North Texas head coach Seth Littrell knows he can send only one guy out to start the Mean Green’s season opener at running back, but as of Tuesday, there were still two options for who that could be.
UNT released its first two-deep depth chart of the season Tuesday before its season opener against SMU at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Apogee Stadium. The only ‘OR’ listed among the offensive starters was between Nic Smith and Loren Easly for the top spot at running back.
Smith, a sophomore, rushed 138 times last season for 684 yards and six touchdowns as a backup. Easly, a redshirt-junior, sat out last season after transferring from Stephen F. Austin.
DeAndre Torrey and Evan Johnson, both sophomores, are listed as backups on the depth chart, respectively, behind Smith and Easly.
“I’ve said it all along, I feel good about our running back group,” Littrell said. “(Running backs) coach (Tashard) Choice has done a great job coaching them. I feel like we’ve got a lot of depth and guys that can, any given game, have really big games.
“Someone’s obviously gonna have to go out there first and start the game. It depends on what kind of rhythm we have and kinda how the game’s going-- depending on how much we sub-- how many guys get reps.”
Whoever carries the ball for the Mean Green this season will have the task of filling Jeffery Wilson’s role. Wilson is now competing for a roster spot with the San Francisco 49ers after rushing for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
“Look, they know, they understand that they’re having to overcome a very good football player in Jeffery Wilson,” Littrell said. “But at the end of the day, they embrace that, they’re excited about the opportunities that they have. I think they’re gonna be a special group.”
As for the rest of the depth chart, UNT is set on its offensive line starters with Elex Woodworth (LT), Thomas Preston III (LG), Sosaia Mose (C), Manase Mose (RG) and Riley Mayfield (RT).
For the stacked receiving group, Rico Bussey Jr. will start at X with Michael Lawrence at Y, Jalen Guyton at Z and Jaelon Darden at A. Mason Fine will throw to them with Quinn Shanbour backing him up.
The defense will be held down with Roderick Young (DE), Ulaisi Tauaalo (NT) and LaDarius Hamilton (DE) starting up front. Nickelback Tyreke Davis, as well as linebackers Brandon Garner (MLB) and E.J. Ejiya (WLB) will be next in line. The Jack position is the only defensive position still without a solidified starter, as Joe Ozougwu or Jamie King could get the nod there.
Taylor Robinson and Khairi Muhammad will be the last line of defense at safety.
On special teams, graduate transfer Cole Hedlund will start at kicker, with Zach Williams taking care of kickoff duties. Either Alvin Kenworthy or Christian Cole will start at punter.