For Idaho the game marks the start of a new era, as first year head coach Paul Petrino and his staff work to navigate Idaho through its upcoming season as an FBS Independent. With the new coaching staff comes a largely overhauled Idaho roster and depth chart, and all indications are that the Vandals will be led by redshirt freshman and north Idaho native Chad Chalich under center. Offensively Idaho will be aiming at being more explosive as they unveil a new, up-tempo offensive attack.
Defensively, behind what should be a solid Vandal defensive line led by standout ends Maxx Forde (6-4, 256, Jr) and Texas-native Quinton Bradley (6-3, 238, Soph) and featuring a robust rotation, Idaho's rebuilt linebacking corps and much of the defensive backfield will get their first taste of FBS football.
Below is a brief introduction to the Mean Green team the Vandals will meet this weekend.
BUT FIRST, A PEEK INSIDE THE KIBBIE DOME: Although Idaho won't be playing a home game until September 14th (when MAC Champion Northern Illinois returns to Moscow), we'll take a quick second to highlight a major facelift that happened inside the Dome this off-season. In addition to the new-look Vandal football team, Idaho's home field underwent a noticeable make-over as well with the installation of a new 30-foot x 50-foot video board on the east wall of the facility. Below are images taken during last Friday afternoon's mock game in the Dome, giving a relative comparison between the old and new boards, and showing what the new display will look like from the stands. The first image shows the old (smaller) video screen in its new location overlooking the west endzone.
|A look at the west end of the stadium, where the old video board has been moved just to the right of the goal posts.|
A look at the east end of the stadium, where the new dramatically larger video board hangs just above the goal posts. There is a small dot between the uprights showing a field goal kicked by Austin Rehkow from last Friday's mock game. Note also that the display was turned off for the field goal attempt.|
The high definition quality of the display, in addition to the massive change in size, dramatically changes the game experience in the dome for fans. The image above was taken during Friday's mock game.|
Looking back at the field from the east endzone.|
A LOOK AT NORTH TEXAS: The Mean Green make the move to Conference-USA this fall, an invitation that came on the heels of constructing their brand new home field, the 30,850 seat Apogee Stadium. Head coach Dan McCarney is 9-15 in two seasons at UNT, and is coming off a 4-8 (3-5 Sun Belt) season last year. McCarney took over a Mean Green program that was in total disarray following the disasterous four-year coaching career former high school coach Todd Dodge. In the words of Brett Vito, "McCarney has pulled UNT out of the ditch and put it back on a path to respectability."
North Texas hasn't finished with a winning record since 2004 (following a four-year run at the top of the Sun Belt Conference), a frustrating point to a fanbase that expects more. But McCarney returns eight starters on offense and eight on the defensive side of the ball, so the Mean Green shouldn't be hurting for experience this fall.
The University of North Texas recently completed their brand new 30,850 seat stadium, Apogee Stadium (old Fouts Field is visible in the background).|
The Mean Green will be kicking off the celebration of their 100th season as a program this year when the Vandals roll into town for the season opener. Among the returners are a host of seniors in leadership roles all around.
Defensively, senior inside linebacker Zach Orr is the heart of this unit and is coming off a 108 tackle, two pick season. But this fall Orr and the Mean Green will be looking to shore up a defense that struggled late in the year, allowing at least 37 points in three of its final five games. Among the players expected to help Orr turn the Mean Green defense around is senior defensive end Aaron Bellazin (6-2, 244), who recorded nine tackles for loss and five sacks in 2012. Also back this fall is the entire Mean Green secondary,
Offensively, Thompson is going into his third season as the starter after throwing for 2,649 yards last fall, but the offense averaged 20.9 points per game while Thompson threw as many picks (14) as he did touchdown passes (14). McCarney and his staff have run a fairly conservative offense the last couple years, but it is expected to be opened up a bit this fall. But how much the UNT offensive attack improves this fall has much to do with who is under center, and word on the street is that Thompson is getting pushed mightily by Kansas transfer Brock Berglund for the starting nod.
The Dallas Morning News identified three transfers expected to make an impact this fall: tightend Chris Loving (6-4, 272, Jr) from Junior College, wide receiver Darius Terrell (6-3, 220, Jr) from the University of Texas, and runningback Reggie Pegram (5-9, 218, Jr) from Purdue.
At least one service, sports-ratings.com, is picking the Mean Green to finish with an eight win season this year, and virtually all are predicting a win over Idaho to start the season.
With all the progress Idaho has made this off-season, the Vandals will have their hands full to leave Denton with the win.
2013 Pre-Season Rankings: #84 North Texas Mean Green
Chicago Tribune North Texas Preview