DeShawn Gaddie

North Texas defensive back DeShawn Gaddie (17) blocks a punt by Middle Tennessee’s Kyle Ulbrich during the Mean Green’s win over the Blue Raiders last season at Apogee Stadium.

North Texas will enter next season with several players who have proven their value leading the way.

No one doubts the abilities of wide receiver Jaelon Darden and defensive lineman Dion Novil. Both were ranked in the top five of the Denton Record-Chronicle‘s annual countdown of the top 15 players on the Mean Green’s roster.

Those standouts give UNT a solid foundation to build from.

What is of little doubt is the Mean Green need a host of other players to emerge as significant contributors if they are to bounce back from a disappointing 4-8 campaign in 2019.

UNT has plenty of holes to fill in its lineup and some highly regarded young players with the potential to follow in the footsteps of running back Tre Siggers.

Siggers checked in at No. 2 on our countdown of UNT’s top players this year after a breakout campaign. He led the Mean Green with 853 rushing yards and six touchdowns after playing a bit role as a backup safety in 2018.

The following is a look at five players UNT needs to emerge as key players next season.

5. Deshawn Gaddie, sophomore, cornerback

Gaddie is one of the more highly recruited players to sign with UNT in recent years and flashed his potential last season when he blocked a punt that Dominique Harrison returned for a touchdown in a win over Middle Tennessee.

Gaddie posted three tackles on the year while playing sparingly in all 12 games.

UNT has some solid cornerbacks returning in starter Cam Johnson and Quinn Whitlock, who backed up senior Nick Harvey last season.

The Mean Green need players on defense who are more than solid, though. UNT needs playmakers, a commodity that was in short supply last season.

Defensive end LaDarius Hamilton was one of UNT’s few players who made game-changing plays on the defensive side of the ball. The Mean Green lost Hamilton to graduation after he posted 8.5 sacks.

Gaddie is one of UNT’s players with the potential to emerge as a playmaker. UNT needs him to reach that potential.

4. Jacob Brammer, junior, offensive line

Brammer started the first nine games of the 2019 season at right tackle and has made 13 starts the last two seasons.

The former Richmond Foster standout continued to progress last season before missing the last three games of the season due to injury.

Brammer had several older, more experienced players around him during his first two seasons playing for UNT. He’ll be the older, more experienced player next season after the Mean Green lost five key linemen to graduation, including Chandler Anthony. The backup tackle graduated and elected to not use his final season of eligibility.

Manase Mose started all last season at right guard and is among UNT’s top returning players. UNT will be a whole lot better off if Brammer returns from injury and is among the Mean Green’s best players.

3. Teeshaun Turpin, junior, offensive line

UNT wasn’t comfortable depending on the offensive linemen it had in the program and high school signees to address the issues on its offensive line.

Coach Seth Littrell and his staff went out and signed two junior college offensive linemen, including Turpin, a tackle from Long Beach City College.

UNT has a glaring hole at left tackle after Elex Woodworth and Anthony graduated. Woodworth was a second-team All-Conference USA selection last season.

Turpin is UNT’s best hope when it comes to finding a player to step in at left tackle and protect its quarterbacks.

2. Davontae McCrae, sophomore, defensive end

UNT lost both of its starting defensive ends to graduation after last season, including Hamilton.

The Mean Green signed McCrae to help fill that void. The former North Carolina State defensive end spent last season at East Mississippi Community College. McCrae had offers from multiple Power Five conference programs, including Mississippi State and Arizona but chose to sign with UNT after his stint in junior college.

McCrae was rated among the top 100 junior college players in the class of 2020 and is among UNT’s top incoming recruits. The Mean Green need him to emerge as a playmaker right away.

1. Jason Bean/Austin Aune, redshirt sophomores, quarterback

The bottom line for UNT is that all the work it has done to develop players and fill key holes in its lineup in recruiting isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference if it can’t replace Mason Fine.

The Mean Green lost one of the best quarterbacks in program history to graduation after last season. UNT has several quarterbacks on the roster, but Bean and Aune will get the first crack at taking over for Fine.

Neither have a lot of experience. Bean threw for 176 yards in seven games last season, when Aune threw for 136 yards in two games.

UNT went out and signed Kentucky transfer Amani Gilmore this spring but saw the NCAA table legislation on the one-time transfer rule. Barring an unforeseen change, Gilmore won’t be eligible until 2021.

It appears likely Bean or Aune will start next season. The Mean Green could be in trouble if neither emerges as a solid player.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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