North Texas has a few experienced players returning and plenty of holes to fill heading into the 2017 season.
The Mean Green recently wrapped up spring practice, where a few key developments gave an indication of who will be on the field in the fall, when UNT opens its season against Lamar.
-- UNT entered the spring needing to solidify its quarterback depth chart. Mason Fine didn't have the best spring, but did enough to head into the fall feeling good about his status as the Mean Green's starter. Former walk-on Quinn Shanbour playing well was the bigger story. He claimed the backup job.
-- UNT shifted Roderick Young to defensive end from nose tackle, clearing the way for Kansas State transfer Bryce English and T.J. Tauaalo to hold down the middle of the Mean Green's defense.
-- Running back Nick Smith impressed in his first spring practice after redshirting in his freshman campaign. He appears destined to earn a spot on the depth chart early in his career. He opens as UNT's co-No. 2 back with Andrew Tucker behind starter Jeffery Wilson in our projection.
-- Guard Wylie Reinhardt played well throughout the spring and showed he has the ability to start. That will give UNT the ability to make some moves with its lineup and hopefully bolster one of the weakest positions on the team.
Here is our projection with a few comments:
|Position||First team||Second team|
|Quarterback||Mason Fine||Quinn Shanbour|
|Comment: UNT has a proven player in Fine returning, but Shanhour has thrown exactly one pass in his college career. The Mean Green need to keep Fine healthy.|
|Running back||Jeffery Wilson||Andrew Tucker - or - Nick Smith|
|Comment: UNT will have to hope Wilson remains healthy for a full season for the first time in his college career. Tucker has experience, Smith has star potential.|
|Wide receiver||Turner Smiley||Deion Hair-Griffin|
|Wide receiver||Rico Bussey Jr.||O’Keeron Rutherford|
|Wide receiver||Jalen Guyton||Michael Lawrence|
|Wide receiver||Tyler Wilson||Kelvin Smith|
|Comment: UNT’s staff felt a lot better about its wide receiver corps after spring practice due to the development of Guyton and the emergence of Lawrence.|
|Left tackle||Elex Woodwoth||Jalen Thomas|
|Left guard||T.J. Henson||Chris Miles|
|Center||Creighton Barr||Jevin Pahinuni|
|Right guard||Wylie Reinhardt||Manase Mose|
|Right tackle||Jordan Murray||Chandler Anthony|
|Comment: UNT’s biggest question heading into the offseason is its offensive line. UNT will give Thomas a chance to win the left tackle job, which would allow Woodworth to move back inside to guard. Chandler Anthony could have a chance to start at right tackle, which would allow UNT to move the monstrous 6-9 Murray inside as well. Mose is a highly regarded recruit who could factor in immediately. Miles missed spring practice with a knee injury. His status is in question heading into the fall. Reinhardt was one of the surprises of the spring.|
|Defensive end||Andy Flusche||LaDarius Hamilton|
|Nose tackle||T.J. Tauaalo - or -||Bryce English|
|Defensive end||Roderick Young||Tillman Johnson|
|Comment: UNT’s coaching staff believes its defensive line could be its best unit, not only defensively, but it terms of the entire team. Young moves from nose tackle to defensive end. English will be eligible after transferring from Kansas State and will split time with Tauaalo. Hamilton, a converted linebacker, gives UNT a speed rusher on the edge.|
|Weak side linebacker||Brandon Garner||Hayden Doggett|
|Middle linebacker||E.J. Ejiya||Zack Bishop|
|Jack linebacker||Joshua Wheeler||Calvin Minor|
|Comment: Garner and Ejiya both played extensively last season as backups. Garner started four games in place of Fred Scott. Wheeler and Minor were an effective tandem at the Jack spot and should be productive again. The question is at the backup spots at middle and weak side linebacker. Defensive coordinator Troy Reffett named depth at those positions as one of UNT’s biggest concerns defensively.|
|Nickel||Dee Balkman||Ashton Preston|
|Safety||Khairi Muhammad||Makyle Sanders|
|Safety||Kishawn McClain||Taylor Robinson|
|Cornerback||Nate Brooks||Jameel Moore|
|Cornerback||Eric Jenkins||Andrew Jones|
|Comment: UNT returns several key members of its secondary, including McClain, who is arguably the Mean Green’s best player. Brooks has all-conference potential. Jenkins was a playmaker for the UNT last season and will likely be a fulltime starter this fall. Muhammad steps in for James Gray, a tackling machine at safety, and will have big shoes to fill.|