NCF Nation: Riley Dodge

Now is the time of year when we start hearing about players deciding to transfer for what they hope are better situations. Three non-AQ quarterbacks who started games for their respective schools this season have decided to move on.

Terrance Broadway. He was considered one of Louisiana's top prospects coming out of high school, and he signed with Houston. The plan was to redshirt him this season, but when Case Keenum tore his ACL against UCLA and backup Cotton Turner broke his collarbone, both Broadway and fellow true freshman David Piland were called into action. Broadway came on in relief of Keenum in the UCLA game, and started the following contest against Tulane.

Coach Kevin Sumlin went with Piland the rest of the season, leaving Broadway as the odd man out. After all, Keenum has decided to seek a sixth year of eligibility, and Turner and Piland returned. Broadway has decided to transfer to Louisiana, and is seeking a hardship release so he can play immediately. Louisiana just hired Mark Hudspeth, who is expected to bring more of a spread attack to the Ragin' Cajuns.

Riley Dodge. After several injury plagued seasons, Dodge decided it was time to move on from North Texas. He told the Denton Record-Chronicle that his decision had nothing to do with his father, Todd, being fired as head coach in October. Riley Dodge was moved from quarterback to receiver to begin the season, but had to play quarterback when starter Nathan Tune and backup Derek Thompson got hurt. Dodge ended up getting hurt, too, breaking his wrist in his second start. He returned late in the season, only to injure his neck. It was recurring problems to his throwing arm that sent him to receiver to start. Dodge plans on transferring to an FCS school, and will be eligible to play immediately.

David Isabelle. After winning the starting job at UAB, Isabelle started the season for the Blazers. But he lost his job to Bryan Ellis after two games, and his future seemed unclear. Isabelle did play in spot situations, but a thumb injury forced him to miss five games. With Ellis seemingly entrenched as the starter, Isabelle informed coach Neil Callaway he thought it best to move on. Another quarterback, Emmanuel Taylor, is also transferring.

One other transfer to note for UAB: freshman kicker Josh Zahn. Remember, it was Zahn who missed five field goals in a 32-29 double overtime loss to Tennessee this past season. He finished the season making just 7 of his 17 field goal attempts. Callaway told The Birmingham News that Zahn informed him he was tired of playing football and wanted to move back home to Arizona.

Lunchtime Links

January, 6, 2011
College football is back! Whew! Who you got in the Bowl between Middle Tennessee and Miami (Ohio) tonight? Keep in mind the Sun Belt is 2-0 vs. the MAC in bowl play.

Now on to some links:

Brady Hoke fits the maize and blue print.

Michigan has not contacted San Diego State for permission to speak with Hoke.

TCU has a big party planned to celebrate its football team.

Boise State adds two more to its recruiting class.

Middle Tennessee hopes to cap its late-season surge with a win.

New Miami (Ohio) coach Don Treadwell met with his team for the first time Wednesday.

Vai Taua has matured into a Nevada back.

New Kent State coach Darrell Hazell has hired Purdue assistant Brian Rock as offensive coordinator.

North Texas quarterback Riley Dodge plans to transfer to an FCS school.

Brandon Doman will bring plenty of changes to BYU's offense.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 11, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 6.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/Jeffery WashingtonTCU quarterback Andy Dalton has been outstanding at home this season.
The good: The elite non-AQ teams have done their jobs midway through the season. TCU put together an impressive 45-0 win. Quarterback Andy Dalton, who has been up and down this season, was 14-of-17 for 270 yards with three touchdowns. In three home games this season, Dalton is 50-of-61 (82 percent) for 719 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. … Utah trailed Iowa State 14-10, but then the second quarter started. The Utes outscored the Cyclones 31-0 and have now outscored opponents an eye-popping 101-7 in the second quarter this season. … Bryant Moniz continues his incredible rise. He came to Hawaii as a walk-on last season, and now is leading the country with 2,245 passing yards – the only quarterback with more than 2,000 yards so far this season. Hawaii has the top ranked passing offense in the country. Greg Salas leads the country in receiving yards, and teammate Kealoha Pilares ranks third. … UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe set new school career records for touchdown throws (89), passing yards (11,260) and total offensive yards (11,117).

The bad: Ball State coach Stan Parrish said his team played one of the worst games since he became head coach, in a 45-16 loss to Western Michigan. His team fumbled the opening kickoff, then had an interception returned for a touchdown on the second series. It was downhill from there, with three more turnovers erasing any chance to win. … Utah State had one of its best wins a week ago against BYU, beating its in-state rival 31-16. But the Aggies had their worst game of the season on Saturday in a 24-6 loss to Louisiana Tech. They had just 73 yards passing and 195 total yards of offense, a week after racking up 434 yards of total offense against the Cougars. Coach Gary Andersen said his team is much better at handling adversity than success.

The heartache: FAU fought back from a 12-0 deficit to take a 20-17 lead against ULM. But a fumbled snap gave ULM the ball at its own 45 with 4:51 remaining. Kolton Browning led the team down the field, and Jyruss Edwards ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 2:43 remaining, handing the Owls their fourth straight loss. … New Mexico clung to a 14-13 lead over in-state rival New Mexico State, but Stump Godfrey fumbled late, setting up Tyler Stamper’s 22-yard field goal to win it for the Aggies. New Mexico turned the ball over four times, and leads the nation with 20 turnovers this season. … San Jose State might have lost 35-13 to Nevada, but it was the first game all season where the Spartans didn’t lose a player to a season-ending injury. Those injuries have taken a toll, but so has the brutal start to the season, with games at Alabama, Wisconsin, Utah and Nevada.

A few more helmet stickers: Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch and running back Vai Taua have had excellent back-to-back games. Moch has a combined 18 tackles, eight tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble in the past two games, and Taua has 35 carries for 382 yards and eight total touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving). … Air Force cornerback Reggie Rembert had a season-high seven tackles, an interception, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery in a 49-27 win against Colorado State. … In his first college game, North Texas kicker Zach Olen was perfect on all five of his kicks against Arkansas State, making 4-0f-4 field goals and his only extra-point attempt.

A few injury items to note: Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin is questionable after being carted off the field in a loss to Boise State last week. Dantin took a hard hit following a run in the fourth quarter and was motionless on the field, but coach Tim Beckman said his quarterback was coherent and he was put on a stretcher as a precautionary measure. Terrance Owens would get the nod if Dantin can’t play. … Temple offensive lineman Steve Caputo (leg) is out for the season. Ohio has lost its two best players -- receiver LaVon Brazill (leg) is out for the season, and linebacker Noah Keller (foot) is doubtful to return this season. North Texas quarterback Riley Dodge (wrist) will have a pin inserted in his broken wrist, and the team is hoping he can return as early as Oct. 30 against Western Kentucky.

Week 7 look ahead: There are some really interesting games in the Mountain West and WAC. Nevada is at Hawaii in a matchup of contrasting offenses. The Wolf Pack love to run, the Warriors love to pass. This is going to be a very big test for Nevada, no question. Air Force plays at San Diego State to start a brutal four-game stretch. Following that game, the Falcons are at TCU, home to Utah then at Army. BYU is at TCU, and there might not be any love lost here. TCU coach Gary Patterson was critical of the Cougars’ move to go independent before the season started.

What to watch from non-AQs: Week 6

October, 7, 2010
Hot off the Internet stratosphere, we bring you our Top 10 non-AQ story lines for the week:

1. Does Boise State need to win 100-0 to get a little respect around here? The Broncos get Toledo this week in yet another game that is not going to win them any converts. The big question as the season rolls on is whether they continue to slide because of the level of competition. They already moved down one spot after Oregon beat Stanford, and they beat New Mexico, ahem, 59-0. This is going to be a continuing storyline, and one that is sure to grow more polarizing should Boise State continue to win.

2. Ditto for TCU. The Horned Frogs have not put up huge winning margins, either, beating SMU 41-24 and a pretty bad Colorado State team 27-0 last week. They led just 6-0 at halftime, and quarterback Andy Dalton struggled to get much going in the passing game. This week they get Wyoming at home. Coach Gary Patterson is not much interested in style points. Talk to him about winning games.

3. How big a test does No. 10 Utah face at Iowa State? Huge. The Utes have beaten up on some bottom feeders. Their four opponents so far have a combined record of 4-15. Yikes. But what those contests have done is allow a young defense to find its chemistry and come together. The unit is playing very well, particularly the front seven. Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud is the best player they have faced so far, so Utah better be up for the challenge.

4. How does BYU respond after losing four straight? No question the Cougars are at a crossroads, off to their worst start since 1973. Coach Bronco Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jamie Hill and said he wants to take a more active role. It might be a little too late for that with back-to-back games against San Diego State and TCU facing his already beleaguered squad.

5. Chad Spann vs. Matt Brown/Bernard Pierce. OK so the running backs technically do not go against each other, but they headline the matchup between Temple and Northern Illinois. Spann leads the Huskies ground attack and the MAC in rushing. Brown had 224 yards last week for Temple in place of Pierce. Whether the star Owls back plays is a question. He is still nursing a sprained ankle. But there is no doubt this is an early preview of a potential MAC title game.

6. Will we ever see the Ricky Dobbs of old? Maybe against a Wake Forest run defense that is not very good. But how Dobbs plays will really determine how Navy does this season. So far, the answer is mediocre on both accounts. Dobbs has been hobbled with ankle and groin injuries and is averaging just 2.4 yards a carry. There are some in Annapolis who believe he is not as explosive as he was in 2009, when he set the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 27.

7. Will Houston become more of a rushing team? The Cougars have the capability with Bryce Beall, who is tied for the national lead with nine touchdowns on the ground. Coach Kevin Sumlin hasn’t announced whether Terrance Broadway or David Piland will start against Mississippi State, but there is no question with two true freshmen quarterbacks they will have to rely more on the running game.

8. What else can go wrong for North Texas? The Mean Green are down to their fourth starting quarterback after injuries have taken down Nathan Tune, Derek Thompson and now Riley Dodge. Chase Blaine will make his first career start against Arkansas State. Receiver Tyler Stradford is out after a freak accident, too, and the team has lost upwards of 10 starters because of injuries. But the most tragic of all – the team is still reeling from the death of walk-on receiver Josh Rake following a car accident.

9. Bad football lives here. As in, the entire state of New Mexico, FIU and Western Kentucky. But hey, at least two of those teams will notch their first wins this week. New Mexico and New Mexico State play each other, and Sun Belt rivals FIU and Western Kentucky also play. These are can’t-miss games for anybody interested in football futility.

10. Is Air Force the marquee program in Colorado? It is an excellent question now that the Falcons are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time under coach Troy Calhoun. They play Mountain West foe Colorado State on Saturday, but it appears Air Force is on top of the college football mountain in the state – even after Colorado’s big win against lowly Georgia.

Lunchtime Links

October, 6, 2010
Troy beat Middle Tennessee 42-13 on Tuesday night. Who wants a little more mid-week football? UAB-UCF is on tap tonight.

Now on to some links:

Middle Tennessee defensive tackle Dwight Smith played with a heavy heart, after losing his mother and grandmother in the last week.

The Boise State defensive line is dominating.

Back-to-back shutouts for TCU would show some style.

SMU linebacker Ja'Gared Davis has become a big hit in the 3-4 defense.

Chase Blaine will make his first collegiate start Saturday for North Texas, but Riley Dodge is putting off surgery on his broken wrist and could be available as a backup.

New Mexico State could be without starting quarterback Matt Christian on Saturday because of a shoulder injury.

Is Temple-Northern Illinois a MAC title game preview?

Navy RT Matt Molloy is out for the season after sustaining another concussion last week against Air Force.

Marshall has struggled with the new spread offense.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 4, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 4.

The good: Air Force is ranked for the first time under coach Troy Calhoun, joining the AP poll at No. 25 after its big 14-6 win against Navy. There are now five non-AQ teams ranked and three in the Top 10, with Boise State at No. 4, TCU at No. 5 and Utah at No. 10.

Miami of Ohio (3-2) is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2007. The Red Hawks are one of the youngest teams in the country. Coach Mike Haywood estimates he had between 45 and 48 true freshmen, redshirt freshman and sophomores on his 65-man roster in its 27-21 win against Kent State last Saturday. “When you have a young team you don’t take anything,” Haywood said.

[+] EnlargeGary Anderson
AP Photo/Jim UrquhartCoach Gary Andersen and Utah State have reason to be excited after beating BYU.
Utah State beat BYU for the first time since 1993, and even though BYU is down, coach Gary Andersen will take it. Fans stormed the field afterward, and he said the victory is a huge boost for recruiting and fan support for the Aggies. “For us to get a win over BYU is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz keeps putting up video game numbers for the Warriors. Hawaii is No. 1 in the country in passing offense, averaging 431 yards per game. Moniz had a career-high 532 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-21 win over Louisiana Tech last Saturday. He has over 300 yards passing in all his games but the opener against USC. That is because he left the game in the third quarter with a head injury.

The bad: Meanwhile, the Cougars dropped to 1-4 for the first time since 1973, and fired defensive coordinator Jamie Hill over the weekend. Coach Bronco Mendenhall will resume his coaching duties. BYU has been unable to do anything on offense and defense this season. BYU ranks No. 96 in total offense and No. 101 in total defense. The Cougars are also last in the country in rushing defense, giving up an average of 259 yards a game. Hill told the Deseret News he was surprised the decision came in the middle of the season, but one former player said Hill had some personality conflicts with players.

None of the six non-AQ winless teams won this past weekend. Western Kentucky was idle, but Eastern Michigan, Akron, FIU, New Mexico State and New Mexico all lost.

The heartache: You have got to feel for North Texas, which played Louisiana a day after freshman walk-on wide receiver Josh Rake died from injuries sustained in a car accident. This had already been a tough season, losing 10 starters to injury. Before Rake died, receiver Tyler Stradford got hurt when he tried to run from a pit bull at his apartment complex. Stradford leaped over a fence but landed on a lawn chair and had a bar stuck four inches into his chest, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.

North Texas came back from a 28-14 fourth-quarter deficit, scoring with 31 seconds left to make it 28-27. But the extra point attempt was blocked, and Louisiana won. The Mean Green have now lost eight games by seven points or less in the last two seasons. Now comes word that starting quarterback Riley Dodge has a fractured wrist and may require surgery, the third starting quarterback to get hurt for North Texas this season. Coach Todd Dodge is now preparing Chase Blaine to start.

A few more helmet stickers: Hawaii WR Kealoha Pilares set a new school record with 18 catches against Louisiana Tech, passing the previous mark of 16 set by Greg Salas last year against New Mexico State. Pilares also finished with a career-high 217 receiving yards, the seventh best performance in school history. … Arkansas State LB Javon McKinnon recorded a career-high 16 tackles against Louisville. … Ball State DE Robert Eddins had a career-high 4.5 sacks and seven total tackles in Ball State's 31-17 win at Central Michigan.

A few injury items to note: Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury, and coach Dave Clawson sounded unsure whether his player would be able to go at Ohio on Saturday. Schilz hasn’t thrown since last Wednesday. If he can’t go this week, Clawson said he would open up the quarterback competition. Aaron Pankratz went 12-of-37 for 167 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in a loss to Buffalo. … Ohio WR LaVonn Brazill has a broken hand and is out. … Central Michigan linebacker Nick Bellore (ankle) is day to day. ... Utah State RB Michael Smith (turf toe) is out indefinitely and Andersen said he would see whether Smith is eligible for a medical redshirt.

Week 6 look ahead: Plenty of big conference games this week. It starts Tuesday night with Troy at Middle Tennessee in the return of Blue Raiders quarterback Dwight Dasher. On Wednesday, UAB travels to UCF. The Blazers have had three of their games come down to the final play, losing two. Big MAC showdown between Temple and Northern Illinois. San Diego State travels to BYU, and there also is the winless bowl: New Mexico against New Mexico State. Someone has to win. Right?

UNT QB Dodge moves to receiver

April, 6, 2010
North Texas quarterback Riley Dodge is moving to receiver.

Dodge, who was the starting quarterback last season, has had reoccurring problems with his throwing arm and thought this would be the best move to help the team.

UNT coach Todd Dodge told that the decision was made after an MRI this week revealed damage to the ulnar nerve.

Riley Dodge, the coach’s son, suffered a third-degree separation of his right shoulder on the final play of his high school career in 2007 and broke his right forearm during North Texas’ 2009 season finale against Arkansas State.

Senior Nathan Tune and sophomore Derek Thompson will compete for the starting quarterback position.

Todd Dodge entered the spring season knowing that it might be his last if he doesn’t produce a winning campaign. The Mean Green have won just five games in Todd Dodge’s three seasons. But Dodge came into spring practices optimistic since he returned 19 players with starting experience and felt like there was finally some continuity within his team. He was especially excited about his receiving corps, which returned its top six receivers.

Riley Dodge played receiver during his first season at UNT and caught nine passes for 59 yards. He suffered a concussion during the fourth game and received a medical redshirt.

Both Tune and Thompson have game experience. Tune completed 69 of 107 passes for 646 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions in six games as the backup last season.

Thompson had his redshirt pulled in the final game of last season when both Dodge and Tune were injured. He completed all three of his passes for 60 yards and a score.
North Texas coach Todd Dodge knew after the final game of the 2009 regular season that he’d be retained for another year, but the leash wasn’t going to get longer than that.

Nelson Chenault/US PresswireNorth Texas coach Todd Dodge needs the Mean Green to break through this year to keep his job.
In three years as the head coach of the Mean Green, Dodge has won just five games. But last year, the Mean Green were as competitive as they've ever been under Dodge. Six of UNT’s 10 losses were by seven or fewer points and five of those losses were by four or fewer points. North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal saw the progress, which prompted him to keep Dodge on board, but Dodge knows he needs to show major progress to stay beyond 2010.

“It’s a deal right now that we’ve got to win football games,” Dodge said. “I don’t believe that four or five wins is going to get it done. It’s going to take six or seven wins to get it done. That’s something that’s been explained to me, but it’s also something that before it was ever explained, that’s an expectation that I and my coaching staff and my players have. You can call it under the gun or whatever it might be, and that’s fine. I don’t mind working under that situation. It’s a motivation. It’s a challenge. We kind of know what we’ve got to get done.”

Dodge acknowledges he thought his team could win six games in 2009 and, after beating Ball State to start the season, that belief became even stronger. But then things started to unravel. The Mean Green lost by a point in overtime to Ohio and then were blown out by Alabama. They lost six straight after that initial win and even though they beat Western Kentucky in that eighth game, Dodge knew the season was slipping away.

Dodge can point to a moment in each of the Mean Green’s losses last year that the game changed -- a defensive penalty here, an offensive penalty there, all moments that turned a potential win into a loss.

“It was the mistakes in crucial situations in the ball game,” Dodge said. “When you lose, literally our last three were all by four points. That’s the thing we’re really focusing on this offseason. We’ve got to do a great job of identifying what our problems were, make sure we don’t turn a blind eye to them, and grind through the offseason becoming a more disciplined team. You can shake it out any way you want, but we’ve got to be a more disciplined team in crucial situations for four quarters.”

Despite the lack of success, Dodge heads into this spring with confidence. He returns 19 players with starting experience and he said this is the first time he’s had the kind of continuity he's needed to build a winning squad. Both UNT’s quarterback, Riley Dodge, and star running back, Lance Dunbar, return, as do the team’s top six receivers. He also brought in former South Florida offensive coordinator Mike Canales to help with the offense.

Defensively, most of the top players return and while that's been a weak side of the ball for the Mean Green, Dodge saw them get better as the season progressed.

But what gives Dodge the most hope heading into 2010 is that through everything, he never lost his team. He never thought they stopped playing or gave up. Unlike in past years, Dodge has several good moments to point out that his team can build on and that’s his plan as he heads into this pivotal year.

“When you get down the stretch and you haven’t won any games you feel you should have, there is a tendency late in the year for the attitudes to head south and that kind of stuff,” Dodge said. “There was none of that. The difference in our football team obviously wasn’t in the wins from 2008 to 2009, but the expectation. With the exception of the Alabama game, the Monroe game and the Troy game, the other nine, we were right in the hunt in all those.

“Again, I can go back in any of those losses and pick out about four plays and they were the difference makers. And what we’ve got to do as a football team is turn those four or five difference-making plays into positives in our favor.”
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Arkansas State Red Wolves
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
  • Three-time All-Sun Belt rusher Reggie Arnold is gone and finding his replacement will be their top priority. Derek Lawson, who was third on the team in rushing with 244 yards and two touchdowns, returns and he’ll be the incumbent through spring. But he’ll face competition from Sir Gregory Thornton and Frankie Jackson in the fall.
  • Ryan Aplin, who started three of the final four games last season, should be the leading quarterback this spring. Redshirt freshman Phillip Butterfield, however, will also challenge him for the spot. Butterfield was in the mix last fall camp before his season ended with a knee injury.
  • Arkansas State is currently without an offensive coordinator after Clay Helton, who came over from Memphis last month, left for USC last week. The Red Wolves still have a month before spring football starts, but trying to fill that void this late is going to make any transition to a new offense tough.
Florida Atlantic Owls
Spring practice starts: March 31
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
  • The Owls lost seven starters from the offense, including four from the offensive line. The only player returning is center Ryan Wischnefski. Several players will be fighting for those spots, including Troy Niblack, Samuel McRoy, Jared Pizzuti and Max Karrick. The 2009 FAU offensive line was the best in the program’s short history. It helped FAU become the No. 2 passing offense in the Sun Belt.
  • FAU returns senior quarterback Jeff Van Camp, who started the second half of the season after Rusty Smith was injured. But six of the team’s top seven receivers are gone, including both tight ends Jason Harmon and Jamari Grant. Senior Lester Jean is the lone returning receiver. He had 501 yards and four touchdowns last season. The good thing is that FAU quarterbacks like to spread the ball around, so developing a new rapport with some receivers this spring shouldn’t be too difficult.
  • The team is counting on new defensive coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh and secondary coach Dick Hopkins to make the defense competitive. The Owls had one of the worst defenses in the country and one of the worst in program history. There will be a lot of competition in the secondary, especially since three walk-ons filled those starting roles.
Florida International Golden Panthers
Spring practice starts: March 3
Spring game: April 1
What to watch:
  • Senior Wayne Younger and junior transfer Wesley Carroll, who came from Mississippi State where he was an all-freshman selection in 2008, will compete for the starting quarterback job after Paul McCall graduated. Younger played in spot time last year and threw four interceptions and no touchdowns.
  • Darriet Perry should be the leader heading into the running back competition, but Perry struggled at times last year, mostly because of injuries. Kendall Berry, who played out of the Wildcat last year, and Syracuse transfer Jeremiah Harden also will compete for the starting role.
  • New offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield will be happy to see star receiver T.Y. Hilton back after he struggled with knee injuries most of last year. Hilton is one of the most dynamic receivers in the conference and having him healthy should give the offense confidence.

(Read full post)

UNT hires Canales to help offense

January, 29, 2010
North Texas announced today that Mike Canales has been hired as the new offensive coordinator. Canales had been the offensive coordinator at South Florida, but was not retained by new head coach Skip Holtz.

In his five seasons at South Florida, Canales turned the Bulls into one of the most offensively proficient teams in the country. In 2008, South Florida led the Big East Conference in scoring and ranked second in total offense.

Bringing in Canales for what could be Dodge’s final season is a pivotal move. Since Dodge took the job in 2006, he’s been running a similar spread attack to the one he ran at Southlake Carroll High School in Texas. While the system was wildly successful in the high school ranks and even has produced some of the country’s better collegiate quarterbacking talent, it hasn’t translated into many wins for the Mean Green.

In three seasons with the Mean Green, Dodge is 5-31. He inherited a program that was already down in terms of recruiting, and he’s still getting the leftovers from the six other FBS programs in the state, including SMU, which has recruited much better under coach June Jones.

Canales will have some talent with which to work. Quarterback Riley Dodge ranked 38th in the country in total offense. He also showed the ability to be a quality dual-threat. Running back Lance Dunbar really made a name for himself last year as the No. 14 rusher in the country. He had eight 100-yard games and two 200-yard games. He finished with 200 carries for 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Mean Green also return their top three receivers in Jamaal Jackson, Darius Carey and Michael Outlaw.

However, the biggest area North Texas needs to address in order to become a player in the offensively potent Sun Belt Conference is defense. The Mean Green have had one of the worst defenses in the country during Dodge’s tenure and that’s been the thing that has held the team back. It ranked 104th against the run and 112th nationally in scoring defense. The Mean Green couldn’t get to opposing quarterbacks, ranking 116th in the country in sacks.

One of the things North Texas has done the past couple of seasons is scour the junior college ranks for immediate defensive help. In this year’s class alone, Dodge signed five junior college players and all of them are on the defensive side of the ball. All five also will be available for spring football.

Dodge was on the hot seat heading into the 2009 season, but was spared despite a 2-10 record. However, he’ll need to show progress this season. North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal said in December when he decided to keep Dodge for another year that he saw enough progress during the 2-10 campaign to convince him the program was headed in the right direction, but that the results needed to start showing on the scoreboard.
Posted by’s Graham Watson

Middle Tennessee isn’t reveling in last week’s win over Maryland.

While it showed great effort to come from behind and hit the game-winning field goal for the 32-31 win, the Blue Raiders learned last year that one great win doesn’t make a season.

Last year, Middle Tennessee defeated Maryland 24-14 and finished the season 5-7.

“We talked to our team about not being complacent,” coach Rick Stockstill said during his Tuesday press conference. “We are not good enough to be complacent. We made enough mistakes against Maryland to last for a long time. We have to get those mistakes corrected. I like the attitude from our team and the attitude from our upperclassmen. I do not see them cakewalking through this week of practice and expecting to win.”

Middle Tennessee opens Sun Belt Conference play this week against a North Texas team than is better than the Blue Raiders have seen in past years. The Mean Green are 1-2, but one of those losses came in overtime and the other was to No. 4 Alabama. They rank first in the conference in pass defense, which will test the Blue Raiders’ spread passing scheme that ranks 18th in the country. Although North Texas’ offense isn’t as potent as it has been in the past, especially with starting quarterback Riley Dodge nursing a separated shoulder, it still has the playmakers and scheme to put points up in conference play.

“We have played other teams that spread the field and throw a lot and it has been a close game,” Stockstill said. “A lot depends on the defenses and how they are playing and the pressure they apply to the quarterback. You hope it is not a shoot out. You hope our defense plays well and we score a lot of points, but we are prepared for that.”

Middle Tennessee is one of two teams in the Sun Belt with a winning record. It and Louisiana-Lafayette both defeated automatic qualifying teams to get to that point and both have asserted themselves as teams to be reckoned with in the conference.

While much of the preseason focus was on teams such as Troy, Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State, the Blue Raiders and Ragin’ Cajuns have been carrying the banner for the conference through the first few weeks.

But with Sun Belt play starting and one guaranteed bowl spot given to the winner of the conference, what each team did in the nonconference doesn’t really matter.

“We are one game at a time,” Stockstill said. “That is our goal, to win conference games. This is the first one. The Maryland game is in the past. Once we watched film that was it. We have not talked about that game since. We are focused on North Texas and will be ready for those guys. That is the most important game on our schedule right now.”

Posted by’s Graham Watson

Non-AQ helmet stickers: Week 1

September, 6, 2009

Posted by’s Graham Watson

Max Hall, QB, BYU: BYU’s embattled quarterback completed 9 of 10 passes on the final series and led his team 78 yards on the game-winning drive in the Cougars' 14-13 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma.

Joe Webb, QB, UAB: Completed 12 of 15 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 20 times for 194 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-24 win over conference foe Rice.

Charles Sims, WR, Houston: In his first collegiate game, Sims caught six passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in a 55-7 win over Northwestern State.

Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy: Completed 9-of-13 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns against No. 6 Ohio State.

Riley Dodge, QB, North Texas: Completed 23-of-33 passes for 216 yards and rushed for 73 yards to give North Texas a 20-10 win in his first collegiate start at quarterback.

Rock Dennis, S, SMU: Had two interceptions, a fumble recovery and eight tackles in SMU’s season opening win against Stephen F. Austin. It was SMU’s first win in a season opener since 2000.

Because I have so many players to cover, I added an others receiving votes category:

David Reed, WR, Utah: Had 10 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown in a 35-17 win over Utah State.

Cody Slate, TE, Marshall: Caught nine passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns to surpass former Marshall tight end Sean Doctor for the most receiving yards by a tight end in Marshall Football history.

Boise State’s defense: Held No. 16 Oregon to 152 yards of total offense, including no first downs in the first half, and forced two turnovers en route to a 19-8 Boise State win.

Robert Turbin, QB, Utah State: His 96-yard TD rush set a school-record for longest rushing play and tied the longest offensive play in school history.

Stephen Williams, WR, Toledo: Had 15 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns, but the Rockets fell 52-31 to Purdue.
Posted by’s Graham Watson

Links that don't have anything to do with Oregon or Boise State.
Posted by's Graham Watson

1. Offensive player of the year: Rusty Smith, QB, FAU -- Smith had a tough go last year, but said he's healthy and free of distractions this season. He has several weapons that could make the Owls one of the most dangerous offenses in the country.

2. Co-defensive players of the year: Brandon Lang, DE, Troy and Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas State -- These players put up similar numbers as juniors last season and are in line to have similar success for their senior campaigns. Look for both players to be at the top of the conference in sacks and tackles for loss.

3. Newcomer of the year: Dudley LaPorte, TE, FIU -- It took awhile for LaPorte, a transfer from Santa Barbra City College, to find an FBS team, but he'll definitely help out an FIU offense that's looking for more playmakers. LaPorte was the nation's top junior college tight end last season.

4. Comeback player of the year: Jason Harmon, TE, Florida Atlantic -- Harmon was a first team all-conference selection in 2007 after amassing 63 catches for 825 yards and five touchdowns. But he suffered a knee injury during 2008 spring practice and missed all of last season.

5. Freshman of the year Josh Jarboe, WR, Troy -- Jarboe is still working his way up the depth chart, but teammates say he's putting in the work, coming along and should be a factor in the offense. If Jarboe lives up to the hype, he could be one of the most dangerous players in the league.

6. Most exciting player: T.Y. Hilton, WR, FIU -- Hilton opened eyes last year as a freshman with the first 1,000-yard receiving season in FIU history. He also was one of the top kick returners in the country.

7. Coach of the year: Larry Blakeney, Troy -- The Trojans could make Sun Belt history by winning their fourth consecutive conference title. Only North Texas can claim a similar feat. The Trojans return several of their key playmakers on both offense and defense.

8. Game of the year: Florida Atlantic at Troy, Nov. 21 --
This game should decide the Sun Belt title since both teams are poised to be tops in the conference. In the past two seasons, the winner has gone on to win the conference title.

9. Surprise team of the year: North Texas -- Coach Todd Dodge has yet to live up to the reputation he made in the high school ranks, but with his son Riley leading the team at quarterback, the Mean Green might be poised for a big season. All the team needs is some defense.

10. Team that will disappoint: Arkansas State -- Quarterback Corey Leonard has accomplished a lot during his time with the Red Wolves, but he's the lone heralded senior quarterback without a conference title. The Red Wolves have the players to vie for a conference championship, but they'll fall short against FAU and Troy.