North Texas Daily

Roundtable: Midseason review of the football team

Roundtable: Midseason review of the football team

Roundtable: Midseason review of the football team
October 18
22:57 2015

Editor’s Note: The entire North Texas Daily sports staff weighs in on the current state of the Mean Green football team. North Texas currently sports a winless 0-6 record with six more games to play, and the university recently parted ways with head coach Dan McCarney.

Our staff: Reece Waddell (RW), Torie Mosley (TM), Alex Lessard (AL), Brady Keane (BK) and Clay Massey (CM)

1) If you had to pick one, what is the most contributing factor to North Texas’ slow start?

RW: It’s hard to put your finger on the biggest factor that has contributed to North Texas’ 0-6 start, and why the Mean Green rank near the bottom of every statistical category in college football. The offense, which was led by senior quarterback Andrew McNulty the first five games, was anemic. There was no explosiveness whatsoever and McNulty’s lack of elusiveness allowed opposing defenses to sack him almost any time they got in the back field.

It shouldn’t all be blamed on McNulty though. The offensive line has been putrid at times, and the running backs and wide receivers, with the exception of senior receiver Carlos Harris and sophomore running back Jeffrey Wilson, have been complete non-factors.

But you can’t talk about the awful start without bringing up the defense, which is one of the worst in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision. North Texas was behind the eight ball before the season even began when it lost senior defensive back Kenny Buyers due to injury. Despite that, no one could have predicted this woeful start. Opponents are averaging over 550 yards and more than 49 points per game against this defense. With those kind of numbers, it’s going to be hard to win no matter what.

TM: The single biggest factor to the Mean Green’s poor start started with the week 1 bye week. With questions at quarterback and many new faces on defense coming into the season, a three month schedule of back-to-back football, including only five home games, is the last thing North Texas needed to start its season.

AL: Pretty much every aspect of North Texas football has been mediocre this season, but the defense is the worst of them all. Multiple injuries in the secondary have made things worse than they were, but it’s hard to make excuses for a unit that’s giving up 570 yards and over 50 points per game. That’s left the offense permanently stuck in catch-up mode, forcing Mike Canales to run a predictable pass-first offense when his personnel is probably better suited for a ground and pound philosophy.

BK: You have to look at the play of the defense. The defense is giving up 50.2 points per game so far this season and is the only defense in the country giving up more than 50 points per game. No matter what the offense does, it’s hard to be competitive with numbers like that.

CM: Obviously on-the-field defense issues are huge, but this seems to be just a broken and disjointed team. After weeks one and two did not go to plan, the wheels have really fallen off. After seeing the chemistry the team had against WKU under Canales on the sideline, it seems apparent chemistry was down before the firing of McCarney.

2) Was the firing of Dan McCarney the right thing to do? 

RW: Yes, McCarney led North Texas to a 9-4 season and Heart of Dallas Bowl victory in 2013. But apart from that, the former head coach never had a winning season in Denton. Sure he fared better than his predecessor Todd Dodge, but even Dodge did something McCarney couldn’t – recruit.

When North Texas won its only bowl game in the past ten years, many of those players were recruits of Dodge. While McCarney had the experience and pedigree, he was never able to draw top-tier or even average talent to UNT on a consistent basis.

As for the timing of the firing, it was not ideal, especially with the Mean Green on a short week and playing the best team in Conference USA at Western Kentucky University in five days, but athletic director Rick Villarreal had no choice. North Texas was just embarrassed on homecoming, losing to FCS Portland State University by a margin of 59 points. His hand was forced, and it was the right decision.

TM: I think it’s a desperate move to save the possibility of the potential cleaning house of many other coaching and administrative positions throughout the Mean Green football program. Plus, the hefty three plus million dollar contract McCarney was living off while our defense gave up 30 points a game last year and 50 points per game this year had to be dealt with sooner or later.

AL: Injuries and a tough schedule were viable excuses early on, but getting spanked by arguably the worst opponent on the schedule on homecoming was the last straw. Firing McCarney immediately after the game ended was the only way to do it.

BK: I definitely think a change had to be made, but I didn’t really like the timing of the decision. It didn’t seem like a good idea to fire McCarney on a short week going up against the best team in the conference, but the game didn’t turn out as badly as it could have.

CM: The team was well on track to a 0-12 season under McCarney, which can cripple a program for years, so the firing was the right thing to do. The timing was right as well, after being blown out at home on homecoming by an FCS squad. It maybe could have come in the morning and not in the locker-room afterward, but that was Rick Villareal’s decision.

3) Who would you like to see North Texas pursue as a permanent replacement?

RW: As much as I would like to see Chip Kelly come and coach the “North Texas State Armadillos,” as he put it, that will not happen in all likelihood.

A huge factor in determining McCarney’s replacement will depend on who the athletic director is. Yes, for the time being it is still Villarreal, but many people in and around the university have been calling for his head, especially after the firing of McCarney.

That said, you have to think North Texas will reach out to several offensive coordinators in the state of Texas. A preliminary favorite seems to be Major Applewhite, who is currently serving as the offensive coordinator at the University of Houston. The Cougars have yet to lose a game in 2015 and cracked the AP Top 25 last week. Other names that have been thrown around are Baylor University offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and Texas Christian University offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie. It’s too soon to tell, but if you want a prediction from me, I’m going with Applewhite. I can’t see Briles or Cumbie leaving their respective schools.

TM: I’d honestly like to see interim head coach Mike Canales get the permanent job. He’s been given nothing but high praise by several players on the team. He’s a player’s coach and already has several years of relationships at North Texas to make a transition much smoother, as opposed to bringing in another head coach.

AL: If North Texas is going to have any sort of sustained success in the near future, it needs to have a much stronger recruiting presence locally. The perfect head coach to do that is Jeff Traylor, currently the special teams and tight ends coach at the University of Texas. Previously, Traylor put up a 175-26 record with five state championship appearances over 15 seasons at Gilmer HS in east Texas. Traylor’s presence in both the high school and college ranks around the state makes him the best recruiter North Texas can find.

BK: Kendal Briles. There are a lot of directions to look for a permanent replacement, but it has to be someone that can come in and recruit the DFW area and Texas as a whole. Kendal Briles is in his eighth season at Baylor, he’s 32 years old, and he was the Big 12 Recruiter of the Year in both 2013 and 2014.

CM: Jake Spavital, co-offensive coordinator Texas A&M. Sitting at $483,000, he could be looking for a raise as well as a chance to re-build a program from scratch. He could enjoy the opportunity.

4) How do you expect the remainder of the season to play out?

RW: North Texas has six games remaining on its schedule, and realistically it only has a chance to win two of them. The first is a game on Halloween against the University of Texas San Antonio. The second comes on the final day of the season, Nov 28, and is a home contest against the University of Texas El Paso.

I think North Texas can win both, but I think its best chance comes on Halloween. The Mean Green will go 1-5 down the stretch and finish the year 1-11, desperately hoping its new head coach can come in and turn the program around.

TM: North Texas will be in the rebuilding phase for rest of the year but might be able to grab wins against UTEP, UTSA or Middle Tennessee State. I’m not even going to pretend the team will have a chance on the road against Marshall, Louisiana Tech and Tennessee.

AL: Expect a looser environment and consistent improvement as the season progresses. Canales gave the young offensive talent a shot in Thursday’s loss to Western Kentucky University, and they performed well enough to likely earn more playing time going forward. DaMarcus Smith provided a much needed spark at quarterback, throwing four touchdown passes and reaching triple digits in rushing yards. There’s nothing to lose at this point, and everyone knows it.

BK: The UTEP game on Nov. 28 is the best shot at picking up a win. The Mean Green could beat UTSA as well, but other than that it is going to be a bleak finish. The main focus needs to be on developing DaMarcus Smith into a quarterback that can lead the offense for the entire season next year.

CM: It’s hard to predict how the rest of a season that started so poorly will play out, but you cannot expect it to get too much better for North Texas. The Mean Green has a shot to beat UTEP and UTSA, but with the way this season is going, I expect them to finish the season out at 1-6 under Canales.

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