North Texas Daily

Spring practice kicks off as football looks to build on late win streak

Spring practice kicks off as football looks to build on late win streak

Spring practice kicks off as football looks to build on late win streak
March 13
15:30 2022

Holding its first three spring practices over the last few days, the football team has begun preparation for the 2022 season.

Streaks defined North Texas’ 2021 slate. After a season-opening win over Northwestern State University, the Mean Green lost six consecutive games before finishing out the regular season with five wins in a row to reach bowl eligibility. Head coach Seth Littrell said building on the changes made during that win streak is a key point of emphasis in spring practice.

“There’s a reason why we finished out [last season] the way we did,” Littrell said. “I thought our mentality was better, we were a physical football team and everybody was in it together. […] The other thing is just the discipline aspect. We lost some games because of some immature, undisciplined things this past season that really hurt us. We have to be more disciplined.”

Gaining bowl eligibility meant North Texas (6-7, 5-3 Conference USA last season) appeared in its fifth bowl in Littrell’s six seasons at the helm. It fell 27-14 to Miami University (Ohio) in the Dec. 23 Frisco Football Classic, continuing the Mean Green’s streak of bowl defeats under Littrell. Senior linebacker/defensive back Sean-Thomas Faulkner said the loss motivated his return for one last season.

“I pretty much had my mind made up that I was coming back, but that game kind of solidified it because I feel like I left a lot out there,” Faulkner said. “I’ve got the rest of my life to go work. This is my last year, my sixth year, so I’ve got no other options. I have to finish what I started. […] I like [my teammates] and love them enough that I feel like I can come back and help them one more year.”

A 2021 transfer from The Citadel, he finished out last season starting at the safety position after seeing time at defensive coordinator Phil Bennett’s hybrid “Eagle” spot. Faulkner said he is mainly appearing at safety during camp but will move around to other positions like the “Eagle” spot if needed.

North Texas added a trio of transfer defensive backs to its roster this offseason — Nick Nakwaasah (University of Central Arkansas), Zahodri Jackson (Utah State University) and Bryce Linder (Blinn College). Nakwaasah has been slotting in as a safety early in spring practice while Linder is seeing time at “Eagle” and Jackson at cornerback.

“I’ve been helping Bryce a lot with the ‘Eagle’ spot because I was in his same spot a year ago,” Faulkner said. “Nick’s a really smart guy, kind of a student of the game. I’m helping him too but he’s to the point where he’s able to read and watch. He might have a question or two but he’s a really smart, good player so he’ll definitely help us out this year.”

Looking at last season’s starters, the Mean Green are set to lose all four along the defensive line. Senior defensive tackles Caleb Colvin and Dion Novil ran out of eligibility while redshirt freshman defensive ends Grayson and Gabriel Murphy will transfer to the University of California-Los Angeles. It added College of DuPage transfer defensive lineman Tom Trieb and will look for increased production from returners such as sophomore defensive lineman Roderick Brown and redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Enoch Jackson.

“I honestly believe this defense is going to come to be the top defense in Conference USA this year,” Brown said. “Just with coach Bennett and us coming together and being as one. From high school, little league, this is the closest I’ve been together with brothers on my team.”

Losing six starters from last season’s unit, the defense has holes to fill to build on its improvement in 2021. It ranked No. 7 among C-USA teams at 27.5 points allowed per game last season, up from ranking last in the conference 2020 at 43.0 points allowed per game.

“The thing right now is to grow,” Bennett said. “I look at us last year, our cut-ups. No. 1, way too many penalties. Crucial penalties. We lost two games on penalties. Penalties are selfish, just selfish. No. 2 is not having […] mental errors. If you can eliminate mental errors, your chance of success goes up by the hundreds.”

Featured Image: The university football team stands on the field on Sept. 4, 2021. Photo by Jaqueline Martinez

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John Fields

John Fields

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