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NORTH TEXAS Team Report
After winning just two games in his first season, spring practice was obviously very important for second-year coach Todd Dodge.
First, he hired Gary DeLoach as the team's defensive coordinator after the Mean Green ranked last in defense last year when they allowed more than 45 points a game.
DeLoach was UNT's defensive coordinator during its dominant run in the Sun Belt when the league was formed in 2001.
However, while the defense made strides in the spring, it remains a question mark. UNT returns six starters and it should be solid at linebacker and better in the secondary, but the defensive line is a question mark.
Offensively, UNT moved the ball against most opponents, but scoring touchdowns was a problem. The Mean Green focused heavily this spring on better execution in the red zone.
Sophomore quarterback Giovanni Vizza was the league's freshman of the year last season, but he could be pressed for playing time by Riley Dodge, the son of the coach.
UNT's receiving corp should be outstanding, led by senior Casey Fitzgerald, who caught more than 100 passes for more than 1,000 yards. However, the group should be deeper this season with the development of sophomore Sam Dibrell and freshman Sam Roberson.
The Mean Green should be a lot more competitive in the Sun Belt this season, but it will ultimately depend on how much progress the defense makes.
--QB Giovanni Vizza set the UNT freshman passing record last season, throwing for 2,388 yards and 17 touchdowns. However, incoming freshman Riley Dodge, the son of coach Todd Dodge, could challenge for time at the position in the fall.
--WR Casey Fitzgerald flourished most in UNT's new pass happy offense last year, setting school records with 111 receptions for 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns.
--RB Micah Mosley -- The sophomore saw a lot of action as a true freshman last season, but he will shoulder most of the load in 2008.
--WR Sam Dribell -- He gained valuable experience last season as a true freshman, but after a very solid spring, should put up big numbers in UNT's explosive passing game.
--LB Craig Robertson -- He led UNT in interceptions his rookie season, but should be a more complete player in 2008.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Riley (Dodge) might be the next best option. We are not thinking about what is best two or three years from now. We are going to try to win now. We are going to have our best guys on the bus." -- UNT coach Todd Dodge, referring to his son and incoming freshman quarterback Riley Dodge, who was one of the top recruits in the nation.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2008 OUTLOOK: The Mean Green probably won't be in the championship hunt in 2008, but they could have a say in the matter. UNT will have a very explosive offense that is more experienced and talented. The key will be fixing a defense that was last in the conference a year ago and allowed more than 45 points a game.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Mean Green feature a pass-happy offense that put up big numbers a year ago. The offensive line should be improved, led by junior center Kelvin Drake, an all-conference candidate. Sophomore quarterback Giovanni Vizza threw for more almost 2,400 yards a year ago and he has three excellent wideouts in senior Casey Fitzgerald and sophomore Sam Dibrell and freshman Sam Roberson. An interesting thing to watch in the fall is possible competition at quarterback. While Vizza put up big numbers, incoming freshman Riley Dodge, the son of coach Todd Dodge, could make some noise.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: UNT hired former Mean Green defensive coordinator Gary DeLoach in the offseason. He'll have his hands full after the group gave up more than 45 points a game. The team's leading five tacklers are gone, but six starters return. The linebackers should be solid, led by sophomore Craig Robertson and senior Tobe Nwigwe. Senior Antoine Bush is a three-year starter in the secondary, while junior college transfer Alonzo Horton could push for a starting job. The key will be up front where UNT lost three starters.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Senior Truman Spencer will handle the punting duties and could earn all-conference honors. Junior college transfer Jeremy Knott is expected to handle the place-kicking duties. Speedy junior Jamel Jackson, a Northwestern State transfer, is the team's top return specialist.
--Junior LB Bryant Seidle (shoulder) will be back after missing most of last season.
--UNT has two new coaches on defense -- coordinator Gary DeLoach and secondary coach Carlton Buckles.
Previous Report: 03/26/2008