Dallas Colleges: Esteban Santiago
Senior linebacker Craig Robertson, junior running back Lance Dunbar and senior offensive linemen Victor Gill and Esteban Santiago were all voted to the first team by Sun Belt head coaches and media.
Only Sun Belt Conference regular-season champion Florida International had more players named to the first team with six. This is also the most players North Texas has placed on the Sun Belt first team since 2004 when it had seven.
North Texas needs to win at least seven games to save coach Todd Dodge's job.
"All of us that grind here day in and day out, we realize that," Dodge said. "But that’s not our motivating factor, to save each other's jobs. It's just to get us all where we think that we can be. If we do hit on the goals that we've set for ourselves, it would be about the most excited group of players and coaches that anybody's ever hosted at a bowl game."
A glance at the Mean Green:
2009 record: 2-10 (eighth in Sun Belt)
Starters returning: 19
Offensive starters returning: 9
Defensive starters returning: 10
Key offensive returners: RB Lance Dunbar rushed for 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns despite starting just the last eight games of the season. He averaged 6.9 yards per carry, which ranked second in the nation among backs with at least 200 carries. His 19 total touchdowns ranked seventh in the nation. … RT Esteban Santiago is one of four offensive linemen who have at least two seasons of starting experience. The 6-3, 285-pound Santiago, a second-team All-Sun Belt selection, has 35 career starts. … UNT's top six receivers return, led by Jamaal Jackson (71 catches, 701 yards, six TDs).
Will be missed: Riley Dodge is still on the team, but arm problems prevented him from continuing his career as the Mean Green’s starting quarterback. He'll play receiver and take about 10 to 12 snaps per game as a Wildcat quarterback.
Key defensive returners: LB Craig Robertson led the team with 107 tackles last season. He has eight career interceptions. … Safety DaWaylon Cook ranked second on the team with 85 tackles. He had two fumble recoveries. … CB Royce Hill had three of UNT's seven interceptions last season. … DE Brandon Akpunku bulked up 15 pounds to 240 after leading the Mean Green with 11.5 tackles for losses and six sacks last season.
Will be missed: MLB Tobe Nwigwe’s injury midway through the season was a devastating blow to the defense. He ranked third on the team with 57 tackles as a senior despite playing only six games.
On the rise: Transfers Christopher Bynes (Coffeyville CC) and Tyler Stradford (Oklahoma) step in as starting receivers despite the depth at that position. … Redshirt senior Nathan Tune takes over as the starting quarterback. He completed 69 of 107 passes for 646 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions last season.
Toughest schedule stretch: Sept. 4 at Clemson; Sept. 11 vs. Rice; Sept. 18 at Army.
By the numbers
5: Blown leads in the fourth quarter in 2009
7: Consecutive years in which the Mean Green opened the season with a different starting quarterback
58: Years of playing in Fouts Field, which will be replaced by a new $78 million stadium next season
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