The Mean Green get going at 3 p.m. Monday and finish with the April 4 spring game. Scrimmages are March 10 and 27 at Fouts Field, and everything is open to the public. Practices are scheduled for the athletic center unless weather or field wear force moves to Fouts.
1. UNT's top two quarterbacks, Riley Dodge and Nathan Tune, will get more spring work than ever. Tune nearly left the program after discovering he had a medical condition but stayed after getting it under control, and after realizing how much he was needed after Giovanni Vizza's departure. Riley Dodge said he's eager to show he's not -- to paraphrase -- some scrawny high school quarterback who can't play or win at this level. Defensive players itching to smear a quarterback this spring should be careful what they wish for. Beyond Dodge and Tune, there's little depth to speak of unless Lake Dallas walk-on Chase Baine is what a few of his rabid fans would have us believe.
2. Early reports are that JC-transfer receivers Mike Outlaw and Jamaal Jackson are capable of redefining that position for UNT, which went as Casey Fitzgerald did the last two seasons. Oklahoma transfer Tyler Stradford could be in that group, but it's wait-and-see on an NCAA waiver request by UNT to get him on the field next season.
3. When players talk about change, it seems new football-dedicated strength coach Aaron Ausmus is mentioned often. Naturally, his methods were met early with some hesitation and/or excuses, and Ausmus had to lower the hammer a few times. Last week, you could hear level-11 (Spinal Tap reference, sorry) yelling and commotion in the weight room below the media-relations offices. Clearly, something's going on down there.
4. We hear senior linebacker Tobe Nwigwe is some kind of changed man when it comes to setting an example and putting the Mean Green defense on his back. Nwigwe, remember, has had a few off-field scrapes, some involving local authorities. Nwigwe basically threw himself at Todd Dodge's mercy during a discussion on the latter's back porch after Thanksgiving dinner last year. If you see Nwigwe, he dresses quite differently, like someone actually concerned that the real world is closing in. Nwigwe played well last season, but his mind and body could be on the same page in 2009.
5. Spring drills always have a few subtractions due to lingering injuries/recoveries, and this one is no different. Offensive guard Tyler Bailey and center J.J. Johnson aren't expected to go. Running back Cam Montgomery will have less depth behind him if Jeremi Mathis and Micah Mosley aren't cleared, as expected. Backs Lance Dunbar and James Hamilton are good to go. Not seeing Johnson under center after starting the entire 2008 season is a shame, because he just gets better with time.
6. It's uncertain if the March 23-27 spring campus elections will include a referendum asking students if they favor a re-vote on the new athletic fee that passed in October by a 58-42 margin. That $10 per-semester hour fee, which wouldn't take effect until a new proposed football stadium is completed, is sitting in a Texas Senate committee awaiting approval by the Legislature and Commissioner of Education, along with similar athletic fees at Texas State, Lamar and Texas-San Antonio. A campus group wants a referendum for the re-vote but isn't guaranteed to get it on the spring ballot, to be voted on with a week left in spring drills. The group doesn't want a re-vote on other fall-election measures, such as homecoming court, student senators, etc., just the athletic fee. It also wants essentially a third-world style forced election -- to have UNT students vote on the fee as part of their registration -- when democracy as we practice at any level is participatory/voluntary, not mandatory. We don't see 100-percent voter turnouts in this country, because they're actually free. Is there another major university where athletics is more at war with its own student body than UNT?