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Just two years ago, North Texas was a bowl team, finishing with nine wins. Two short seasons later, the Mean Green finished with one win and was one of the worst teams statistically on both sides of the ball. To change things up, they brought in Seth Littrell as the new head coach, a former assistant head coach and tight ends coach at North Carolina.
Along with Littrell is new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, a former quarterback that was in the NFL only a few years ago. Those two will look to implement a more wide-open passing attack as Harrell was the wide receivers coach at Washington State the last two years. To help with the new offense, North Texas has Alabama graduate transfer Alex Morris, who was often the No. 3 quarterback on the Crimson Tide's depth chart. Morris had a good spring according to the coaches, but that should be taken with a grain of salt. His top returning receivers are Turner Smiley (25 receptions, 255 yards, 1 TD) and Tee Goree (118 yards) so he won't have much help in the passing game.
The experience for the Mean Green comes at running back with Jeffrey Wilson (830 yards) and Willy Ivery (290 yards). Those two were actually decent at times last year with Wilson averaging 5.4 yards per carry and the speedy Ivery at 6.6. The offensive line will have a few underclassmen, but will have three returning starters and at least have some pieces to work with.
The defense wasn't any better last year for North Texas, allowing 41.3 points per game. Most troubling was a non-conference game in which they lost 66-7 to Portland State. The hope is that new coordinator Mike Ekeler will change that, the former LBs coach at Georgia.
The questions are prevalent on the front end with the Mean Green returning just two players along the line and at linebacker. This is from a group that gave up 240 rushing yards per game. They have seniors in end Jarrian Roberts and linebacker Fred Scott, but most other positions are filled with underclassmen and incoming transfers. The best part of the defense is on the back end where all four starters are back. Safeties James Gray and Kishawn McClain are the bigger names having led the team in tackles a year ago. Of course, that was because offenses often got into the second level against this defense.
The first order of business for Littrell will be getting more than one win. The issue is that North Texas doesn't have the easiest schedule with only one win showing up in non-conference play unless they can top SMU this year. Their C-USA schedule doesn't have any favors either with all four of their home games against the expected best four teams in the conference. The Mean Green may have to win a road game to get a conference win, and that could be at UTSA or UTEP.
Due to schedule, getting more than three wins just seems unlikely for the Mean Green this season. They have a lot of rebuilding to do, but if Morris can do something on the offensive end, they'll at least get more than one win.
2016 North Texas Mean Green Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. SMU
Sept. 10 vs. Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 17 at Florida
Sept. 24 at Rice
Oct. 1 vs. Middle Tennessee
Oct. 8 vs. Marshall
Oct. 22 at Army
Oct. 29 at UTSA
Nov. 5 vs. Louisiana Tech
Nov. 12 at Western Kentucky
Nov. 19 vs. Southern Miss
Nov. 26 at UTEP
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