North Texas Daily

Four Games In: Standout football players this season

Four Games In: Standout football players this season

Four Games In: Standout football players this season
September 25
23:02 2013

The Mean Green football team has hit a break point in its schedule. After four non-conference games, certain players are already beginning to stand out from the pack.

Offensive Standout

Senior quarterback Derek Thompson has already led UNT (2-2) on comebacks against University of Ohio (3-1) and Ball State University (3-1), falling short in the former but finishing the win against Ball State.

“He is clearly the most improved player on the offense and we’ve just scratched the surface,” head coach Dan McCarney said. “He’s really confident, showing a lot of maturity in the pocket by making better decisions with the ball.”

During the offseason, Thompson slimmed down to help provide another aspect at the quarterback position by running the ball. Through four games, Thompson is third on the team in total rushing with 79 total yards, including a career-high 26-yard touchdown run that was the game-winning score.

NT Daily’s Pick: Senior wide receiver Darnell Smith leads the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Teams have been focusing extra attention on Brelan Chancellor, but might have to rethink their strategy given Smith’s production on the opposite side of the field.

Defensive Standout

Senior linebacker Zach Orr takes his team captain role very seriously while leading the Mean Green defense.

“Coach gave us a mission to force more turnovers this year and to be a great defense,” Orr said. “Every day at practice we work on stripping the ball and falling on it.”

Orr is the heart and soul of the defense, leading the team with 42 tackles and adding two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

McCarney said the defense starts with Zach Orr and that he can be named MVP of the football team just about every week.

NT Daily’s Pick: Zach Orr may be the captain, but junior safety Lairamie Lee has been his second-hand man so far. His role in coming forward into the box and stopping the run game has helped the defense play as well as it has.

Biggest Improvement

The Mean Green defense has become something to behold. The UNT defense is in the top 10 teams in turnover margin, top 15 in opponent red zone conversions and leads the nation in takeaways.

Many of the fumbles are thanks to hard-hitting safeties junior Lairamie Lee and senior Marcus Trice, who have become a key to watch when the UNT defense takes the field.

“They’re not the biggest players on the field, but if you’re not running like you’re supposed to, they’re going to hit you hard,” senior running back Brandin Byrd said. “I’ve been hit by both of them many times in practice and you learn quickly to keep your head on a swivel when they’re around.”

NT Daily’s Pick: Derek Thompson had peaks in previous seasons, but has never strung together four solid games like he has so far this year. His improved consistency is a huge factor in UNT’s 2-2 record.

Most Exciting Player

McCarney said the team’s most exciting player award so far goes to senior wide receiver Brelan Chancellor. He was awarded Conference USA Special Team Player of the Week after recording a 99-yard kick return touchdown against Georgia, and is fourth in the nation in punt return yards.

“He’s such a dynamic playmaker. That’s what we missed so much last year when he broke his collar bone,” head coach Dan McCarney said. “He’s motivated for a lot of reasons. It’s his senior year, he has great pride and he wants to leave a real legacy behind in the return game.”

NT Daily’s Pick: No disagreement here. Chancellor is worth the price of admission all by himself.

Tim Cato, Sports Editor contributed to this story.

Sophomore running back Antoinne Jimmerson escapes the grasp of Ball State opponent during a home game at Apogee Stadium on Sept. 14. -Feature photo by Ryan Vance / Staff Photographer 

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