Program building comes in phases; phase one is typically a combination of survival/talent redistribution. Fit square pegs in round holes if you have to, all the while trying to find parts that fit your system. Phase two, depending on how the redistribution goes, is more about talent acquisition and depth development. Hopefully, your frontline players are somewhat established or at least in the pipeline, and you're trying to make sure that once injuries happen, you can survive. Phase three is the continued talent acquisition, that part never really changes, and competition among your depth for playing time. Some programs will take years to get to phase three; some never make it.
2018 North Texas will leap forward, i.e., a conference title, ten or more win, if their offensive line can improve. The 2017 offensive line played well enough, but against better talent, the Mean Green font faded. Ask FAU who built a superhighway into Mason Fine's personal space.
Last season's 39 sacks improved over the previous season, but concerning was the way North Texas played against the Owls as mentioned earlier, SMU, Troy in the bowl game, the best front in CUSA - UTSA, and Rice (did you see Brian Womac play in 2017?). In those four games, the Mean Green allowed 24 sacks. Those opponents accounted for four of North Texas' five losses.
Here's the good news, potentially, four of the five lineman return from a unit that had great continuity. We say potentially because Riley Mayfield has applied for a sixth year of eligibility. Mayfield started fourteen games at right tackle. If Mayfield departs, the Mean Green will lose their entire right side with T.J. Henson's graduation.
The Mean Green are also chock full of bodies to compete for playing time. Mammoth senior Jordan Murray returns at left tackle and spent 2017 looking more and more like a serviceable edge protector. Elex Woodworth returns at left guard, he's undersized at 270, but he's athletic at the position, and if he can get a little more sand in his ass, he should be able to hold up against bigger A and B gap players.
At center Sosaia Mose was a bit of a revelation, entering the picture late in the recruiting cycle from Tyler JC. He started eleven games at center and guard. He supplanted Creighton Barr at center, Barr returns after nine career starts. Moving Barr back in at center and shifting Mose to right guard is on the table.
If Mayfield's back at right guard, then the Mean Green have an answer on the right edge. A grad transfer from ACU is another mammoth protector, even if he's got some waist bender in his game and isn't fluid. Air Raid typically thrives with gigantic, un-athletic edge protectors because the ball gets out fast.
If not, then look for open competition at right tackle with Chandler Anthony and Thomas Preston in the mix. Anthony missed 2016 due to injury, redshirted, and ended up second on the depth chart at right tackle in 2017. He's a rangy, long, athletic 6-7, but again a bit undersized at his current 270. North Texas has to build offensive lineman rather than relying on ready-made, physical products like some Power 5s. They'll make their living by finding long frames and adding or subtracting meat on them while trying to maintain athleticism. Anthony's that kind of player. A two-star recruit out of Oklahoma, Anthony's frame and movement gave North Texas coaches hope.
Preston played guard and tackle at Scottsdale Community College, he's a mauler, not a mover, but if he gets his hands on you, it's over. He's probably better suited at guard, but necessity may push him outside.
Speaking of building linemen, Brian Parish came to Denton as a 6-4, 250-pound tackle. What jumped off on film from Arlington Seguin was his ability to move and his long arms. He's up to 280 and might be able to play either inside or at tackle, but he looks like a tackle with that wingspan.
At right guard either Mose or his younger brother, Manase are possibilities. Manase is a fire hydrant at 6-1, 290; he's a man mover. His arm length might give him issues, but if he gets on the defender, he's going to push him around. North Texas gets Devin Pahinui back from injury, and he'll compete at guard as well as center. Another player to watch at guard is Doro Omerhi, a preferred walk-on from Pearland. He's a redshirt sophomore who hasn't seen the field, but at Pearland, he was a load with a bit of a mean streak.
If the Mean Green line can jell and fill holes, everything else is in place. The Mean Green have perhaps their best receiving corps ever and options at running back. They also return maybe the most dynamic passer in school history. If they can keep that guy upright, they'll win a lot of games in 2018.