Kaydon Kirby wasn’t worried about the snap count or getting the ball to Derek Thompson on the first play of North Texas’ game against Idaho last week.
The redshirt freshman center was confident he could handle his responsibilities in the first action of his college career.
He was just nervous — really, really nervous — until UNT’s first play, a 14-yard run by Brandin Byrd, was in the books.
After that, Kirby felt right at home with the Mean Green’s offensive line.
In that way, Kirby wasn’t any different than a host of UNT players who looked like they belonged in their first action with the Mean Green in a 40-6 win over the Vandals.
Highly regarded wide receiver Darvin Kidsy caught three passes in the first game of his freshman year, while freshman linebacker Fred Scott posted three tackles. And in perhaps the most encouraging sign of the night, freshman quarterback Dajon Williams showed why he could be a future star while hitting all but one of his six pass attempts in mop-up duty late in the game.
That group of young players will look to build on its debut performance Saturday when UNT travels to Ohio (0-1) and looks to move to 2-0 for the first time since 1994.
“We are encouraged by how many good young players we have,” Kirby said. “It shows that we have a lot of depth coming up. Those young guys are contributing. It’s absolutely a good sign, because we are only going to get better. We are going to do some good things.”
UNT’s young players already are doing plenty of good things, despite the fact that many are stuck behind a series of veterans on a team loaded with seniors.
Thompson, middle linebacker Zach Orr and wide receiver Brelan Chancellor are three of UNT’s top players. They all play key positions and are in their last year with the Mean Green.
UNT will undergo something of an overhaul following the 2013 season after the departure of 13 senior starters and will rely largely on the young players who are seeing time as backups this fall.
Those players had a chance to begin adapting to playing at the college level in UNT’s game against Idaho and made an impression on their veteran teammates. Most of the Mean Green’s young players saw limited action, although the way the UNT rolled by the Vandals allowed head coach Dan McCarney to get multiple players on the field who might not have seen action in a close game.
“Myself, the coaches and a lot of the older guys were impressed with how they played,” senior running back Brandin Byrd said. “They have a way to go, but they will be special players for us in the future, and maybe this year. You never know. I was real impressed with Darvin Kidsy and Dajon Williams.
“It’s real encouraging to see that we have depth and that depth is true freshmen and redshirt freshmen who are the future of this program.”
McCarney’s plan since he took over as the Mean Green’s coach before the 2011 season has been to play more players. McCarney says that getting more players into games increases the competition for playing time and helps them improve.
“Those guys that get on the plane, the majority of them should feel like they will be on the field,” McCarney said of this week’s trip to Ohio. “They should know that they need to prepare right up until kickoff so they don’t let their teammates down.”
UNT’s young backups came through in their first opportunity. McCarney and his coaches saw their performance as a validation of their recruiting efforts that have not always received the best reviews from national services that rate prospects and recruiting classes.
“You are seeing the fruits of our labor,” McCarney said. “There are more good athletes out there, and some of those young players are a reason why.”
Williams might have made the biggest impression of all those players while throwing for 55 yards in his first college game.
“They have been impressive,” Thompson said of UNT’s freshmen. “It’s a good sign for the future. Dajon went out there in his first game and went 5-for-6. It looks natural.”
Cornerback Chad Davis saw some action in the first game of his freshman year and combined with linebacker Jamal Marshall on a tackle that was credited to Marshall. Davis said the experience he and several other young players are gaining now will pay off down the line.
“By the time we are juniors and seniors, we should have developed and have that connection with each other,” Davis said. “We should be clicking.”
UNT is depending on that, with so many of its key players at the end of their carers. The Mean Green will rely on players like Kidsy, Davis and Williams as soon as next season.
Some of them already are showing that they can contribute this year.
“They are the future of this program,” Byrd said. “It was good to see them come in and play well in their first game.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.
A quick start
The following is a look at some of the young players who contributed during North Texas 40-6 win over Idaho last week:
Kaydon Kirby — The redshirt freshman center started the first game of his college career and helped UNT roll up 591 yards without allowing a sack.
Darvin Kidsy — Wide receiver caught three passes for 35 yards in the first game of his freshman season.
Dajon Williams — The freshman quarterback came on in the fourth quarter and completed all but one of his six pass attempts for 55 yards.
Jarrian Roberts — Defensive end posted two sacks and three tackles in the first game of his redshirt freshman season.
Fred Scott — The backup middle linebacker posted three tackles in the first game of his freshman campaign.