North Texas Daily

Roundtable: North Texas football season preview

Roundtable: North Texas football season preview

Junior offensive lineman T.J. Henson celebrates with junior Turner Smiley after Smiley scored a touchdown against Southern Miss. Colin Mitchell

Roundtable: North Texas football season preview
August 29
17:02 2017

Editor’s Note: The North Texas Daily sports staff discussed their expectations for the upcoming football season. The Mean Green begin their season Saturday, Sept. 2 at 6 p.m. vs. Lamar University at Apogee Stadium.

Our staff: Brady Keane (BK), Matt Brune (MB), Luis Diosdado (LD), Matthew Berger (MBe), Malik Wright (MW).

1) What is the most intriguing storyline heading into Seth Littrell’s second season?

BK – North Texas hasn’t been to consecutive bowl games since Darrell Dickey led the program to four consecutive bowl appearances from 2001 to 2004. The dramatic turnaround the Mean Green went through last season was a great start, but whether or not the program is built to last is what’s important. Can Littrell lead the team to the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time in more than a decade?

MB – The most interesting story to me is whether or not this team will live up to the expectations that everyone, including the players themselves, have set. I have been told on numerous occasions how much better the offensive line is, how great the receivers are, how deep the defensive line is – they’re setting the bar extremely high. While that’s fine and dandy, this team could easily go 6-7 and it would feel like a failure to a lot of people because of these ridiculously high expectations.

LD – I definitely think the most intriguing storyline for the season is if the team is going to show improvement or not. Even though the Mean Green football team made an appearance in a bowl game last season, they still finished 5-8. The only thing head coach Seth Littrell can hope for is get to or over .500 and get into a bigger bowl game.

MBe –Will Seth Littrell have continued success headed into his second season? Coming off of a 1-11 and season and turning it into a 5-8 record in Littrell’s first year, will the Mean Green continue to improve?

MW – The most intriguing storyline coming into the season for me is Seth Littrell’s new contract.  With us losing some top assistants to bigger programs, Wren Baker showed his commitment to Littrell by signing him to an extension. Will that be enough to keep him in Denton with some continued success, though?

2) What position or position group are you keeping your eye on? Which players could stand out and surprise people?

BK – I have my eyes set on the receiving corps because I think these guys are going to end up being a whole lot better than many people think. Jalen Guyton has major star potential as a former top recruit, while Rico Bussey Jr. put up big numbers in the spring game and had a great showing in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Then there’s Turner Smiley, who is the team’s leading returning receiver. I think one guy to keep an eye on is Michael Lawrence in the slot – he’s developed into a player who could seamlessly fill the role Kenny Buyers played last season.

MB – I’m keeping my eye out for the offensive line, more so than the receivers, because I think they’re going to be the most important unit on this team. Last year they were atrocious – you all know the stats by now, as the group was the eighth worst in the FBS in sacks allowed. If they can play well and stay healthy, I really like this offense despite the concern in my next answer.

LD – Outside of games against Florida and Western Kentucky, the Mean Green offense did a better job putting points up on the board last year. If the offense is going to continue to improve, they’re going to need a handful of sophomores like Mason Fine, Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence and Rico Bussey Jr. to take another step forward this season.

MBe – The wide receiver group is the most intriguing, and Turner Smiley is the player to watch. North Texas lost three of its top four receivers from last year. With Smiley as the top returner, he will have to have a big season for the Mean Green to have a good year.

MW – I am looking forward to watching the quarterback position this year.  The position is the most important on the team, and with Fine entering his second season, the more improvement he shows, the better off the team will be.

3) What is your biggest concern for the Mean Green this year?

BK – I’m concerned about the team’s depth at the quarterback position. I think Mason Fine will be significantly improved as a sophomore with a better feel for the offense, but I think he is still an injury risk simply because of his size. If he goes down, Quinn Shanbour is next in line and he has thrown only one pass in his collegiate career. Fine’s ability to stay healthy will be vital to the team returning to the postseason.

MB – The quarterback. While the linebacker depth is thin, the quarterback is much more worrisome. Mason Fine was okay last season, nothing more nothing less. The expectation was that with another year in the system and another year to develop, he’d be solid at this time. The only way he has a good year is if all three of the other units around him are solid, which they could be, taking the pressure off him.

LD – With big names such as Kishawn McClain, Andy Flusche and Nate Brooks, it’s no secret the North Texas defense should have big season after allowing 30 or more points in nine games last year. My biggest concern is finding a way to get both sides of the ball on the same page. The offense and defense both have the talent to be successful, it’s just a matter of putting all that talent together to have a winning season.

MBe – Was last season a fluke? Coming off a 1-11 season to making it to a bowl game the following season is either luck or improvement of talent – hopefully the latter.

MW – My biggest concern for the season is taking a step backwards from last year.  Even though the Mean Green football only had five wins, they still managed to make the Heart of Dallas Bowl.  Because of that, anything under a bowl bid would be a disappointment.

4) Season prediction?

BK – Drake once said, “Started from the bottom now we’re here.” Props to Matt for pulling out the J. Cole reference, but there isn’t really much of a music connection more fitting for this team than Drake’s line. From the bottom of the totem pole at 1-11 to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Mean Green have come a long way. I see Littrell taking another step forward with a 7-5 finish in the regular season, and North Texas will take care of business in the postseason this time around to move to 8-5.

MB – J. Cole once said, “To appreciate the sun, you gotta know what rain is.” That’s pretty much what I think is going to happen for the Mean Green this season. They’ll start out 2-3, then play really good teams like FAU, La Tech, and ODU in three of their next four, fall to 3-6, then close the year on a four-game win streak including a bowl win. So, 7-6 and we’ll all appreciate the sun – thanks Cole.

LD – I personally think it should be a good season, as long as the team plays with some confidence. It’s all going to start with games two and three of this year, which is SMU and Iowa. These are arguably the two most difficult games for the Littrell and his team this season. If they can get through or at least hang with these two teams, there shouldn’t be a reason they can’t win the remaining games on the schedule and get to another bowl game.

MBe – North Texas fans should buy some bowling shoes – the Mean Green are going to be playing during the bowl season and will finish 6-7.

MW – I predict the team will go 8-4 this year with a return to the postseason.

Featured Image: Offensive lineman T.J. Henson celebrates with wide receiver Turner Smiley after Smiley scored a touchdown against Southern Miss last season. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Brady Keane

Brady Keane

Brady Keane is the Sports Editor of the North Texas Daily. He previously served as Deputy Sports Editor (Jan. 2017-May 2017) and as a Staff Writer (Aug. 2015-May 2016).

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