North Texas Daily

Best of the UNT football season, eight games in

Best of the UNT football season, eight games in

Best of the UNT football season, eight games in
October 29
12:45 2013

Brett Medeiros / Senior Staff Writer

With eight games in the rear view mirror, the UNT football team is ready to look ahead to the final four of the season.

But before the final stretch, we asked the players for their picks on four categories. Here’s what they came up with.

Offensive MVP

The offensive MVP goes to senior wide receiver Brelan Chancellor. With opposing defenses focusing extra attention on him, he helps the offense whether the team is throwing passes to him or not.

“I will have say it’s Brelan. He is just so dynamic in everything he does,” senior linebacker Zach Orr said. “When you have a guy like him, he is always going to have double coverage, which let’s the rest of the team take advantage of its opportunities on the field.”

Chancellor leads the team with four receiving touchdowns and 619 receiving yards. He is 464 total yards away from becoming the school’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards – a combination of rushing, receiving and return yards. The record is currently held by former UNT running back Lance Dunbar, set in 2011.

NT Daily’s Pick: Our vote is with Derek Thompson. Many fans wanted him replaced over the off-season, but he withstood the scrutiny and has turned the strongest, most consistent performance of his career as a senior.

Defensive MVP

The defensive MVP, like the previous two seasons, is senior linebacker Zach Orr. He has 75 tackles this season – 18 more than any other player on the team.

“There are a lot of guys that have been playing really well on defense, but he is definitely the ring leader on that side of the ball,” senior quarterback Derek Thompson said. “Everyone rallies around him.”

He eclipsed 300 tackles in his career against Louisiana Tech two weeks ago, recording a career-high 17.

NT Daily’s Pick: There’s no question it’s Zach Orr. All around the locker room, players have nothing but respect for the senior linebacker who probably has an NFL career ahead of him.

Biggest Surprise

The biggest surprise of the season is the work of the UNT defensive backs, referred to as the secondary. At the beginning of the season, they struggled by giving up several long passing plays.

“The biggest surprise is the level of play from the whole secondary,” Orr said. “We knew they would be good, but they’re not just a good secondary, they’ve been a great secondary.”

After a 27-21 loss against the University of Ohio on Sept. 7, head coach Dan McCarney made a change and started sophomore Kenny Buyers and junior James Jones the following week. Since they took over, the secondary has been one of the strongest parts of the defense.

Currently the four starters that make up the secondary – also including senior Marcus Trice and junior Lairamie Lee – have combined for 181 tackles, five of the team’s 15 forced fumbles and seven of the team’s 11 interceptions.

NT Daily’s Pick: Senior wide receiver Darnell Smith has taken advantage of the extra attention Chancellor is given and played fantastic. He leads the team in receptions and has earned Thompson’s trust.

Biggest Game of the Year

The biggest game of the year is one that has yet to be played. Thursday’s game against Rice University has Conference USA title implications and will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1. Most importantly, the team could become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004.

“We are getting ready to play a game with a lot of meaning behind it,” head coach Dan McCarney said. “Having opportunities like this is exactly what I dreamed about and hoped for when I took this job.”

NT Daily’s Pick: Despite losing 45-21, UNT hung with the nationally ranked University of Georgia into the third quarter. Many players have said it gave them confidence that they could play with anyone.

 Senior linebacker Zach Orr talks about UNT’s offense, defense and upcoming game against Rice University on Halloween. Orr leads the team with 35 tackles and three fumble recoveries this season. Feature photo by Edward Balusek / Staff Photographer 

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