Football: Expectations run high at UNT for NFL draft

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Two of the best linebackers in recent North Texas history met just a few weeks ago during the Mean Green’s spring game and the festivities that surrounded it.

Cody Spencer was back in town to be inducted into the UNT Athletic Hall of Fame and met Zach Orr, who followed in his footsteps during his career with the Mean Green.

The hope for UNT is that the parallels between the two will continue sometime in the next few days during the NFL draft.

Spencer began a his five-year NFL career after being selected in the sixth round of the 2004 draft.

UNT has been waiting for its next player to be selected in the draft ever since.

Orr, wide receiver Brelan Chancellor and safety Marcus Trice are among a handful of players who could help break the baffling drought, one UNT coach Dan McCarney believes has gone on far too long.

The draft begins at 7 tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York and will last until 256 players are selected over the course of three days.

“It would mean the world to the program,” Orr said of UNT having a player selected. “It would show North Texas students that we have players who can play at the highest level and it would help with recruiting. It would show that players can come to North Texas and then live out their dreams in the NFL because our coaches are preparing us to play at the next level.”

UNT has sent a few players to the NFL as free agents since Spencer was drafted, including Lance Dunbar and Patrick Cobbs. Dunbar is still with the Cowboys, while Cobbs played five seasons in the NFL, mostly with the Miami Dolphins beginning in 2006.

McCarney says this could be the year a UNT player breaks through.

“We are headed in the right direction,” McCarney said. “This senior class has meant so much to me and the program. It would be great if they get a chance to play in the NFL.”

Chancellor and Orr appear to be UNT’s players with the best chance of being selected.

Chancellor set UNT records for career all-purpose yards with 5,503 and returned three kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns during his college career.

“There have been lots of questions and calls about Brelan,” McCarney said. “When you turn that tape on, he was productive and ran well at his senior day. Scouts also watched tape of his junior year when got behind LSU’s corners for two touchdowns and last year when he went for 100 yards against Georgia.”

Chancellor was officially credited with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Georgia, but McCarney’s point remains the same.

The former Copperas Cove standout produced in games against some of the top teams in college football. He caught touchdown passes that covered 80 and 15 yards in a loss to LSU during his junior season.

Chancellor ran a 4.5 40-yard dash at UNT’s pro day, when he worked out for Denver Broncos special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.

Orr also has been attracting the attention of NFL scouts and said he has heard that he could be selected in the late rounds or receive a free-agent contract.

Orr was just as productive as Chancellor during his time at UNT, finishing with 365 tackles, a total that put him in a tie with Brad Kassell for third in program history.

Kassell played six years in the NFL after his career at UNT ended in 2001 after being signed as an undrafted free agent.

Orr and Chancellor are hoping that they can add to UNT’s NFL legacy and break the program’s draft drought sometime in the next three days.

“I am really excited about it,” Orr said. “It has been a dream that I have had since I started playing football. For it to be something that can happen is exciting.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.


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