While UNT’s offense was productive last season and stands in a position to improve, the defense struggled and its ability to improve is uncertain. The defense seemed unable stop any opponent last year, and was a nation’s worst in scoring at 45.1 ppg. In an era of the high-flying, air-it-out football of the Sun Belt, UNT gave up 229.7 yards per game rushing. Much of the damage in rushing defense was done against stellar run teams and nonconference foes Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Navy. UNT still gave up 300 yards rushing to Louisiana-Lafayette, and only held one opponent less than 100 yards rushing (Florida Atlantic). UNT didn’t do much better with pass defense ranking 95th giving up 256.8 yards per game. UNT ranked 110 in turnovers at -11 for the year.
With six returning starters, it looked as if UNT had something to build upon, but yesterday UNT announced that Eddrick Gilmore will not return for UNT in the fall. Gilmore was one of UNT’s few returning starters at Defensive Line, but certainly not the only Defensive Lineman with experience. UNT will return the services of Sophomore OLB Craig Robertson who had 48 tackles and 5 interceptions. Robertson finished the year with an Honorable Mention All Sun Belt Conference award. They also will return Antoine Bush and Kartey Agbottah in the secondary. The Mean Green may have gotten a big boost to its defense when it nabbed Alonzo Horton. Horton was rated as a JUCO Top 100 by Rivals.
Coach Dodge has turned the defense over to former Defensive Coordinator Gary DeLoach in an attempt to shore up the defense. DeLoach’s defenses were very good in 2001 and 2002 ranking first in the Sun Belt Conference. DeLoach may have to count on some young players to help turn the defense around. If he can find more young players like Robertson, he might make the turn quicker than later. Royce Hill of Cypress Ridge HS in Houston, Darien Williams of Vernon, TX and James Hamilton of Cedar Hill, TX look to be able to contribute early. A darkhorse early contributer is Jeremy Phillips of Waller, TX. His brother is All Mountain West LB Jason Phillips of TCU. Phillips is a coach’s son, and former QB for Waller. He may be too good to keep on the sidelines.
If any area was worse than defense, it might have been special teams. UNT Punter Truman Spencer fell off his pace last year with a 34.2 Net Avg. His actual punting average went up, so look for improvement in the punting game with better coverage. UNT Place Kicker Thomas Moreland was 8 for 15 kicking and did not hit a field goal longer than 37 yards. However, UNT signed JUCO kicker Jeremy Knott who was an NJCAA All-American kicker at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M. Micah Mosely held the KR duties last year and returns for the Mean Green. UNT will be searching for a new Punt Returner and a second Kick Returner.