Dan McCarney talked a whole lot about the questions North Texas faces at the Mean Green’s annual media day on Monday at Apogee Stadium.
UNT’s coach talked about the dilemma of essentially replacing an entire defensive front, not to mention a couple of the more productive players in program history on the offensive side in wide receiver Brelan Chancellor and running back Brandin Byrd. And those are just a couple of the underlying stories that rank well behind trying to find a quarterback to replace three-year starter Derek Thompson.
“There are a lot of positions on our team right now that are really wide open,” McCarney said. “That makes it fun and exciting. These guys know that when they come to practice that they had better compete their tails off.”
That’s especially true this week, when UNT’s staff might finally start making some hard choices at a number of positions, including quarterback, where UNT still appears to be down to veteran backup Andrew McNulty and JUCO transfer Josh Greer.
The battle has raged between the two since spring practice, without much separation.
McCarney said UNT doesn’t have to make a decision between the two in the next few days, but left open the possibility it will do so after the second scrimmage of fall practice on Saturday. That puts a whole lot more pressure on McNulty and Greer to make their cases now during a series of key workouts.
“We are going to spend all this week on North Texas,” McCarney said. “We are not going to get into Texas or SMU or Louisiana Tech until after this week. We want to be as good as we can be, improve and build our football team and answer as many questions as we can.”
There are plenty of questions for UNT to work through.
McCarney said UNT still hasn’t settled on a middle linebacker to replace All-Conference USA performer Zach Orr or who its fifth starting offensive lineman will be this season.
That makes the second week of workouts and a second scrimmage all the more important. No one knows that better than McNulty and Greer.
“It’s definitely heating up,” Greer said. “McNulty and I are both going out there every day and are competing as hard as we can on the field and in the classroom. We are both making plays and are doing what we are supposed to do. We are making it tough on the coaches. I know that.”
McCarney hasn’t been discouraged by the fact that none of the contenders for the starting quarterback job have pulled away.
He said the tightness of the race is an indication of the talent McNulty and Greer possess.
“As I said after the scrimmage on Saturday, we didn’t turn it over at all,” McCarney said. “Our quarterbacks are smart. They know that if they make bad decisions they are going to be over there signaling on the sideline, so take care of the ball. McNulty and Greer are two of the smartest guys I have been around in a long time.”
Both McNulty and Greer are smart enough to know that while UNT is just a week into fall camp, the time left before the Mean Green has to make a decision on who will start is quickly dwindling.
That is true at a number of positions in a year UNT is replacing several key starters.
“Every single day is an opportunity,” McNulty said.
“The first day is just as big an opportunity as today is, but our opener is getting closer and closer. We are going to try to iron out some things this week.”
McCarney challenges fans to fill Apogee
McCarney challenged fans to sell out Apogee Stadium for the first time when the Mean Green plays its first home game at 11 a.m. on Sept. 6 against rival SMU.
UNT, which opens the season at Texas on Aug. 30, has yet to sell out the venue that opened in 2011.
“I am hoping for the first time since we opened Apogee that we can fill it for the SMU game,” McCarney said.
“Wouldn’t that be cool? I’m sure that some people are going to say, ‘Do something against Texas, we’ll come to your game.’ I get that some people have that mindset, but real fans are going to come out regardless of what happens that week.”
The series is one of the longest running in UNT football history.
SMU leads 28-4-1, but UNT has won both games played in Denton, including its last win in the series, a 24-6 win in 2006.
Guard Shawn McKinney has lost 50 pounds from his weight in junior college and now checks in at 350, a change that has improved his endurance and chances of starting this season, McCarney said.
... McCarney also praised junior offensive lineman Micah Thompson.
McCarney said the career backup is playing at the highest level he has since joining the Mean Green.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.