North Texas arrives this weekend for Bama's third-straight out-of-conference game, and Koenning's offense will have to work hard. "They're very sound; they play a lot of cover two and two-deep zone," he related. "Up front they work a lot of twist games to nullify your run. They're a fundamental football team."
Fans hoping for fireworks on offense will likely be disappointed. Koenning explained, "They're going to make you go the hard way. They're very solid in the secondary. They don't overload you in the box, trying to put another guy down there. They're just a sound football team."
North Texas took it on the chin in their season opener versus the Longhorns, losing 27-0. But it wasn't for lack of good play by the Mean Green defense. "They really did shut down Texas in the second half," Koenning said. "Texas gave up eight sacks to them--and it wasn't on blitzes. It was done with three- and four-man rushes. It wasn't a deal where they were blitzing more people than you had to block with."
North Texas rebounded in their second game, pitching their own shutout versus Nicholls State, 23-0. "Statistically, if you look at them, they're impressive," Koenning said. "I think they're sixth in the nation in total defense. They haven't given up very many yards passing. You would think that with the structure of their defense they'd give up more rushing yards, but they haven't. They've played very well."
Nicholls State is hardly a Division 1A power, but the University of Texas is considered a serious contender for this year's national championship. After two games, North Texas is giving up only195 yards per contest, 106.5 through the air and 88.5 on the ground. The Mean Green are eighth in the nation versus the pass, 29th against the run and sixth in Total Defense.
It all starts up front, and 5-10, 315-pound nose tackle Brandon Kennedy is a dynamo in the middle. "Their defensive tackle plays really well," Koenning said. "They shift him a lot, and the kid moves around really well. He's not an extremely tall kid, but he has great leverage. He makes a lot of plays, and he sacks the quarterback a lot. If you watch him on his twists, he really does a great job."
At end, former basketball star Adrian Awasom is dangerous. "Awasom is a big player," Koenning agreed. "He's a bigger athlete that plays the five-technique and does a nice job for them. They put a lot of responsibility on their front and linebackers, and they've done a great job of controlling the run."
North Texas' three starting linebackers are first, second and third on the team in tackles. Koenning commented, "They don't overload the box. They don't put another safety down there. You don't see their leading tackler being the safety. The (safeties) are in coverage. The linebackers are the guys that make all the tackles."
Moving inside this season to middle linebacker, Cody Spencer is the leader of the unit. "Spencer is a good player," Koenning said. "He runs to the ball well and makes a lot of tackles. They rely on their front and their linebackers to make all their tackles."
In the secondary, Jonas Buckles is a ball-hawk at free safety. "Their two safeties are veteran guys and good players," Koenning said. "They do a great job of covering the pass. Their responsibilities are mainly half the field, and they do a really good job."
At cornerback, the Mean Green is solid, if not spectacular. "When you watch their cornerbacks on film against Texas, those guys can really run out there," Koenning commented. "They stuck with (the Longhorns') highly recruited receivers the whole time."
Despite playing second fiddle to the major programs in state, Texas has enough football players to go around. But Koenning says coordinator Gary DeLoach deserves much of the credit. "They do a great job of coaching. I know their defensive coordinator, and he does an excellent job. They're very sound fundamentally.
"What they do they do well."