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Know Your Enemy, Spring Edition: North Texas Mean Green

The Hawkeyes can’t afford to look past a team led by one of the hot up-and-coming coaches in college football.

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl - Army v North Texas Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Next up in our weekly look at Iowa’s 2017 football opponents is Week 3 opponent North Texas. The Mean Green won just five games a season ago, but did manage to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Let’s take a closer look:

2016 Synopsis:

By all accounts, first-year head coach Seth Littrell’s inaugural campaign at the helm of Mean Green football was a successful one. After the team only won a single game in 2015, Littrell led them to five wins and a bowl appearance. That performance netted him a five-year contract extension. Wins over Rice, Marshall, Army and Southern Miss were messages to rest of the Group of Five that North Texas was once again ready to compete at that level.

Who did they lose?

Quarterback Alec Morris graduated and should be considered somewhat of a significant loss, even though he only started six games last season. They also lost leading receiver Thaddeous Thompson. On defense, the team lost two defensive ends in Jareid Combs and Jarrian Roberts as well as middle linebacker Fred Scott. Combs was probably their most productive player in the front seven. They also lost three seniors in their secondary.

Who do they return?

It looks like they’ll have their leading rusher, Jeffrey Wilson, back for his senior season. Wilson did not play in North Texas’ recent Spring Game, but there is no evidence right now that he won’t be the starter when the season starts. Just for fun, here is a video of him blowing chunks in the Heart of Dallas Bowl:

They also bring back defensive tackle Bryce English, who looks to be a difference making force on the inside for the Mean Green in 2017. Kishawn McClain – a second-team All-Conference USA selection last season as a free safety – will lead the North Texas secondary.

Why should Iowa be worried?

North Texas has an underrated collection of skill players that can cause problems for an inexperienced secondary early in the season. The local media that covered the spring game can’t stop gushing about how good the receiving corps looked.

Seth Littrell is one of the hot young coaches in the game, and the assumption is that the second version of Mean Green under his watch is going to be better than the five-win squad from a season ago.

Why should Iowa not be worried?

The Mean Green offensive line has not impressed the coaching staff during the spring session. They also lost a lot of senior leadership on defense. Additionally, it appears there will be a heated quarterback battle between three guys that will last well into fall camp.

Key player for North Texas

Jeffrey Wilson – The shifty back has the ability to cause problems in the front seven as both a runner and a pass-catcher, taking attention away from what looks to be a decent group of wide-outs.

Key player for Iowa

Parker Hesse – His ability to both apply pressure on obvious passing downs and keep contain against Wilson against the run will go a long way toward sealing what should be an easy win against arguably the worst team on Iowa’s schedule.