Jarrian Roberts quietly had one of the most impressive seasons on the defensive side of the ball for the Mean Green last year. Although the team had a difficult time producing on defense throughout the year, Roberts was involved in a number of plays that provided a much-needed spark for his unit. At the end of the season, Roberts led the team in sacks, tackles for losses, and quarterback hurries.
One of the major reasons to watch for Roberts in 2016 is the help that he's getting on his defensive line. North Texas recently secured Kansas State transfer and former 3-star defensive tackle, Bryce English. While in high school, English ranked 30th in the nation for defensive tackles and received offers from 10 power five schools. With the possibility of English being able to play as early as next season, Roberts will have someone to help provide even more pressure on opposing offensive lines. If everything goes according to plan, the duo will likely be a hassle for opponents.
If you ask me, no one is talking about this young man nearly as much as they should be. Check out these highlights from his sophomore season at Cisco junior college and then let's discuss.
Ok, on that very first kick return, let's talk about how he jogs to begin the return. HE JOGS, as if to non-verbally say "I'll give y'all a head start." Then he just flat out embarrasses the first defender that came flying in like he was going to end up on SportsCenter. Finally, he appears to decide he wants a touchdown and outruns and entire defense.
Johnson returned nine kicks for the Mean Green last season for an average of 28 yards per kick return. He also added a 53-yard punt return which was the only special teams touchdown for North Texas all season. Some people doubt his ability to perform because of his lack of height at 5'6. However, North Texas just got finished relying on a guy who was only 5'8' yet still the team's most productive receiver in Carlos Harris. Personally, I hope and expect to see Johnson in a receiver role in Littrell's pass happy offense.
A 3-star recruit out of east Texas, Goree was one of the most exciting recruits for the North Texas class of 2014 recruiting class. After sitting out his first season as a redshirt, Goree saw action in 11 games during the 2015 season. However, he was not targeted as much as many Mean Green fans would have liked. Goree finished the season with only 118 yards and one touchdown on 15 catches.
Look for Goree to make a significant impact for numerous reasons next season. The first and main reason being the offensive mindset of Seth Littrell. Coach Littrell likes to spread the ball out through the air as we've seen during his time at both North Carolina and Indiana. With the Mean Green graduating their leading receiver in Carlos Harris, they will need to find a new player to rely on during crucial situations. Currently, the team only has two receivers returning that caught for more yards than Goree in the 2015 season. If Littrell and the Mean Green can figure out a stable quarterback situation from the beginning of the season, watch out for Goree to make the impact that fans have been waiting for.
Anyone who has watched North Texas football for more than one season would likely not classify Buyers as "under the radar." However, after suffering a back injury prior to the start of the 2015 season, Buyers was forced to sit out for the year.
Buyers was one of the most productive defensive players in the 2013 and 2014 seasons prior to his injury. Along with his athletic ability, Buyers has experience and a leadership ability that will be of great value to one the nation's worst defenses last season. Being a team captain in 2014 and a part of the Heart of Dallas bowl champion 2013 team, Buyers has been through the ups and downs of the program and lived to tell the tale. Adding him back into the mix with key defensive players such as Kishawn McClain and James Gray could be exactly what the Mean Green defense needs to improve next season.