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Lot of change for North Texas after breakthrough

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 14, 2014 at 5:54 pm •  Published: August 14, 2014

DENTON, Texas (AP) — North Texas made a big breakthrough last season winning nine games, including a bowl on New Year's Day.

Now comes a significant test for coach Dan McCarney and the Mean Green after their first winning record in nine seasons. They will be trying to do it again while replacing so many starters.

"It's fun, it's exciting, it's nerve-wracking when you have so many guys that you don't know who your best guy's going to be, don't know who your starters are going to be," McCarney said.

Four of the Mean Green's five returning offensive starters are linemen, three of them seniors with at least 34 career starts. That means all those new starters at the skill positions should be well-protected.

Linebacker Derek Akunne and three players in the secondary account for the four returning defensive starters.

"We've tried to build in our program, and embed it in the culture of this program, expect to win, believe you can win, regardless of who's back, who's not back, who started, who didn't start, who played, didn't play," McCarney said. "Regardless of all that stuff ... it's a culture of trust, it's a culture of leadership and it's a culture of expectations to win, and we have to build on that every day."

North Texas is 18-19 in three seasons under McCarney, a drastic improvement from the 13-58 record the six years before that.

Here are five things to watch this season for North Texas, which won seven of its last eight games in 2013, and capped its first Conference USA season winning the Heart of Dallas Bowl:

TAKING SNAPS: The leading candidates to replace graduated quarterback Derek Thompson are junior Andrew McNulty and sophomore Josh Greer, a junior college transfer. McCarney calls them "two of the smartest guys that I've been around in a long time. They're really smart, they grasp the offense, they understand what we have to do on offense."

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