multiple quarterbacks in a wait-and-see approach that will leave the door open for freshman Dajon Williams, not to mention sophomores Andrew McNulty and Brock Berglund.
UNT released its depth chart for Saturday’s season opener against Idaho with Thompson sitting on top at quarterback.
Williams, Berglund and McNulty all were listed on the line that was reserved for Thompson’s backup in each of the last two seasons.
“We will get a feel for how things are going,” McCarney said. “There are things McNulty does really well, things Dajon does really well and things that Brock has really improved on. Those guys are all ready.”
McCarney hesitated to elaborate. He said he had a “good feeling” that Williams would play against the Vandals and has been on the record for weeks saying that he will not redshirt one of his top young talents.
UNT’s coaches have been reluctant to say much of anything about how they will use their quarterbacks.
McCarney said that Williams is the most athletic of the group and that UNT could have packages designed to fit his skills. Whether or not that means that Williams will see time in a wildcat formation that UNT has used with receiver Brelan Chancellor remains to be seen.
Thompson has started in each of the last two seasons for UNT and has thrown for 4,551 yards in his career.
The former Glen Rose standout has endured an up-and-down career. McCarney said Thompson had a good offseason and has earned the right to start in what could be a key game not only for UNT but for his future.
UNT is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its football program and is opening at home for the first time in 12 years. McCarney talked about the excitement surrounding the program, especially among the school’s students, throughout the offseason. There is little doubt there is pressure on Thompson to play well, something he acknowledged in his first public comments since being named the Mean Green’s starter.
“It’s exciting,” Thompson said. “In this sport nothing is guaranteed, no matter how good you are. Having an opportunity to play for three straight years is pretty special. I am excited about this year and what we can do, but we have to take full advantage of our opportunities as well.”
Thompson took advantage of his opportunity to hang on to the starting job for the first week of the season. The question heading into UNT’s opener is if he can build on some of the solid performances from his junior year and how the rest of the Mean Green’s quarterbacks will fit in, especially after McCarney vowed to play multiple quarterbacks at least in the early part of the season.
McCarney and offensive coordinator Mike Canales have indicated that UNT would open up its offense in search of a spark after the Mean Green averaged 20.9 points per game last season.
UNT could show Saturday how it would use its four quarterbacks to reach that goal.
Manu no longer on team
Offensive lineman Justin Manu is no longer on UNT’s roster after the school discovered an eligibility issue related to his time in junior college.
McCarney said that Manu enrolled in junior college, left school and later re-enrolled. UNT received a ruling from the NCAA on Monday night that the time window that Manu had to complete his eligibility has expired due to his first stint in junior college.
The former Snow College lineman was one of the more highly recruited players in UNT’s 2013 recruiting class and was a first-team NJCAA All-American last season. He chose UNT over offers from Florida Atlantic, UNLV, Youngstown State and Ball State.
“He is a great young man who brought a lot of energy,” McCarney said. “We will miss him.”
Manu was listed as UNT’s top backup at right tackle following spring practice. Redshirt freshman Connor Trussell has moved into Manu’s spot on the depth chart.
Freshmen among surprises
Williams won’t be the only freshman who will play in UNT’s season opener against Idaho.
Fred Scott enters the season listed as Zach Orr’s backup at middle linebacker and will play as a freshman. Outside linebacker Sed Ellis also is listed as a backup and is expected to play. Wide receiver Darvin Kidsy was listed along with Texas transfer Darius Terrell as the top backups for starting slot receiver Carlos Harris.
Former Guyer standout John Schilleci will play on special teams.
Junior Daryl Mason enters the season as the starter at one defensive end spot after finishing with just six tackles last season. McCarney praised Mason for his development over the last few months.
Mason started two games last season at the spot where Brandon McCoy started eight times. McCoy has battled injuries thoughout fall practice, putting his status for Saturday’s game in doubt.
Holden named C-USA’s top offensive player
UNT didn’t need long to make a mark in its first season in Conference USA.
Rachel Holden didn’t need long to leave her mark on UNT’s program.
The freshman posted a hat trick in her first game and added another goal in her second to help UNT get off to a 2-0 start. The performance is one the C-USA office acknowledged Monday when it named her the Offensive Player of the Week.
Holden scored three times in UNT’s 9-1 win over Texas Southern on Friday and came back to score in a 1-0 victory Sunday over Houston Baptist.
“Rachel really had a fantastic weekend, and we are all really excited to watch her blossom this season,” UNT coach John Hedlund said in a statement. “Her speed and her ability to get open make her a very potent target, and her finishing skills have been excellent. This is a well-deserved honor for a player that has the potential to be pretty special for us.”
UNT will continue its season this weekend in Winston-Salem, N.C., with games against No. 15 Wake Forest on Friday and Virginia Tech on Sunday.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.