One of the biggest questions for North Texas heading into the 2019 season was how the Mean Green would fare while trying to replace two highly productive linebackers.
E.J. Ejiya was one of the top defensive players in Conference USA on his way to finishing with 121 tackles in 2018. Brandon Garner was a steady veteran presence and added 68 tackles.
The Mean Green lost both to graduation. UNT signed a host of highly regarded prospects, but it was a pair of veterans who emerged as the Mean Green's starters.
KD Davis and Tyreke Davis finished with 88 and 80 tackles, respectively. Neither performed at the level of Ejiya but were steady presences.
The good news for UNT is that both return this fall when Joe Ozougwu will also be back, giving the Mean Green three returning starters to build around.
We turn our attention to the group today as part of our ongoing look at UNT's roster on a position-by-position basis heading into spring practice.
Key returnees: Tyreke Davis, senior; Kevin Wood, sophomore; KD Davis, junior; Chris Thornton, junior; Larry Nixon III, sophomore; Joe Ozougwu, senior; Gabriel Murphy, redshirt freshman; Grayson Murphy, redshirt freshman; Taylor Jacobs, redshirt freshman; Hayden Harrison, senior; Jordan Hunt, sophomore; Justin Booker-Brown, senior
Key losses: Jamie King, William LeMasters
Newcomers: Jacobi Johnson, freshman; Jordan Brown, freshman
Biggest unanswered question: UNT had three solid players at linebacker in its 3-3-5 scheme last season. The question is what changes Clint Bowen, the Mean Green's new defensive coordinator, will make, both in terms of the scheme and the lineup.
Bowen has told some of UNT's incoming recruits that he plans to stick with the 3-3-5.
No matter what scheme Bowen runs, UNT's linebackers will have a fresh start. The Mean Green recruited several highly rated players heading into last season, including some who played right away.
Wood showed potential, as did other young players, including Larry Nixon III.
What scheme Bowen runs and which linebackers he elects to start will be a storyline to watch beginning this spring.
Why 2020 production could be better: KD Davis and Tyreke Davis were largely unproven heading into the 2019 season before emerging as solid C-USA level players.
Tyreke Davis finished with 14.0 tackles for loss, while KD Davis was also highly productive. Both should benefit from the experience they gained last season and a full offseason of conditioning.
UNT also has a host of highly regarded players waiting in the wings who could see time and begin to capitalize on their potential.
Why 2020 production could be worse: There aren't many reasons to believe UNT will take a step back at linebacker this season. UNT has several veteran players returning and some good young talent.
Where UNT could get into trouble is if its starters encounter injury problems. The Mean Green lost Jack linebackers Jamie King and William LeMasters to graduation.
The Mean Green have some talented young players but not a lot of experience behind Ozoguwu as well as KD and Tyreke Davis.
Overall outlook: UNT is in perfect position to be solid at linebacker in 2020.
The Mean Green's three returning starters -- Ozougwu and the Davis-and-Davis combination -- are all proven commodities. There is also a whole lot of talent waiting in the wings.
The lingering question is if UNT will end up being better than just solid. If UNT's veterans take a step forward or a younger player like Wood fulfills his potential, the Mean Green could end up with a group that ranks among the better units in C-USA.
Here's a look back at our series thus far: