Each week during the season we will be visiting with a beat writer who covers LSU opponent and firing six questions at them about their team and this week’s game. Hence, for you clever folks out there, the title “Pick Six.”
We begin this week with Brett Vito, who is pretty much the man on North Texas as he covers the Mean Green for the Denton Record-Chronicle.
What style of offense can LSU fans expect to see from North Texas?
North Texas lost Lance Dunbar, the school’s all-time leading rusher who made its offense go, but I don’t anticipate a big change from last year. UNT has been a run-first team for years. It’s the way the team has been built, which is a little different than what you see from most non-BCS or mid-major type programs that like to throw the ball around quite a bit. UNT’s best asset by far is its offensive line.
With the loss of Dunbar, will the Mean Green go with one primary ball carrier or will it run the ball by committee?
UNT has three running backs who will carry the ball against LSU, and none of them have played a lot. That lends a bit of mystery to the team this year. Brandin Byrd will start and is a bruising running back, while Antoinne Jimmerson and Jeremy Brown have a little more wiggle and are faster. UNT will try to get those guys going and then hit on some plays in the play-action passing game.
Unless either Byrd, Jimmerson or Brown clearly show that they are by far the best of the bunch, I fully expect UNT to rotate running backs this year. I just don’t see that happening. UNT coach Dan McCarney has said he plans to rotate backs.
Please give us an update on coach Dan McCarney’s health following his stroke in February.
McCarney’s never looked better. The guy’s a tank. He runs the stairs at Apogee all the time and is in better health than pretty much anyone you are ever going to run across at his age (59). He’s about the last guy you would ever believe would have a health problem. I was floored when the news came down that he had a stroke.
Certainly the North Texas coaches and players don’t feel they are a six-touchdown underdog to LSU, but short of an actual upset what sort of result would allow the Mean Green to leave Baton Rouge feeling good about itself?
UNT’s players are coaches are sticking to the party line that they are aiming for the win. McCarney talked about how upset he was that some of his older players were talking about the atmosphere at Alabama on the bus after losing 41-0 last year. He is trying to install a new culture around the program, where losing isn’t acceptable. With that being said, if UNT can move the ball, score and say get out of town on the wrong end of a 42-21 score, I think there would be a lot the team could take from that.
With its new football stadium showing a commitment to UNT football, what is the future for this program sitting in the middle of such a football-crazed area?
Well, that used to be the million dollar question. To a certain degree it was answered a couple of months back when UNT was invited to Conference USA. That is where UNT wanted to be. The school will have Texas rivals now with Rice, UTEP, et cetera, and will be back in the same league with long-time rivals Tulsa and Louisiana Tech. UNT has wanted out of the Sun Belt for years and is now heading somewhere school officials believe they can build their program.
What has been the general attitude of people at North Texas (administration and fans) over Johnny Jones returning to coach at his alma mater? Would UNT be willing to play LSU in basketball?
I don’t know a person on the face of the planet who doesn’t like Johnny Jones, who is one of the best guys you are ever going to meet. There were some people in Denton who were upset that he left and there are always those who think the next guy is going to take the program to greater heights (and I am in no way saying that a good new coach in Tony Benford won’t). Outside of the people on the extremes are the majority of UNT fans. They are happy for Johnny, who landed his dream job and gave up his title as the unofficial mayor of Denton. A lot of people are really pulling for him to do well at LSU. I don’t know how UNT officials would feel about playing LSU. It would be interesting, but I think something like that might be a few years down the line.