2020 North Texas Defensive Preview

By Manny Flores

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New defensive coordinator Clint Bowen is used to facing tough situations. Most of his career at Kansas was spent trying to defend elite Big 12 offenses with undermanned talent using string and chewing gum. 

After years of experimenting with defensive systems under multiple head coaches, Bowen arrived at a 3-3-5 stack. However, his look prioritized funneling plays to his best players and – more than anything – forcing turnovers. The 2018 defense that he coordinated ranked No. 8 nationally with 27 turnovers gained. 

“I need to name my defense like these offensive geniuses do – ‘Air raid’ and ‘West Coast,’ – I need to name mine, then I can become a guru,” Bowen said with a laugh. “I just took what I knew from different packages and blended them together. It gives us a lot of options that are very simple for the kids.” 

Being teachable was a priority at Kansas, where players often cycled out and were replaced with JUCO transfers who had to get on the field right away. At North Texas, Bowen has the advantage of top-end C-USA athletes to develop and compete with for the conference. 

The strength of the defense rests at linebacker, where KD Davis and Tyreke Davis combined for 168 tackles and 21 TFLs in breakout seasons. Replacing the top three defensive backs won’t be easy, but Cam Johnson and Makyle Sanders lead a strong room of options. 

The biggest question mark is in the trenches. The key nose tackle position is set with Dion Novil leading the way, but Asher Frow is the only returning defensive end with a sack to his name. JUCO product Davontae McCrae projects to take one spot, but replacing LaDarius Hamilton will be a tall task. 

“There are some guys at the linebacker and DB level that could really have some standout years,” Bowen said. “But we’ve got to come out of this with four defensive ends who can play at this level. As it is, I don’t know who those four are.” 

A top 50 defense was enough to spearhead a historic season in Denton two years ago. Bowen’s philosophy is built to get the Mean Green causing issues for C-USA offenses immediately. 

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