FLIP SIDE – North Texas

Brett Vito covers North Texas for the Denton Record-Chronicle. His Mean Green blog is loaded with pertinent information and it’s a good read. He was kind enough to send along some perspective about the Mean Green because, really, who knows better? Certainly not me. Anyway, here’s his essay on the program and the situation…

IMAGINE for a minute that you are widely successful professionally and universally loved in the city you work in with no prospects of the good life changing any time soon.

Want to give it up?

North Texas head coach Todd Dodge, who will lead the Mean Green into a game against Kansas State this week, did just that.

He left Southlake Carroll High School in suburban Dallas, where he had won four state titles and three mythical national titles in five years to take over at UNT, a once successful mid-major program that had fallen on hard times.

What has transpired since Dodge arrived in Denton before the 2007 season brings to mind the life and times of Lindsay Lohan – at times it’s something to behold, but it has also gotten ugly more than once.

Oklahoma blew UNT out 79-10 in Dodge’s debut, the first step toward a train wreck of a 2-10 season. The Mean Green finished last nationally in scoring defense at 45.1 points a game, but also showed signs of developing the exciting and potent spread offense that was the reason UNT hired Dodge in the first place.

UNT scored 62 points against Navy at home last season. The Mean Green lost 74-62, but hey, it was exciting.

The experience was just one of several Dodge learned from in a tough first season.

“I have seen our team go through adversity and I have seen how they react,” Dodge said. “Some of it is not always as good as we want. The team has also seen me go through adversity and handle disappointments. When you do that there is trust to be built.”

Dodge probably gained more trust from his players, not to mention the respect of a lot of people around the program, by parting ways with former defensive coordinator Ron Mendoza after the season. Mendoza was one of several high school coaches Dodge brought with him from the high school level.

UNT’s players didn’t believe in Mendoza, who ran pretty much the same defense he used at Southlake Carroll in his first only season with the Mean Green. UNT’s staff found out pretty quickly that there is a big difference between playing Euless Trinity and Oklahoma or Arkansas (66-7 loss) or Troy (45-7 loss) or Florida International (38-19 loss) or … well, you get the idea.

Dodge brought back Gary DeLoach as UNT’s defensive coordinator to replace Mendoza. All DeLoach did in his first go-around with the Mean Green was build a defense that ranked third nationally in scoring defense with an average of 14.8 points allowed per game in 2002, the same season the Mean Green sacked Texas’ quarterbacks eight times in a 27-0 loss in Austin.

UNT is hoping that switch and a year of experience under Dodge will help the Mean Green turn the corner.

UNT’s offense certainly looks like it is ready after Giovanni Vizza threw for 2,388 yards as a freshman last season.

If anything, the added experience has made Dodge feel more comfortable about where he is headed in his second year with the Mean Green.

“I feel much more prepared this year,” Dodge said. “In any job, those first 365 days, you learn more than you probably do in the next five years combined. There isn’t the feeling of anxiety heading into your second season.”

PREDICTION: K-State 49, UNT 23