North Texas offers an opportunity to "get well" against the run for Grantham's defense. And they really must make strides next Saturday. Because LSU will present the biggest test in terms of stopping the run since we played Alabama in December.
But when the rush defense is giving up over 200 yards on the season (and 269 a game the last six games) you don't have the luxury of overlooking any opponent, including North Texas. So here goes.
So far this season the Mean Green use multiple backs, all about the same size (5-9, 220) - Brandin Byrd, Antoinne Jimmerson and Reggie Pegram. Together they've averaged 3.79 yards a carry on a team that had 478 rushing attempts last season to 375 passes. I would expect Byrd to get the bulk of the carries; he's the senior and is averaging nearly five yards per attempt.
Perhaps the best measure of what to expect is last year's season opener when North Texas went to Baton Rouge. The Mean Green managed only 219 total yards, most of which came on an 80 yard pass play (note: remember the name Brelan Chancellor as he torched the entire Tiger secondary on that play). Later in the fourth quarter with the game well out of reach, North Texas constructed a 13 play drive covering 66 yards for their second touchdown (another pass to Chancellor).
Overall, UNT ran the ball 35 times that evening against LSU and managed only 76 yards, including two failed end arounds to receivers for -13 yards.
So what can we expect to see differently from our defense? Personnel-wise we know that the coaches are wanting to see what they have behind Ramik Wilson. That likely means freshmen Tim Kimbrough and Reggie Carter will see some playing time beside Amarlo Herrera. In fact, I'd expect both to get long looks. And two other freshmen - Ryne Rankin and Johnny O'Neal - could also come into play. But right now the pecking order appears to have Kimbrough just behind Carter on the two deep behind Wilson and Herrera.
I think we'll also see a deeper rotation along the defensive line in an effort to get some experience up front. Grantham and Wilson have really tinkered with the personnel here. It'll be interesting to see who steps forward. I also think we'll key on the run and let the secondary play a lot of man coverage against the smaller Mean Green playmakers. It will put pressure on our linebackers who will have to make reads quickly to cover the intermediate routes as well as help in run support when the ball is handed off.
It'll be time to worry if North Texas starts to average 7+ ypc. That will likely mean the starters play longer and the playbook is opened up more and more. But if we can hold the Mean Green to under 4 ypc, that'll translate into long third down conversion attempts and better time of possession. Then we can send the Mean Green home with a nice paycheck to go along with a good thumping.