In a perfect world, David Busby would have enjoyed some time to adjust in his freshman season at North Texas.
Having a year to play sparingly on defense and a lot on special teams would have helped the former Coppell standout. A redshirt season would have been even better.
Busby has been called on early and often instead, a situation that has been a case study in what has hampered the Mean Green’s defense for much of the year.
UNT has four new starters in its secondary and players with even less experience backing them up.
The Mean Green has been on something of a roller coaster as a result when it comes to games against some of the Sun Belt Conference’s elite passing teams.
UNT has been good at times, bad at others and running short the whole way when it comes to experience heading into a game against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.
“We don’t have enough defensive backs who can play winning football; otherwise you would see us in nickel, you would see us more in dime and you would see more defensive backs on the field,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said this week. “We don’t do that because we don’t have guys who can do it.”
If ever there was a time when the Mean Green could use a player like Busby to break through, this might be the week.
The Warhawks lead the Sun Belt Conference with an average of 36.1 points a game and rank second in passing offense at 297.7 yards a game.
ULM built those averages early in the season behind quarterback Kolton Browning, who McCarney said was playing better than any player in the Sun Belt regardless of position before going down with a foot injury after nine games.
ULM head coach Todd Berry announced Thursday that Browning will start against UNT. If he struggles, the Warhawks will have senior Cody Wells waiting in the wings.
ULMclearly missed Browning while he was out, but appeared to be in capable hands with Wells, who has thrown for 659 yards and four touchdowns.
He threw for 357 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Arkansas State last week.
“It’s not going to be easy, but we match up pretty well,” Busby said. “It will take a lot of work in the film room, but we can do it. All of our guys are good at finding what receivers do well. We have studied them.”
Those film sessions have been part of the growth process for Busby, who has faced one of the biggest transitions among the freshmen who have played for UNT.
Busby not only had to make the transition to playing on the college level, but he’s also changed positions.
Busby was ranked among the top 100 cornerback prospects in the country by some recruiting services during his senior year when he intercepted six passes. UNT planned to move Busby to safety all along and shifted him there the minute he arrived for two-a-days.
“Changing positions has been difficult, but the coaches have helped me,” Busby said. “I’m getting better and better. The hardest part is getting everything down to a T. You play a lot faster when you know what you are doing.”
Busby has a better handle on playing safety after a midseason crash course when starter Lairamie Lee was out of the lineup for three games due to injury.
Busby started games against Louisiana-Lafayette, Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State. He posted four tackles and broke up a pass in UNT’s loss to the Blue Raiders that ranked as the Mean Green’s worst of the season in pass defense.
Logan Kilgore torched UNT for 349 yards and three touchdowns, the low point for the Mean Green. UNT held Florida Atlantic to 142 yards and intercepted two passes in a win earlier in the year.
UNT is hoping that sooner or later players like Busby can help make outings like the one the Mean Green put together against FAU the norm.
“I’m really glad he’s here,” McCarney said. “He’s a role model for what we are looking for, players with good character, Division I talent and the potential to be a really good player. He has improved and made some good contributions. He has a fantastic future.”
UNT is hoping it will see some of that potential begin to show today when the Mean Green faces a team with one of the Sun Belt’s top passing attacks.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .