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Three North Texas players that need to have big years

The goal for the Mean Green will be to get back to a bowl game next season, but to do that, a few key players are going to have to have big years.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mean Green football squad lost a bunch of key players to graduation. But life goes on, and if the Mean Green has any hope of winning six games and getting to a bowl game next season, its going to be relying on a bunch of new and old faces to get it there.

Dan McCarney's recruiting class, both with incoming freshmen and transfers, has gotten better with each year he's been at North Texas. This year's class could very well be McCarney's best, but it's just hard to gauge how they'll do once they're actually on the field come game day. That being said, some new faces are going to be important, but most of the Mean Green's success (or failure) will come down to the play of the veterans. There are a few guys the Mean Green will have to rely on, but these are three big ones that come to mind:

1. Andrew McNulty, quarterback: It's almost a guarantee at this point that Andrew McNulty will be the Mean Green's starting quarterback for week one at SMU. Unless JUCO transfer DeMarcus Smith or redshirt sophomore Dajon Williams blow McCarney and the coaching staff away this summer and into the fall, McNulty is the guy. The senior started the final six games of last season and completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,295 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions.

That's about as average as you can get. But, the Mean Green don't need McNulty to be great. Good will suffice. Think Derek Thompson in 2013. During that year, Thompson completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,896 yards with 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, while winning the Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP in the process. The team experimented with a more up-tempo style of offense, which may end up helping McNulty considering he's got guys like Carlos Harris to throw to. There are weapons in this offense that can help McNulty elevate his game.

2. Kaydon Kirby, offensive line: Mason Y'Barbo and Cyril Lemon were both seniors on the offensive line last season, and were key cogs in what the Mean Green did for the past few years. Both are gone now, leaving what was once a veteran offensive line young and inexperienced. But, center Kaydon Kirby will be back for his junior season and will now be one of the leaders of the line. Kirby has started 25 straight games for the Mean Green, including all 13 games during the 2013 bowl season. The line has been arguably the most important part of what the Mean Green want to do on offense. Losing two four-year starters hurts, but having Kirby back in fold helps tremendously.

3. Calvin Minor, linebacker: Zach Orr was a defensive stalwart in 2013 at linebacker, and Derek Akunne did the same last season. Now there's a void on defense again, but the Mean Green might have a young, up-and-coming, linebacker to fill that role for years to come. During his freshman year last season, Calvin Minor had 23 tackles along with 1.5 sacks. He played in 11 games, and ended up with an increased role at the end of the season, starting in the last three games. Part of the reason why Thompson didn't need to be great in 2013 was because of how good his defense was. Minor is going to be part of trying to get the defense back to that level under new defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, and he will surely see an even bigger role than last season.