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UNT postseason questions series: No. 2 — Will the Mean Green miss two key offensive linemen

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

One of the big questions heading into the 2017 season for North Texas was how its offensive line would come together under a new coach with several new players in the lineup.

The Mean Green are in a similar position heading into the 2018 campaign.

UNT made significant progress in its first season under Chuck Langston this year. The Mean Green allowed 39 sacks in 14 games after allowing 43 in 13 games last season while also boosting the number of rushing yards they put up per game from 133.5 in 2016 to 162.9 this year.

At least part of the credit for that improvement goes to UNT's offensive front.

With that being said, the Mean Green did struggle up front in a couple of key games. 

Troy battered UNT quarterback Mason Fine on its way to posting 6 sacks and 11 tackles for tackles for loss in a 50-30 win in the New Orleans Bowl. Florida Atlantic finished with 9 sacks to go along with 11 tackles for loss in a win over the Mean Green in the C-USA title game.

What makes UNT's situation heading into the 2018 season all the more intriguing/concerning is that the Mean Green lost both of their starters on the right side, tackle Riley Mayfield and guard T.J. Henson.

Those changes are the reason the state of UNT's offensive line lands at No. 2 in our postseason questions series that began with a question on the prospects for the Mean Green's defense in 2018.

No. 1 -- Will UNT's defense improve?

The big challenge for UNT's offensive line heading into the offseason will be finding a way to replace both Henson and tackle Mayfield. Henson was one of UNT's key leaders up front and was one of four Mean Green offensive linemen who were named honorable mention All-Conference USA.

Mayfield was a quick-fix graduate transfer from Abilene Christian who helped UNT in a breakout season while playing right tackle.

UNT has honorable mention all-league picks returning in center Sosaia Mose, guard Elex Woodworth and tackle Jordan Murray. The whole left side of the line is back.

What remains to be seen is how UNT fares in rebuilding the right side. Freshmen Chandler Anthony and Manase Mose were listed as the backups on that side of the ball, but are they the best options?

UNT coach Seth Littrell mentioned on more than one occasion that he is excited about some of the offensive linemen the team redshirted last season. Could players like Brian Parish or Jacob Brammer be the answer?

It's an important question for UNT to answer, especially after the Mean Green seemed to catch a huge breaking in 2017 in terms of starting quarterback Mason Fine's health. Fine was knocked out for the final few games of his freshman season with a shoulder injury. He only missed a series this season, despite the fact UNT ranked No. 112 nationally with an average of 2.79 sacks allowed per game.

UNT's backup quarterback situation looked like a potential season-killer coming into the year, but it didn't hurt the Mean Green at all.

There is little doubt UNT would like to take another step forward in terms of its offensive line play and further cut into that sack total in 2018.

How UNT fares in replacing nearly half its line will go a long way toward determining if it reaches that goal.

FEATURED PHOTO: North Texas running back Jeffery Wilson (3) carries the ball as offensive linemen Elex Woodworth, left, Jordan Murray, center, and tight end Kelvin Smith clear the way in the Mean Green's win over Army last season. (Jake King/DRC)