Turner Smiley's junior season couldn't have started out much worse. The way it ended has the North Texas wide receiver poised for what could be a big senior year with the Mean Green.
Smiley appeared destined to become a big part of UNT's offense in Seth Littrell's debut campaign from the start. That changed when he ran into some off-the-field trouble over the summer.
Smiley was suspended for the Mean Green's season-opening loss to SMUbefore quickly working his way back into the Mean Green's rotation and then the starting lineup in week seven.
Smiley went on to catch 20 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns in UNT's final three games combined. He finished with a team-high eight catches for 79 yards in the Mean Green's loss to Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
That late surge and the losses UNT suffered in its receiving corps set Smiley up for a potentially big senior season. That scenario makes him the first player in our offseason series listing the Mean Green's potential breakout candidates.
Smiley is UNT's leading returning wide receiver after catching 33 passes for 389 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Smiley's return for UNT is vital after the Mean Green were hit hard by graduation and attrition. He is the only one of UNT's top four receivers returning.
Thaddeous Thompson led the Mean Green in catches (43), receiving yards (545) and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (two) as a senior. Terrian Goree transferred and Kenny Buyers graduated.
There are some good young players on the roster, including sophomores Rico Bussey Jr. and Tyler Wilson. UNT also landed a potential impact transfer in Jalen Guyton.
There is no substitute for experience, though, and UNT will be short on that valuable asset heading into next season. Smiley will give the Mean Green someone to lean on and rely on.
The situation makes Smiley a prime candidate to enjoy a breakout season.