Last season Mike Ekeler and Troy Reffett teamed up to oversee a defensive turnaround made out of bailing wire and duct tape. North Texas didn't have enough linemen on the roster, no big deal, the Mean Green ran more odd man fronts. Missing key personnel pieces, Reffett and Ekeler used JC transfers and grad transfers to fill voids. The results were a nine point improvement in points allowed per game and a near forty spot jump in total defense.
Ekeler left for North Carolina but Reffett is back. After the spring it certainly looks like the Mean Green might have a special unit on the defensive side of the ball. On Saturday parts of that unit were on full display including perhaps the best secondary in CUSA. Nate Brooks and Eric Jenkins combined for eight tackles, three pass break ups and a pick Saturday. Senior corner Dee Baulkman added five stops. That unit, with safety Kishawn McClain should give Reffett the flexibility to bring pressure and play man on the backside.
Linebackers Brandon Garner and Zack Bishop each had nine stops. Garner added four passes defensed and a forced fumble. Calvin Minor contributed two sacks. Garner looks ready to step into the void at linebacker with the losses of Fred Scott and Courtney Finney.
Up front the Mean Green defense held its offensive counterparts to less than four yards a carry. Kansas State transfer Bryce English looks the part on the interior. English had two sacks and defensive end Tillman Johnson contributed a sack and two passes knocked down.
Chances are North Texas' doesn't run into many offensive lines as thin as the one they lined up against today, but it's encouraging to see the front seven's performance. Refett's unit certainly appears to be more in the mold of the direction he'd like to take the defense. They appear deeper and more talented up front.