North Texas’ options for restocking the starting lineup of a defense that helped guide the Mean Green to a breakout season have dwindled slightly.
Zed Evans, a highly regarded transfer who appeared to be in line to start at safety this fall, has been forced to give up football due to chronic back problems.
UNT coach Dan McCarney confirmed that Evans will not return next season before the beginning of the Mean Green’s summer camp stop at Apogee Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Evans dealt with back issues throughout spring practice but planned to enter UNT’s offseason program and play this fall. Those plans changed when his health took a turn for the worse over the last few weeks.
“We found out about Zed last Monday when he came back to work out,” McCarney said. “[UNT safeties coach Perry] Carter had talked to him just a couple of weeks ago. It came out of nowhere.
“We wish him well. He was part of a really good season the year he was here.”
Evans finished with 19 tackles in his lone season with the Mean Green, when he backed up starting strong safety Lairamie Lee and was part of UNT’s 9-4 campaign and Heart of Dallas Bowl win over UNLV. Evans recovered a fumbled punt that set up UNT’s first touchdown in a 36-14 win over the Rebels.
UNT ranked eighth nationally with an average of 17.8 points allowed per game last season.
Evans spent four seasons, including a redshirt year, at Louisville and graduated before transferring to UNT, where he worked on his master’s degree while playing what turned out to be his final season of college football.
UNT appealed to the NCAA for a fifth year of eligibility for Evans due to his injury history. That request was granted, giving Evans the opportunity to return and play one final season with UNT this fall.
Evans played with his younger brother, Erick Evans, who redshirted in 2013, last season. The younger Evans brother emerged this spring as a potential part of UNT’s running back rotation.
Erick Evans said during spring practice that his brother’s move to UNT impacted his decision to play for the Mean Green.
“It made it an easy decision,” Erick Evans said this spring.
Erick Evans now will be the only member of the family on UNT’s roster in 2014, when the Mean Green will have to re-examine its options at safety.
Lee will return for his senior year in the fall, but UNT did lose starting free safety Marcus Trice, who was a first-team All-Conference USA selection as a senior in 2013.
Evans was expected to compete for playing time with Lee, Sheldon Wade, former Guyer standout John Schilleci and incoming freshman Kishawn McClain.
UNT picked up a late signee at safety in early May when Matthew Dash of Pierce College in Los Angeles joined the Mean Green.
UNT did not know when it signed Dash that Evans would not be able to return. McCarney said UNT needed more depth and competition at the position in general.
The move turned out to be well timed for UNT.
“We have good competition and good depth now,” McCarney said. “Sheldon Wade has done some really good things. Everyone in Conference USA knows about Lairamie Lee. John Schilleci has shown a lot of improvement, and we signed some good defensive backs. We thought McClain was one of the better kids in our class.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.