April 17, 2014

How To Turn Around the North Texas Football Team

How does the North Texas Mean Green turn around its football team?  If I knew the answer to that, then Athletic Director Rick Villarreal would be hiring me in December to replace Head Coach Todd Dodge.  So, I decided to check the stats for the year to see what I could find out.  I knew that UNT had been running the ball pretty well, therefore, I thought I would see things such as poor Red Zone conversion, poor third down conversions, etc.  I am a big believer in teams needing to run the ball and stop the run to be successful, or at the least, a championship team.  What I found were five areas of major differentiation between UNT and their opponents.

1.  Endzone woes
UNT is actually better than their opponents in the red zone, but where they are losing the battle is getting into the end zone.  While in the Red Zone, UNT gets into the end zone a paltry 57% of the time while their opponents are getting into the end zone 70% of the time while in the Red Zone.  Further, 90% of their opponents’ scores are touchdowns while 57% of the Mean Green scores are touchdowns.  That’s pretty tough when you consider that UNT is actually running more plays than their opponents.

2.  Pass rush
The UNT has gotten 7 sacks for 34 yards against their opponents.  The UNT offense has given up 15 sacks for 109 yards.  That is a difference of 75 yards, three quarters of an entire football field.  That is at least one Red Zone attempt.

3.  Turnover Margin
UNT is sitting at a minus 16 turnover margin.  The UNT defense has forced 5 turnovers while the UNT offense has given up 21 turnovers.

Early & Often
UNT opponents score early and often.

4.  Often
UNT opponents score every 8.89 plays while UNT scores every 23 plays.  That means an opponent scores twice before UNT scores.

5.  Early
UNT gets a slow start to every game.  The Mean Green are being out scored 276 to 66 in the first half this year.  That means that the Mean Green trails at half time by an average of 34 to 8.  They trail 15 to 3 after the first quarter.

These are just some of the areas of UNT woes on the field.  One cannot underestimate the series of bad luck that UNT and coach Todd Dodge has had this year.  First, it was announced yesterday that 15 UNT football players had failed drug tests.  That is almost 18 percent of the team according to the article.  That can’t be good for a team that is already behind in facilities, tradition, and recruiting successes.  UNT has also lost several players to a myriad of reasons some of which you will see here and here including second leading receiver Sam Dibrell.

The news hasn’t been all bad for UNT howerver.  The school and coach Dodge convinced students to vote for an athletic fee that will help pay for a new stadium and necessary facilities to help with recruiting.  If you don’t believe that will make a difference, then you need to go down to TCU and look at the Dutch Meyer Athletic Complex.  It is an outstanding facility with one of the best players’ meeting rooms in the country.  It houses a tutoring center for student athletes and an awesome weight room.  Further, it adds stadium seating and suites above the south end zone.

The coaches at UNT have their work cut out, and if Dodge does get it turned around, he deserves whatever he gets paid.  Maybe fans should be patient as a number of the nation’s top coaches had to have time to turn their programs around.

UNT Preview: Offense

This is UNT Preview week at Collegefootballtopten.com.  We will review the offense today and the defense and special teams tomorrow.  Finally, we will conclude with a look at the UNT 2008 Schedule.

After just averaging 12.8 points a game in 2006, Todd Dodge brought “Dodge Ball” to North Texas and the Mean Green picked up the pace with an average of 24.8 points per game.  The transition wasn’t easy as UNThttp://www.flickr.com/photos/misternaxal/ scored more than 20 points just once in the first four games in 2007.  By the time that the Green played the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, Dodge had turned to true freshmen QB Giovanni Vizza to run the offense, and the points began to rise along with yardage.

Of course, no performance had garnered more passing yards than the performance by QB Daniel Meager against SMU.  Meager passed for a staggering 601 yards against the Mustangs, but UNT failed to score enough points and lost the game 45-31.  Meager threw eight interceptions in four games, and Vizza became the starter.  Vizza had a huge performance in the late season shootout with Navy.  Vizza passed for 478 yards as the Mean Green lost 74-62 in the highest scoring regulation game in NCAA history.  Vizza went on to earn Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors.  What makes Vizza so potent in Dodge’s Spread Offense is his ability to run.

Vizza had options at the wide receiver spot, and most of those return.  At the top of the list is Casey Fitzgerald whose performances in 2007 earned him an Honorable Mention All American from SI.com.  Fitzgerald tunred in a dizzying performance against SMU when he caught 18 passes for 327 yards.  Overall, Fitzgerald caught 111 passes for 1322 yards and 12 touchdowns.  UNT also returns Micah Mosely at Running Back.  Mosely had 461 yard rushing and 5 touchdowns and should be called upon to be the leading rusher with the departure of Jamario Thomas.  Helping out Mosley will be Cam Montgomery.  Montgomery took a Medical Redshirt last year after coming from Northeast Mississippi Community College.  Rivals.com listed Montgomery’s 40 time at 4.4.

The Offensive Line is a more uncertain area of the UNT Offense, but it seems to be in better shape than it UNT Helmetwas last year.  The Mean Green return 4 starters and at least 7 lettermen which should provide better depth.  UNT will hope to improve on the 39 sacks it gave up last year.  The UNT line will be anchored by Junior Center Kelvin Drake and Sophomore Right Guard Esteban Santiago.  To help strengthen the Offensive Line, UNT signed a couple of JUCO players.

The X Factor for the UNT offense is Freshman QB Riley Dodge.  Will Riley play as a true freshman or redshirt?  Will Riley take over the starting job at QB?  How will coach Dodge use his son?  Dodge is a great athlete who could be used on the field in certain situations or in other posistions such as a WR or some kind of H Back.  However, as good as an athlete as he is, college football takes time to get accustomed to.  If Dodge can adapt to the speed of the college game and adjust to college life, he might be playing on Saturday.  If QB Giovanni Vizza continues to improve, then  there should be no pressure on Coach Dodge to throw his son into the fire early.  Then, he would have the option to ease Riley into college football.

I expect to see UNT’s offense be even better in 2008.  The Mean Green played a lot of young players last year and now everyone is in their second year of “Dodge Ball.”  The Offensive Line may be slow to improve, especially with early games against Kansas State and LSU.  However, by the time conference play rolls around, they should be better able to protect the QB.

SMU Wins DFW Charity Bowl Challenge

SMU won the DFW Charity Bowl Challenge. Fanblogs.com and Every Day Should Be Saturday sponsored a Charity Bowl in which fans donate to one of three relief organizations, send their donation receipt along with school affiliation to Fanblogs, and compete against other fans around the country.

Collegefootballtopten.com issued a DFW Challenge to the three DFW teams, TCU, SMU, and University ofSMU Helmet North Texas. SMU won the challenge with a contribution of $235 for a 14th place finish out of 45. Mustang fans actually were ranked as high as 8th at one point during the competition. Congratulations to the SMU fans. As promised, I will post the Mustang helmet on every page of CFTT along with links to SMU blogs. If you have a SMU blog, contact me letting me know so that I can include your blog.

Running the Spread: Frequent Flyer Miles May Add Up in DFW

In a metropolitan area which is home to two of the largest airlines in the country, three NCAA Bowl Subdivision football teams will take the field in 2008 logging as many air miles as any team in the country. It’s an exciting brand of football for the fans to be sure, and with signing of June Jones to be the new head coach at Southern Methodist University, the tickets just might sell. Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University and the University of North Texas are neighbors in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

If anyone throws the ball as much as Jones did at the University of Hawaii, it would be Todd Dodge out of his no huddle Spread Offense at UNT (University of North Texas) known as “Dodge Ball.” Last year Dodge’s team averaged 46 passes per game for 3476 total yards on the season.

Jones’ Hawaii team averaged 51 passes a game for a total of 5713 yards on the season. In case you are wondering, that’s about 476 yards per game (12 games). Jones uses the old “Run and Shoot” offense that was used so well at the University of Houston in the 80′s. Jones has the services of two year starter Justin Willis, if he can pull it together and get himself back on the team.

UNT, of course, is located in Denton, TX, just north of Dallas, and SMU is located in Dallas. In Fort Worth, Gary Patterson is the head coach of TCU (Texas Christian University), where the passing game has always helped balanced the usually stellar running game. In the past, TCU has used dual threat Quarterbacks to complement such running backs as LaDainian Tomlinson, Lonta Hobbs, and Robert Merrill. However, in QB Andy Dalton, TCU is starting to benefit from a strong, accurate arm. TCU averaged 34 passes per game for a total of 2881 yards on the season, up from 27 passes per game in 2006 and 29 passes per game in 2005. With a more confident Dalton, will the Frogs throw the ball more? The Frogs have never been afraid to throw the ball when it needed to. In recent years the TCU QB has had big passing games. TCU is not a one dimensional team.

DFW college football may be exciting in the 2008 season. While watching a game, you might look to the skies. However, it may not be just to see the airplanes.