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2016's 128-team preview series begins with the rebuilding North Texas Mean Green

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From now through August, Bill C. will preview one college football team in great detail per weekday, working his way through all of FBS, conference by conference. Follow along!

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Why isn't North Texas good more often?

Back in the late-'90s, when I was busy playing EA's NCAA Football in the dorms, my friends and I noticed an interesting development. By the fourth or fifth year of every simulation, North Texas had become a mid-major power. Once or twice, the Mean Green became a top-five team.

The AI for the game eventually improved, but it wasn't hard to see why the early version would assume a team from Denton could make it into a higher echelon. If you've got to be a mid-major, being a mid-major 40 miles from Dallas isn't too bad an idea. In the simulation, UNT would land enough local recruits to be competitive, win some games, then land more local recruits.

It was so logical that UNT could become a decent program, that almost two decades later, I get a little bit thrown off when the Mean Green aren't. And to be sure, they've spent most of their FBS existence being less than decent. Since rejoining FBS in 1995, they have attended five bowls, but four came in a four-year stretch. Darrell Dickey led them to four New Orleans Bowl appearances in a row from 2001-05. Before then, they averaged just 3.2 wins per season. Since, they've averaged 3.

This doesn't make a lot of sense. The facilities could be worse. Apogee Stadium still has a bit of new stadium smell to it. The money isn't atrocious. The access to talent is solid for a mid-major.

Steven Godfrey and I mentioned UNT as a "why aren't they better?" program in last week's Podcast Ain't Played Nobody.

It looked like Dan McCarney had things figured out for a while. Combining a host of veterans with key transfers, McCarney led UNT to a 9-4 season in 2013, the Mean Green's first in Conference USA. It looked replicable. But it wasn't, at least not for McCarney. An inexperienced squad went 4-8 in 2014, and the Mean Green put a stunning level of awfulness onto the field in 2015. They were 128th, dead last, in the S&P+ rankings. They went 1-11 and came within 14 points of an opponent only one other time. They lost to Portland State by 59 points.

They lost to Portland State by 59 points.

It was predictable that McCarney would be dumped. Mike Canales played out the string, leading UNT to its only win and at least sustaining a slightly higher level of play.

2. Enter Seth Littrell

Littrell played for Mike Leach and Mark Mangino at Oklahoma, then served as a GA for Mangino at Kansas, a running backs coach for Leach at Texas Tech, and an assistant for offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes (another air raid disciple) at Arizona. He took over as OC when Dykes left, then he served as spread innovator Kevin Wilson's OC at Indiana for two years. He spent the last two years as Larry Fedora's associate head coach.

He has an almost picture perfect offensive résumé. And he has brought in former Leach quarterback Graham Harrell as his offensive coordinator and former Leach running back Joel Filani as receivers coach. His intentions are clear, and they make sense: take advantage of your proximity to spread talent and hopefully score more points than your opponent.

It might or might not work. It should definitely result in more entertainment.

The bar starts low. UNT had a dreadful passing attack, maybe the worst in the country, and while signing a few JUCOs and transfers will help, there's reason to doubt that new defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler will be able to do much yet. The Mean Green are projected 128th in FBS in S&P+.

But in Conference USA, which has a bottom half weak enough to give it the worst average S&P+ in the country last year, there are wins on the table if Littrell can engineer improvement to the top-100 level.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 1-11 | Adj. Record: 0-12 | Final F/+ Rk: 126 | Final S&P+ Rk: 128
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
12-Sep at SMU 106 13-31 L 7% 1% -10.2 -13.5
19-Sep Rice 123 24-38 L 17% 7% -7.4 -6.0
26-Sep at Iowa 38 16-62 L 6% 0% -13.4 -21.5
3-Oct at Southern Miss 56 14-49 L 7% 0% -18.9 -19.0
10-Oct Portland State N/A 7-66 L 0% 0% -49.7
15-Oct Western Kentucky 15 28-55 L 17% 0% +20.4 +6.0
24-Oct at Marshall 58 13-30 L 22% 1% +24.9 +12.0
31-Oct UTSA 111 30-23 W 49% 61% +21.8 +16.5
7-Nov at Louisiana Tech 57 13-56 L 11% 0% -3.2 -13.5
14-Nov at Tennessee 18 0-24 L 8% 0% +14.4 +17.0
21-Nov at Middle Tennessee 82 7-41 L 13% 0% -8.1 -10.0
28-Nov UTEP 125 17-20 L 19% 12% -4.3 -5.5

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 16.2 123 39.1 118
Points Per Game 15.2 124 41.3 122

3. There's bottoming out ... and there's this

"It's almost a guarantee that North Texas will be better." That's how I wrapped up last season's North Texas preview. But 2015 proved that nothing is guaranteed.

Andrew McNulty began as UNT's starting QB but completed 48 percent of his passes in four games, then went 10-for-25 for just 57 yards in the Portland State debacle. Desperate for a change, Canales installed DaMarcus Smith, and while the junior was no better at throwing the ball, he at least provided mobility. Smith rushed for 122 yards against WKU and 137 in the win over UTSA, and the Mean Green exceeded projections by at least two touchdowns in four of the five games following Portland State.

When you're in the middle of a lost season, all you want to see is improvement. North Texas had that, even if it was marginal.

  • First 5 games -- Average percentile performance: 7% | Average performance vs. S&P+ projection: -19.9 PPG
  • Last 7 games -- Average percentile performance: 20% | Average performance vs. S&P+ projection: +9.4 PPG

There was a definitive rebound. UNT was never good, but the Mean Green finished ahead of where they were in September. And Littrell's first team will feature both experienced pieces and a few potential early-impact recruits (i.e. transfers). Things could be worse.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.97 128 IsoPPP+ 61.6 128
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 35.9% 112 Succ. Rt. + 85.6 116
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.5 60 Def. FP+ 28.7 49
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 2.9 127 Redzone S&P+ 75.8 127
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 27.3 ACTUAL 25 -2.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 118 128 116 128
RUSHING 83 94 78 101
PASSING 115 128 124 128
Standard Downs 119 102 126
Passing Downs 128 123 128
Q1 Rk 128 1st Down Rk 119
Q2 Rk 123 2nd Down Rk 122
Q3 Rk 105 3rd Down Rk 121
Q4 Rk 95

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
DaMarcus Smith 6'1, 216 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8033 99 212 1010 8 5 46.7% 11 4.9% 4.1
Andrew McNulty 81 170 820 3 4 47.6% 14 7.6% 3.9
Josh Greer 8 23 97 0 2 34.8% 0 0.0% 3.9
Connor Means 6'4, 215 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7917
Caleb Chumley 6'5, 240 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8457
Alec Morris (Alabama) 6'3, 235 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8701

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Jeffrey Wilson RB 6'0, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7678 155 830 1 5.4 5.0 40.6% 5 4
DaMarcus Smith QB 6'1, 216 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8033 81 526 2 6.5 6.4 49.4% 7 3
Antoinne Jimmerson RB 70 272 1 3.9 5.3 28.6% 1 0
Willy Ivery RB 5'9, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8115 44 290 2 6.6 8.0 45.5% 2 2
Andrew Tucker RB 6'0, 203 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8200 15 75 0 5.0 4.3 33.3% 1 1
A.J. Ezzard RB 5'10, 207 So. NR NR 14 60 1 4.3 1.8 57.1% 0 0
Andrew McNulty QB 12 76 0 6.3 4.6 50.0% 3 1
Carlos Harris WR 7 13 0 1.9 3.6 28.6% 0 0
Nic Smith RB 5'10, 182 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8299







4. A run game you can lean on

Littrell and Harrell have options at quarterback, but who they choose might dictate the quality of the run game.

Smith probably isn't the guy to lead a pass-first attack. He never topped a 59 percent completion rate in any game last fall, and he only twice topped 50 percent.

But the guy can run. Nearly half of his carries gained at least five yards, and he showed nice burst in the open field. With Smith at QB, junior running backs Jeffrey Wilson and Willy Ivery could shine. In Smith's first three games as a starter, Wilson rushed 52 times for 356 yards (6.8).

With three of last year's starters up front returning, along with a pair of JUCO transfers, you figure the UNT run game will be a relative strength regardless of who starts at quarterback. Perhaps Smith retains a role in a red zone or wildcat package. But he might have some work to do to stay atop the depth chart.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Carlos Harris WR 118 61 727 51.7% 30.7% 6.2 47.5% 34.7% 1.63
Marcus Smith TE 61 29 261 47.5% 15.9% 4.3 39.3% 32.8% 1.07
Turner Smiley WR 6'0, 189 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7400 58 25 255 43.1% 15.1% 4.4 51.7% 39.7% 0.97
Tee Goree WR 6'3, 173 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8248 27 15 118 55.6% 7.0% 4.4 55.6% 37.0% 1.13
Darvin Kidsy WR
26 17 240 65.4% 6.8% 9.2 46.2% 42.3% 2.11
Chris Loving TE 22 13 148 59.1% 5.7% 6.7 77.3% 50.0% 1.25
Jeffrey Wilson RB 6'0, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7678 20 12 71 60.0% 5.2% 3.6 55.0% 40.0% 0.90
Thaddeous Thompson WR 6'2, 202 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7800 19 7 64 36.8% 4.9% 3.4 47.4% 26.3% 1.03
Antoinne Jimmerson RB 7 2 12 28.6% 1.8% 1.7 42.9% 14.3% 0.87
Willy Ivery RB 5'9, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8115 5 2 8 40.0% 1.3% 1.6 40.0% 20.0% 0.61
D'Aundrey Bradley WR
5 0 0 0.0% 1.3% 0.0 80.0% 0.0% 0.00
O'Keeron Rutherford WR 6'5, 190 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7785 4 3 17 75.0% 1.0% 4.3 100.0% 50.0% 0.68
Calvin Minor LB 6'3, 213 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7694 3 0 0 0.0% 0.8% 0.0 33.3% 0.0% 0.00
A.J. Ezzard RB 5'10, 207 So. NR NR 2 1 8 50.0% 0.5% 4.0 50.0% 0.0% 0.00
Kevin Dillman TE 6'4, 249 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8520
Rodney Bendy WR 6'5, 196 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7979
Deion Griffin WR 5'10, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793







5. Harrell probably wants to pass

As Mike Leach's quarterback at Texas Tech from 2005-08, Harrell threw for 15,793 yards and 134 touchdowns. He might be the first quarterback you think of when someone says the words "four verticals." That he was a four-star recruit barely more than a decade ago might make you, like me, feel old.

Harrell spent 2010-12 as a reserve for the Green Bay Packers, and then he returned to his mentor. From 2013-15, he was an assistant for Leach at Washington State.

Harrell is his own guy with his own ideas, but we probably have a pretty good idea of what we're in for with him calling the shots. If Smith is the superior QB on the roster, Harrell might be able to adapt to suit his skill set. But with Alabama transfer Alec Morris coming to Denton for his senior season, and Caleb Chumley (one of the jewels of the 2015 signing class) ready to challenge for a spot after a redshirt year, Smith's going to have a fight on his hands.

Whoever wins will need some receivers, and the corps will be a patchwork. Four of last year's top six targets are gone, and the returnees, Turner Smiley and Tee Goree, each averaged just 4.4 yards per target last year. Smiley showed promise early (first four games: eight catches, 124 yards) but couldn't find a rapport with Smith, and Goree is another recent star recruit.

Otherwise, I have no idea who will catch passes. Tight end Kevin Dillman was a well-regarded signee in 2015, and Deion Griffin was one of Littrell's most well-touted freshmen in this class. But the list of known knowns is small.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 87.9 2.91 1.95 40.7% 64.1% 22.9% 71.7 4.7% 10.6%
Rank 116 62 125 41 79 106 112 62 111
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Kaydon Kirby C 6'3, 320 Sr. NR NR 11 36
Michael Banogu LT 12 13
Sam Rice LG 6'4, 297 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8012 12 12
Micah Thompson RG 12 12
Chris Miles RT 6'4, 299 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7894 12 12
Creighton Barr C 6'3, 302 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8081 1 1
Ryan Rentfro LG 6'4, 314 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7552 0 1
Jordan Murray LT 6'9, 360 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7907 0 0
Harrison Sorge LT 6'5, 311 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7652 0 0
Avery Fortenberry RG 6'5, 297 So. NR NR 0 0
Garrett Gunter RT 6'4, 293 Sr. NR NR 0 0
Trey Keenan
(Texas Tech)
OL 6'5, 272 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8798 0 0
T.J. Henson OL 6'5, 305 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7533

Cody Hayes OL 6'5, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8200

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.30 87 IsoPPP+ 86.4 108
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 48.5% 121 Succ. Rt. + 88.7 104
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.1 89 Off. FP+ 30.0 63
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 5.3 125 Redzone S&P+ 88.3 110
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 15.8 ACTUAL 18.0 +2.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 120 113 104 108
RUSHING 119 121 117 121
PASSING 108 98 86 103
Standard Downs 113 106 110
Passing Downs 110 99 107
Q1 Rk 125 1st Down Rk 119
Q2 Rk 94 2nd Down Rk 98
Q3 Rk 122 3rd Down Rk 125
Q4 Rk 107

6. A Mike Ekeler defense

Ekeler's been around. He was Georgia's ILBs coach over the last two years, and before that he spent time at USC (LBs coach, 2013), Indiana (LBs and defensive co-coordinator, 2011-12), Nebraska (LBs, 2008-10), and LSU (grad assistant, 2005-07). He spent quite a few years at the right hand of Bo Pelini, and he's waited quite a while to get a shot at leading his own defense.

Back in December, it appeared Ekeler was heading to Denton to take over Littrell's defense. There's been radio silence since, and he isn't listed on UNT's football page, but it appears that's still likely to happen.

Ekeler's a linebackers guy, and he'd inherit a seasoned linebacking corps that appears to have a pretty high ceiling. Seniors Fred Scott and Cortney Finney will combine with well-regarded sophomores Brandon Garner and Darrien McNair and JUCO transfers William Johnson (a one-time Nebraska commit) and Ejodamen Ejiya. But the defenses Ekeler's been associated with have been at their best with a swarming secondary.

Assuming he is actually the coordinator, he might have the right pieces for being aggressive in the back. The problem will be that opponents might never have to throw.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 85.9 3.30 3.70 42.2% 74.2% 14.5% 75.8 4.8% 4.8%
Rank 119 118 113 105 107 119 104 73 109
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jarrian Roberts DE 6'2, 252 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8006 12 22.5 3.2% 10.0 6.5 0 1 0 0
Austin Orr DT 12 21.0 3.0% 6.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
T.J. Tauaalo DT 6'2, 287 So. NR NR 12 20.0 2.8% 2.0 0.5 0 0 0 0
Jareid Combs DE 6'3, 258 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7811 12 16.0 2.3% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Roderick Young DT 6'1, 287 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7652 11 14.5 2.0% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Sir Calvin Wallace DT 6'2, 308 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7900 12 14.0 2.0% 0.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Malik Dilonga DE 6'4, 264 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7980 12 13.5 1.9% 4.5 3.0 0 0 0 0
Chad Polk DE 10 12.5 1.8% 3.0 2.5 0 0 1 0
Andy Flusche DE 6'3, 259 Jr. NR NR 11 11.0 1.6% 2.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
Tillman Johnson DE 6'1, 248 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7694 10 5.5 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sid Moore DT 6'1, 261 Jr. NR NR 4 4.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Joshua Wheeler DE 6'3, 255 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8117
Bryce English
(Kansas State)
DT 5'11, 312 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8556
Joseph Ozougwu DE 6'3, 205 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8000








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Anthony Wallace MLB 12 59.5 8.4% 2.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Fred Scott OLB 5'11, 233 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7844 12 53.0 7.5% 5.5 1.0 0 1 1 0
Cortney Finney OLB 5'11, 220 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7633 12 31.0 4.4% 1.0 0.0 0 1 1 1
Blake Bean MLB 3 18.5 2.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Calvin Minor OLB 6'3, 213 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7694 9 17.0 2.4% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Garner OLB 5'11, 225 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8054 10 16.5 2.3% 4.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Sed Ellis LB 6'3, 201 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826 8 5.0 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Smith LB 9 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Darrien McNair MLB 6'3, 223 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8503 1 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
William Johnson LB 6'3, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8707
Ejodamen Ejiya LB 6'3, 220 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7633
LaDarius Hamilton LB 6'2, 240 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8093








7. Newbies in the front seven

UNT's pass defense wasn't particularly good, but it was a step ahead of a dreadful run defense. The Mean Green were neither efficient nor capable of preventing big plays. Forty-two percent of opponent carries gained at least five yards (105th in FBS), and 94 carries gained at least 10 (120th). The Mean Green weren't a bend-don't-break defense so much as bend-and-break.

Injuries and shuffling didn't help. A lot of guys had to play major minutes up front, and a few weren't ready.

Between the experience of the guys in the front seven and the potential of a handful of transfers -- Johnson, Ejiya, defensive end Joshua Wheeler (who had 16 sacks at the JUCO level last year), Kansas State transfer/road grader Bryce English -- the depth could go from major weakness to potential strength this yaer. It's hard to imagine too much improvement happening in a single offseason, but an improved run defense would do wonders for an already decent pass defense.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kishawn McClain FS 5'11, 201 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 12 93.5 13.2% 2.5 0 1 3 2 1
James Gray SS 6'0, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8033 12 87.5 12.3% 3 0 0 4 2 0
Zac Whitfield CB 12 43.0 6.1% 1.5 0 2 4 1 0
Nate Brooks CB 6'0, 170 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7948 10 32.5 4.6% 3.5 0 0 3 0 0
Chad Davis CB 5'10, 181 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8272 11 24.0 3.4% 2.5 1 1 5 1 0
Matthew Dash FS 10 11.0 1.6% 0 0 0 2 0 0
John Schilleci SS 6'0, 201 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7906 11 8.5 1.2% 2 0 0 0 0 0
Jamal Marshall DB 10 8.5 1.2% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Ashton Preston CB 5'10, 183 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8195 10 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Cedric Fernandes DB 5'10, 176 So. NR NR 1 5.5 0.8% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Dontavious Baulkman S 5'11, 200 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7633
Darius Turner CB 6'0, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7500
Jameel Moore CB 5'10, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793








8. The pass defense will come around first

If your glasses have a rose-colored tint, you can paint a picture of a better run defense opening up pass-rushing opportunities for Wheeler and senior Jarrian Roberts, and frazzled quarterbacks throwing a few more questionable passes to aggressive defensive backs. Safeties Kishawn McClain and James Gray and corners Nate Brooks and Chad Davis combined for 11.5 tackles for loss and 17 passes defensed last year. Give them a few more chances, and they might respond. And if JUCO transfers Dontavious Baulkman and Darius Turner are able to deliver early, that's even better.

It takes a few ifs to make this a decent unit, and we don't officially know the defensive coordinator yet. But it does appear there's potential.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Eric Keena 6'2, 175 Sr. 60 44.2 3 24 16 66.7%
Blake Macek 14 35.9 5 5 6 78.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Eric Keena 6'2, 175 Sr. 32 62.6 14 0 43.8%
Trevor Moore 5'11, 194 Jr. 8 63.5 1 0 12.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Trevor Moore 5'11, 194 Jr. 21-21 9-10 90.0% 0-4 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
D'Aundrey Bradley KR 17 19.4 0
Jeffrey Wilson KR 6'0, 195 Jr. 12 23.3 0
Tre Johnson PR 11 12.6 1
Darvin Kidsy PR 8 4.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 95
Field Goal Efficiency 104
Punt Return Success Rate 44
Kick Return Success Rate 55
Punt Success Rate 63
Kickoff Success Rate 66

9. Automatic under 40

The special teams unit was, if not a strength, then not nearly as much of a weakness. The return unit was consistently decent, the coverage units were sound, and while Trevor Moore was only 9-for-14 on field goal attempts, he was 9-for-10 inside of 40 yards.

If Littrell, Harrell, and company have enough Leach in them, they might forgo field goal attempts for fourth-down attempts whenever possible. But at least they know they've got a guy who will give them three if they can get to the 25-yard line.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep SMU 98 -7.7 33%
10-Sep Bethune-Cookman NR 7.3 66%
17-Sep at Florida 18 -35.9 2%
24-Sep at Rice 119 -7.9 32%
1-Oct Middle Tennessee 90 -10.1 28%
8-Oct Marshall 75 -14.8 20%
22-Oct at Army 124 -5.9 37%
29-Oct at UTSA 116 -8.2 32%
5-Nov Louisiana Tech 84 -11.9 25%
12-Nov at Western Kentucky 45 -27.0 6%
19-Nov Southern Miss 72 -15.2 19%
26-Nov at UTEP 126 -4.4 40%
Projected wins: 3.4
Five-Year F/+ Rk -28.3% (110)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 99 / 109
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -7 / -11.6
2015 TO Luck/Game +1.9
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 59% (42%, 76%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 0.8 (0.2)

10. Wins on the table

UNT landed what was, on paper, a pretty big fish. You never know about a new head coach's organization, but so far Littrell has established a clear identity with his hires, and if Ekeler's the guy on defense, Littrell is bringing in a guy with high-level experience.

It feels like this could work, though I always assume it will work out for North Texas. I'm rarely right about that.

But if you're going to be undergoing a rebuilding job, Conference USA's a good place to be. Even while projecting UNT 128th in FBS, S&P+ still sees three to four wins. That's because five opponents are projected 116th or worse, and three others are worse than 80th. This will give the Mean Green some chances at building confidence, especially early in the year. And if Littrell and company are able to engineer true improvement back to, say, the 100-110 range in the ratings, then look at the win probabilities above: some of those in the 20 to 40 percent range could shift into the 40 to 60 range.

With minimal improvement, North Texas could add quite a few more wins this year. When you're talking about what was possibly the worst team in FBS last year, that's all you can really hope to say.