football Edit

QA with Todd Dodge

Todd Dodge will know in 2010 if his "three-year plan" at North Texas has taken shape.
At his fourth season's end, Dodge will send off his first true senior class, see a new stadium outside his window nearing completion and know if he'll be allowed to coach there in 2011.
With five victories in three seasons, Dodge and UNT fans know he's expected to win now, or he'll likely not return for a fifth season. With upcoming fall camp, recruiting for 2011, early season road trips to Clemson and Army, competition at quarterback and another dog-eat-dog Sun Belt Conference race, Dodge has a full plate to go with any job-security issues.
He sat down with recently and discussed on-field personnel, UNT's new stadium, his job, son Riley, new offensive wrinkles, his belief UNT can win now and more. The following is Part I of our Dodge Q&A.
Q. As you head to fall camp, what personnel developments have had the most impact?
A. The best thing that came out of spring was the depth we were able to build. We signed five midyear defensive players, two linebackers, two safeties and a corner. Four of the five really came in, and by the end of the spring, we were comfortable enough with the defense to really start to free-flow.
We've had such depth problems at mulitiple positions throughout the last three years. I really feel good about our depth, with the exception of two positions, safety and defensive end. Three ends will be getting here, two of them midsummer and a high school kid [Aaron Bellazin] out of Everman. I feel good about depth in our defensive front at tackle. We've got a collection of 300-pounders now.
Q. New offensive coordinator Mike Canales gives you a fresh set of eyes on the offense. But what will fans see when you meld his philosophy with the one in place?
A. I've been a fan of South Florida's offense for about four years. When the job came open, I went after him quickly. He and I are similar in philosophy, and I tried to study him. The biggest change will be taking the running back position and being much more multiple. We think we've got five good backs. We'll take a couple of those guys, Micah Mosley and Jeremi Mathis, both about 225 pounds, and use them more as H-backs. We call it U-back. It'll get them more involved.
We played with a lot of tight end, but we'll be much more multiple at that position. They won't always be lined up attached, but in the backfield, in motion and across -- things like that. We moved Draylen Ross from defensive tackle to tight end in the spring, and it'll be a good move for us. He's 6-3, 285, but will be closer to 270 by two-a-days. We signed another tight end, Jamize Olawale, out of El Camino College in California.
[Redshirt freshman] Austin Fitzpatrick isn't ready yet. We redshirted him, but he's still got some growing to do. He's just not big enough. [Canales] did a great job of taking what we have, especially with three OLs being out this spring, and putting some movement and motion into our offense. We've got a good collection of skill players. I'm really pleased with that hire.
Q. Is the need or directive from above to win this season as blunt or real as we've heard or read?
A. It's pretty blunt. Do I have a number of games? It's one of those deals where I got asked that a lot right toward the end of the season. Everyone knows every head coach meets with their AD to discuss the season. First thing I'll tell you is myself and this staff expect to get over the hump this year and win a considerable amount of games. It's one of those that ... I think about seven would probably be the magic number.
Q. Given the past three years, five or six seems more realistic. Is it all about a win total, or might other areas show satisfactory progress?
I guess we can sit and reflect on last year. It was literally 19 points away from five other wins. Most of that happened on one or two plays in a fourth quarter.
With that said, I'm very confident we can get ... I thought last year we were a 6-6 team. As I went through and evaluated our team, the matchups, I think I was spot-on, with the exception of the fact that we lost a bunch of close games. We have that entire team back. Except for Tobe Nwigwe, we didn't lose anybody of consequence.
Six, seven wins is kind of what's been told to me, and that's fine. I'm a big believer in the three-year plan, and when I got here I knew it was going to take a while.
Frankly, last year I thought, considering how many we'd won in two years, 6-6 would've been a great breakthrough. I think we can get to that or real close to that as we go into year four. Whether that's enough for the powers-that-be, then we'll wait and see, but I'm not going to sweat that.
Q. What we go through tends to change us. Are you a different coach than the day you got here?
A. No doubt. I don't think you ever know, whatever level of coaching, what the problems are until you're smack-dab in the middle of your situation. I definitely feel I understand things a lot better from the standpoint of the big picture, personnel, staff -- just the college game, in general.
Q. For the third time in four years, you'll entrust the offense to an untested QB. Nathan Tune is a senior and a career backup, but there's a lot more to see with him and Derek Thompson. What does you gut tell you about both?
A. I believe it's going to be a battle right up until probably a week before we get to Clemson.
Nate has developed into a pretty accurate quarterback. That's where he's improved the most since he's been here.
Derek brings a little more versatility because he can be a threat in the run game. He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he's a big guy, more in a [Tim] Tebow type of way. We still want to have our quarterback provide about 50 yards rushing.
Riley provided that last year when he was playing. It opened a lot of things up for Lance in our zone read game. With our collection of skill players and the experience and depth in the offensive line, I believe whoever wins it can take us to where we want to be. They just have to be a distributor of the ball. It's not a situation where we have a young, inexperienced offense that's lacking in speed. We've gotten a lot faster.