Spencer Golanka: To start, what are your thoughts on the team after the big loss to SMU?
Matthew Suarez: With the loss to SMU … Last year, we actually beat them by a similar score at Apogee Stadium here in Denton. It was pretty bad. It was 42-23, I think. The scores were really similar. (Last year), we beat down SMU. It was partially because of our defense. We had two really good corners in Nate Brooks and Kemon Hall, really good linebackers in Brandon Garner and E.J. Ejiya. We’re replacing two corners and two starting linebackers. Our defense is young, and they haven’t played together for too long. E.J. and Brandon Garner are in our record books for most tackles. Nate Brooks and Kemon Hall were, at one point, leading the nation in interceptions.
SG: How do you feel about the running back unit, and how it could benefit? That’s one of Cal’s detriments — if Cal’s defense had any — that it can’t stop the run. How do you think North Texas can take advantage of that?
MS: Personally, I don’t like running backs by committee. I played running back in high school, and I think that really stumps a running back’s ability to get hot, get the hot hand. But, I think it helps for their offensive system. It’s very, very high-paced. It’s very, very fast. They run a lot of RPOs, play action. With them going fast and up-tempo, having a lot of running backs might not be a bad idea to keep them fresh. DeAndre Torrey last year went off for 17 touchdowns and 1,013 yards. He led the Conference USA with the most rushing yards and touchdowns. I think it will help them from the standpoint of not having any shortage on the ability to rush the ball. It also helps with pass with Mason Fine, not that he needs help from the run.
SG: Talk about Fine. He’s ridiculous.
MS: I used to live in Oklahoma. I moved from Adair, Oklahoma, which is 20 minutes from Peggs, Oklahoma, his hometown. For him to come from that small-town area is pretty remarkable. He’s really made the most of his opportunity. He never really got a scholarship offer. His one offer was from North Texas. His ability to read the defense and pass the ball with accuracy, especially with his height — I don’t know how he stands behind those guys who are 6’3″, 6’4″, 6’5″. His ability to maneuver that offense, with his height and his mobility and his arm, is a thing of beauty.
SG: Lastly, you said there were a lot of missing pieces from last year on the defense. Talk about the defensive front, and how they can stop Christopher Brown Jr. and Chase Garbers, especially in the spy game and in the running game.
MS: KD Davis and Tyreke Davis are the two inside linebackers. Tyreke Davis actually came down from the secondary this year; he used to be a safety. He put on some weight and started working with the linebackers coach. Building up some team chemistry is still coming along, but you can tell he’s a little wet behind the ears when it comes to being in the Mean Green system.
SG: Any predictions?
MS: We just did a podcast and, honestly, with how Cal’s looking and how North Texas’ potential could look this season, I think it could either go two ways: I feel like it’s either going to be decided by three points or three touchdowns.
SG: I think the exact same thing.
MS: I’ve been thinking about it all week. North Texas’ offense — it could honestly be one of the best in college football. The only enemy of that offense is itself. I’m probably going to have to give the nod to Cal. With questions still remaining on the defensive side, however, I’m gonna lean over to Cal on this one. If Cal doesn’t beat North Texas by three points, I think they’ll beat them by 21.