Kemon Hall and Nate Brooks don’t expect respect.
The North Texas cornerbacks talked about their early season success Tuesday during the Mean Green’s media availability. As quarterback Mason Fine stood at the podium, surrounded by reporters asking questions, Hall and Brooks were deep in a hallway of North Texas Athletic Center talking to only one reporter.
Fine is getting more attention than any other player on the UNT roster, and rightfully so, but yet possibly the best tandem in the country is going seemingly unnoticed. Even by opposing teams.
Hall and Brooks, as well as teammate and safety Khairi Muhammad, are tied for the second most interceptions in the nation with three. It was a category Hall and Brooks led together last week.
The tally has the three averaging almost an interception apiece every game; a feat they believe is possible to achieve.
“We gonna get our chances to every game,” Brooks said. “It’s obvious no one respects us. Liberty came out with what, 10 double moves trying to throw over the top of us? Arkansas came out 15 deep passes. Nobody respects us so we gonna get our chance with picks. We just gotta make the plays and do our job.”
But surely if they keep up this pace that respect will come eventually, right?
“Ah hell no,” Brooks said. “Every week it’s gonna be, ‘They got lucky.’ That’s how we see it.
“Week 5, Week 14, whatever. Ain’t nobody gonna respect us.”
Hall started the interception streak with a pick-6 against SMU in the first game of the season. Both had interceptions the next two weeks, with Brooks pulling in two against Arkansas. For the first time all season, neither recorded an interception last week against Liberty, but Muhammad still continued UNT’s run with an interception of his own. He also had two against Arkansas the week before.
“It’s a little competitive,” Brooks said. “It ain’t nothing too crazy, like nobody hating on nobody, but, yeah, it’s a little friendly competition.”
Brooks, Hall and Muhammad have contributed to all but one of the Mean Green’s 10 interceptions this season, which leads the country. UNT has already surpassed last season’s total of eight picks in about 1/3 the time.
“It’s the mental aspect of the game,” Muhammad said. “People are getting in the right spots, making the plays that come to them, not getting too greedy, keeping their eyes on their work. Everybody is playing as one, and everybody on this defense trusts each other.”
Said Brooks: “We’re smart. We know better football. We understand situations better. We understand the defense better, the scheme. We’re like three years, two years into this.”
Hall and Brooks are seniors and returning starters at the corners. Muhammad, a junior, started in every game last season at safety. The three combined for 36 starts last season, with Brooks appearing in 12 games but starting in only eight.
But the game experience might not be the biggest asset in the unit’s improvement, considering they compete against reigning Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year Mason Fine and a stellar receiving core every day at practice.
“It’s competitive,” Brooks said. “Those are some of the best receivers in the country. We’re getting our work day in, day out.”
So that means UNT’s secondary is improving every day. And it seems as if one is getting better they all are. If one gets an interception in a game, another is surely likely to, as well. But that’s how they do everything, from improving, to eating lunch together.
“We all move in like one little unit,” Hall said. “You stay together.”