Before football season kick-off, a few things to watch
Editor’s Note: This is an analysis from the North Texas Daily sports staff of North Texas football, and the storylines surrounding the team.
Can Seth Littrell experience success in his first year?
Reece Waddell: Well, I suppose it depends on how we’re defining success. In my opinion, after sitting through every agonizing game of the 2015 season, success is simply improving on last year’s train wreck — which shouldn’t be difficult. That said, I’m inclined to say yes, Littrell will experience success in his first year. He will win a few games, and should do enough to keep students and fans engaged.
Clay Massey: If we’re defining success as having a better record than last year, then yes, absolutely. Littrell will put this team in position to make a bowl game with the pieces he has brought in and with his coaching philosophy.
Matt Brune: I’m sure that everyone and their mothers have heard about Littrell’s “Let it Fly” slogan for the team this year. And yes, he does have a spread quarterback in a spread offense which will mean 40+ passes a game. However, the other end of the passing connection, the receivers, are largely unknown and most likely not great. That, along with a shaky offensive live will put constant pressure on an equally shaky defense. So to answer your question, Littrell probably won’t have success.
Courtney Anderson: I think it depends on what your definition of success is for this first-time head coach, especially since he’s coming in during the first year of a rebuilding period. Do I think North Texas will be conference champions and go to a bowl game like in 2013? Absolutely not. Do I think the Mean Green will win more than one game and not get blown out on homecoming 66-7? Yes.
Austin Jackson: Success is a relative concept and with the parade of tragic and historic new lows in the rear-view mirror, a season that’s just a smidge better than historically bad will put Littrell’s year-one campaign in the successful column. That said, Littrell could go 0-12 this year and still be a success.
I think the true mark of a successful inaugural season won’t be evidenced in wins and losses this year but by creating a culture and system that pays dividends down the road. After all, Bill Snyder led Kansas State to a McCarney-sequel 1-11 record his first year.
Tyler Lucius: The Mean Green are returning from a one-win season and will hit the gridiron with a vengeance. Seth Littrell and the crew plan to make the student body actually care about North Texas football again, since they can’t do much worse than their 1-11 mark last year. The team will also feature a new-look spread offense that should add excitement, and hopefully points, to the scoreboard.
What will be the team’s biggest strength?
RW: Without question the secondary is the group that possesses the most talent. Chad Davis, KiShawn McClain, Nate Brooks and others will man the back end of an otherwise shaky defense. If the front seven are able to get after the quarterback, look out. This unit could surprise some people.
CM: Defense. That secondary will be much better than they were last year. There will absolutely be struggles, but this team will one day pride itself on a strong defense if these guys can lay the ground work in these first two years under Littrell.
MB: The head coach. Litrell has come off as a fresh new personality that connects with players and instills confidence. A good coach can get their players to compete regardless of situation or opponent, and I believe (somewhat blindly) that Litrell can get the team to compete on every down. Quarterback Alec Morris will also keep the team in games as well, as he appears to be comfortable with the scheme and play style.
CA: The fresh coaching staff and multiple options for quarterback can both be seen as strengths. We have the elder Alec Morris transferring from Alabama who will start on Saturday against SMU, and freshman Mason Fine, the only two-time Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year.
AJ: With Alec Morris at the helm of Littrell’s high-octane offense that averaged nearly 500 yards per game for North Carolina in 2015, I think the offense, and more specifically quarterback play, will represent an exciting and much needed improvement that can keep the Mean Green competitive.
TL: Graduate transfer from Alabama Alec Morris will be leading the fast-paced air raid offense. Having a quarterback with the talent to go to Alabama starting for a team that lost 11 games is always going to be an upgrade. He will be the biggest factor that plays into Littrell’s success this year.
What will be the team’s biggest weakness?
RW: There’s too many to choose from, but I’m going to go with maturity. This team has not been “there,” with the exception of Morris, who won two national titles with the Crimson Tide. I’m worried about the grind of a 12-game season, and especially worried if they get off to a slow start. Will the team respond and band together, or pack it in?
CM: Depth at offensive line and wide receiver will be a very big concern, especially down the road. Managing downs played will be massive with both of those positions in a fast tempo offense like Littrell will want to run. If the o-line cannot be managed, this team will not succeed. They lost a big center piece in Kaydon Kirby, and it will be interesting if Sam Rice can settle in.
MB: The offensive line worries me, largely because depth is crucial in a high tempo offense and there seems to be a sparse supply of it. The receivers will need to run precise routes and get open fairly quickly to keep Morris upright. The team lost 208 yards last year on 27 sacks allowed and could have even worse numbers after this season.
CA: The unpredictability of having many transfers and freshman is what concerns me. Will they all have the maturity and intensity it takes to work as a team and win football games? Will they have a solid offensive line after a handful of guys left the team last season? We will have to wait to find out what truly is North Texas’ biggest weakness.
AJ: With just 68 players on scholarship, a number more comparable to an FCS, depth looks to be a big hurdle this team has to clear, especially at the pace they want to play offensively.
TL: Depth will be the biggest weakness for North Texas on both sides of the ball. Many offenses in today’s college football run fast tempo, which is always a challenge for any defense when it comes to keeping guys fresh. The air-raid offense runs through many receivers and running backs, and with the Mean Green struggling with depth this year, it could really cost them.
Final record prediction
RW: Contrary to what some people believe, I do not sit in a dark lair playing North Texas football bloopers on a loop hoping for failure. Instead, I consider myself a realist. And after watching every game last year, sometimes against my better judgement, I know what this team is up against. They were 1-11 in 2015, and just have not added enough talent to make a big jump record-wise. Final record: 4-8
CM: Some readers, general public and students of the University of North Texas were not pleased with my recent column. Look, I said they would be better than last year, but not good. Will they push for a bowl game? Maybe. We’ll have to see. It is doubtful they do, but if all the pieces line up, a bowl game could be possible. Final record: 5-7
MB: In this rebuilding year, the Mean Green have a lot of unknowns, but they also have a lot of potential. They will struggle on both sides of the ball this year as Litrell was limited on what he was able to do to improve this team’s personnel. According to ESPN’s College Football Power Index (FPI), North Texas is only favored in one game this year — week two against Bethune Cookman. I think they win that game and defeat either SMU in week one or UTSA in week nine. Final record: 2-10
CA: I’m basing this prediction off what our scores were against teams North Texas played last season and teams North Texas didn’t play last season. I can see North Texas beating Bethune-Cookman, Marshall, Army, UTSA and UTEP. I hope North Texas proves me wrong and dominates, but I think there is too much uncertainty to expect anything more at the moment. Final record: 5-7
AJ: After North Texas beats SMU, I predict we see #NewDenton finish out the season with games we’re more accustomed to seeing. The depth will be an issue, especially after going down to play Florida, but the offense will #LetItFly, keeping the team competitive. Final record: 3-9
TL: The Mean Green will without question be better than what they were a year ago, especially with Littrell and Morris behind the wheel. They won’t win the conference but they’ll finish somewhere in the middle. Final record: 5-7
Featured Image: The most recent redesign of the Scrappy costume debuted in the fall of 2013 at the Homecoming bonfire. Dylan Nadwodny
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