UNT hires Canales to help offense

North Texas announced today that Mike Canales has been hired as the new offensive coordinator. Canales had been the offensive coordinator at South Florida, but was not retained by new head coach Skip Holtz.

In his five seasons at South Florida, Canales turned the Bulls into one of the most offensively proficient teams in the country. In 2008, South Florida led the Big East Conference in scoring and ranked second in total offense.

Bringing in Canales for what could be Dodge’s final season is a pivotal move. Since Dodge took the job in 2006, he’s been running a similar spread attack to the one he ran at Southlake Carroll High School in Texas. While the system was wildly successful in the high school ranks and even has produced some of the country’s better collegiate quarterbacking talent, it hasn’t translated into many wins for the Mean Green.

In three seasons with the Mean Green, Dodge is 5-31. He inherited a program that was already down in terms of recruiting, and he’s still getting the leftovers from the six other FBS programs in the state, including SMU, which has recruited much better under coach June Jones.

Canales will have some talent with which to work. Quarterback Riley Dodge ranked 38th in the country in total offense. He also showed the ability to be a quality dual-threat. Running back Lance Dunbar really made a name for himself last year as the No. 14 rusher in the country. He had eight 100-yard games and two 200-yard games. He finished with 200 carries for 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Mean Green also return their top three receivers in Jamaal Jackson, Darius Carey and Michael Outlaw.

However, the biggest area North Texas needs to address in order to become a player in the offensively potent Sun Belt Conference is defense. The Mean Green have had one of the worst defenses in the country during Dodge’s tenure and that’s been the thing that has held the team back. It ranked 104th against the run and 112th nationally in scoring defense. The Mean Green couldn’t get to opposing quarterbacks, ranking 116th in the country in sacks.

One of the things North Texas has done the past couple of seasons is scour the junior college ranks for immediate defensive help. In this year’s class alone, Dodge signed five junior college players and all of them are on the defensive side of the ball. All five also will be available for spring football.

Dodge was on the hot seat heading into the 2009 season, but was spared despite a 2-10 record. However, he’ll need to show progress this season. North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal said in December when he decided to keep Dodge for another year that he saw enough progress during the 2-10 campaign to convince him the program was headed in the right direction, but that the results needed to start showing on the scoreboard.