• entries
    59
  • comments
    104
  • views
    182,308

About this blog

UNT sports and all that stuff

Entries in this blog

med_gallery_3776_75_71021.jpg

The 2015 version of UNTs Spring Game did not offer any major surprises. The chance for that set sail when it was announced talented junior college transfer quarterback DaMarcus Smith would not be eligible to participate in Spring Ball due to academics. There was however some interesting footnotes which are worth mentioning.

I will preface this by restating a recurrent theme of my close to 20-years of following UNT football. In the bigger scheme of things, the Spring game doesnt matter that much. Sure, it matters to the team and certainly the players who are vying for playing time at their respective positions. But its one day out of 20+, which is a small subset of the total evaluation. Too often, players who make the biggest impact in the game end up not returning in the Fall or drop back down the depth chart once a bevy of scholarship and preferred walk-ons enter the picture in late August [see Erick Evans last year who barely played on Saturday]. Junior college guys who just arrived are still learning the plays and the schemes. Injuries keep some of the better players off of the field [Tillman Johnson].

With that disclaimer out of the way, it is still exciting to be in beautiful Apogee stadium one last time before the dreaded UNT 5-month off hibernation period begins. The weather Saturday was nice, almost too nice as the 1st half of the game got pretty hot. I saw some older fans leave prior to 2nd quarter due to the heat. Cloud cover saved the day at around half time and by the second half things started cooling off and actually perfect game day weather as the sun set in the west.

The UNT Athletic Department gets beat up from time to time and I want to give them credit where it is due. The entire experience for my group on Saturday was extremely positive. This started with well-placed parking signs and directions. We ended up parking in the Victory lot and walked in through the Hill to the student side. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Greek sororities out in full force with signage and music. There was even some decent tailgating going on. The smell of my beloved Kettle Korn was in the air.

I cannot tell you how pleased I was to receive a nicely done, 1-page numerical roster as I entered the stadium. Of course, I had printed off one prior to leaving the house. But it didnt matter because the AD had provided me with a better one which was much appreciated. Concessions were plentiful and the Spirit shop was well staffed with ticket folks eager to assist in renewing or finalizing new season ticket holders. The Talons had Boomer going after every score and the halftime presentation honoring UNT Hall of Fame inductee George Dunham was a nice touch. Also a neat introduction by new play by play guy Dave Barnett who I think was a fantastic hire. It was one of the better days for the entire athletic department and they should be commended for it.

But back to the game itself. I will break this out by position.

QB

Andrew McNulty will be the starter when we face SMU in the home/away opener in Dallas and his performance did nothing to change that one way or the other. He clearly has the best grasp of this new hurry up offense that runs primarily from the shotgun snap. However, he is not the most talented QB we have and struggles in a very key aspect - throwing on the run. Mark my words, with so many new faces on the offensive line, whoever lines up under center better be prepared to throw on the run or it will be a disaster. Before you condemn me for being negative, McNulty's stats were 14 for 29. He did throw 3 TDs and had 342 yards but honestly a lot of that came from some broken coverages. He takes a long time to throw the damn ball but in his defense that was pretty much all of the QBs on this day. The key stat of the day for McNulty was 0 interceptions which alone may have assured him the guaranteed start against SMU.

I still maintain that Dajon Williams is the most talented QB we have and the Spring game just solidified it. Williams may not know the playbook as well as McNulty, but he certainly has a superior arm and can throw the ball on the run. He also provides a more dangerous read option threat as evidenced on a couple of his runs. Williams was 9 of 15 for 129 which paled in comparison to McNultys stats but he half the opportunities and against the #1 defense (McNulty got the #2s). I can't help but wish that we hadn't given up on Williams so quickly last year. He could have grown up so much more if he had been given time. But alas, the staff's will to win games was too strong.

Josh Greer seems to have righted the unfortunate performances at Texas and home against La. Tech last year. He seems more poised and in control of his game. He had some nice passes and also an ugly interception but he did enough for me to think he will figure into things for the Fall. Greer went 10 for 17 and had a TD. Greers problem is he really poses no threat to run the ball which will place him at a distinct disadvantage when compared to the other QBs. Greer took a lot of heat on the GMG board and I think he should be commended for turning around a pretty dire situation. He is back in the mix.

Connor Means showed nice things as a redshirt freshman going 6 of 15 for 94 yards. He didn't throw an INT which McCarney loves. His arm is pretty strong but his accuracy is still developing. He can run pretty well. Hes a keeper for sure, but with the rebuilding of Josh Greer's status, I just don't know if this year will be the year he plays.

On a quick side note, I have to mention another aspect of the new "hurry-up" offense employed by Coach Chico. Do you notice the QB clap of the hands just prior to the cadence? Sort of like a "get your shit together" signal? With tempo being such an important part of an offense and certainly QB play, I couldn't help but notice that some of the QB's had better timing on their clap than others. Some of the QB's have a louder clap and some seem to have a weaker clap. Personally, I think it would be kind of cool from a tempo standpoint if everyone did a clap in unison together but hey that's just me.

The rest of our many QBs was really just spot duty and I would say of the tandem of Cousins, Shanbour and Chumley that Shanbour had the best showing with a TD pass. Mac said after the game that they would likely redshirt Chumley and with 4 scholarship guys NOT including DaMarcus Smith I dont know that Cousins and Shanbour have much of a chance to earn a scholarship here. I think their best chance was if Greer decided to move on and I dont see him doing that as he was running as the second team QB. Five scholarship QBs is probably too many, but with DaMarcus Smiths status still up in the air it is probably the right thing to do.

Saturday was evidence that UNT is still dreadfully behind in their development of quality C-USA quarterbacks. In year 5 of the Mac regime there should be more depth and competition at this position. However, McNulty provides Mac with a safe option which he hopes will be bolstered by a strong running game and defense. Make no mistake, we REALLY need DaMarcus Smith to gain his eligibility and I am certain they will do everything possible to support that happening.

RB

I thought the player of the game and the entire spring was Willie Ivery. He led both teams in rushing with 70-yards and shows moves and bursts of speed that will be a lot of fun to watch in the coming years.

Ivery may provide the most razzle dazzle but sophomore Jeffery Wilson is the guy. He showed the ability to run inside and also outside and in my view has eclipsed senior Antoinne Jimmerson. Wilson gained 44 yards while Jimmerson only had 16 in the game. I think Jimmerson is in a quandary as he could be the power back but his history says that he likes to bump outside more than run in the trenches.

My dark horse is Rex Rollins if he can stay healthy. Rollins had a nifty run on the sidelines where he showed his speed. He is the fastest back we have and could potentially change some games.

As usual, running back is probably the deepest position on the team. I think the big question mark heading into this Fall will be who can be the short yardage guy after the one two punch of Wilson and Jimmerson. I see Ivery as sort of a Jamal Branch type of player who could be very productive in 3rd down situations.

TE

Not a lot to report here from the game itself. Marcus Smith (3 receptions for 47 yards) is a stud and if he can improve his blocking could be an NFL caliber guy. Chris Loving had probably the best game of the tight ends which is encouraging. He had 5 receptions for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns. Loving has great potential and if he lives up to it we could really have some nice options. I think they really need Wylie Rheinhart to step it up as a consistent blocker. Jarrod White Mamba Lynn played more of an H-back role and may fill in as the short yardage runner they need for the short downs.

WR

Wow I think we have really improved in this particular area. First off, Carlos Harris had the catch of the day on a play to the sidelines from Josh Greer. He will have a huge senior season if they get him the ball. The #2 guy appears to be Turner Smiley who had a huge day with 124 yards and 3 TDs. Add to that Kidsey, Goree and Rutherford and you have some firepower. I really liked what I saw from new face Daniel Khan who had 7 receptions for 72 yards in an impressive fashion. He is sort of a fireplug, undersized but plays big type of guy. The wildcard is juco transfer Thaddeus Thompson who like QB Damarcus Smith is regaining his eligibility and could not participate in the spring. If he shows and is as good as he look on film, UNT should have a much stronger receiver corps than in years past.

OL

There are a lot of new faces on this group and there were a lot of sacks in the game. Kaydon Kirby had some type of minor injury and exited the game quickly and they promptly moved juco transfer Brian Ochs in to replace him. I though Ochs played well. I thought RS Freshman Chris Miles looks the part at tackle but time will tell.

This is the hardest area of the team for me to gauge. I think we will be ok but losing guys like YBarbo and Johnson, who were starters on a bowl winner, is rough.

Personally, I think we are in good shape with Kirby, Banogu and Rice. The big question marks are putting a RS Frosh in Miles on the edge (ugh) and Micah Thompson at right guard. Creighton Barr and Avery Fortenberry look like gems. I think Brian Ochs will be the key as he could be a quality C-USA guard or center. Tackle is a BIG question mark though and there just isnt a lot of proven depth which will make QB mobility even more important.

Defense

I actually focused more on the offensive side of the ball but here are the players that impressed me and my general impressions on the defense:

This is a blue collar lunch pail type of defense with good speed. Thats the good news. Other than Kishawn McLain, I really didnt see the type of physical play that we have seen in years past. I think teams will try to run it down our throat again and Saturday didn't convince me otherwise. However, I do think we have improved our defensive line and secondary. Linebacker remains a big question mark, however I really do think juco transfer Courtney Finney is special and may turn out to be one of the better linebackers to play here. He is not real big, but extremely quick and is like a magnet to the ball. In fact I would like to go ahead and trademark Finney's new GMG nickname as "Magnet". Other than Finney, I see a lot of speed but not enough plays. The biggest hit of the game came from Kishawn McLain, a safety. We need our linebackers to deliver some punishment as well.

The defensive line seems to be solidified with the emergence of tackle Mustafa Haboul. Haboul was one of my favorite signings a couple of years back (he is a redshirt junior now). He embodies the lunch pail, blue collar description I used to describe this defense. Not tall, probably 6 foot if that, but strong as an oxe and pretty quick with his hands. Austin Orr is also undersized but as a senior should be decent if he can stay healthy. Backing him up is Sid Moore who made some terrific plays behind the line on Saturday. Moore could really shine this year. Zero Wallace played a lot last season and was not a stand out performer but one would think he could improve this year. I liked what I saw from freshman TJ Tauaalo in his snaps.

At defensive end you were missing your two starters who will be Tillman Johnson and Jareid Combs. But I think the emergence of former walk-on Andy Flusche is a nice boost to the overall depth. Malik Dilonga looked like he put on another 15 pounds of size. Overall, defensive end appears to be a fairly stable area of the defense with a lot of hopes being placed on the arrival of Combs. Again, this will not be an imposing defensive line but I think it could be quite capable if the offense can keep them off the field.

At defensive back the standout performers on Saturday were cornerback Kenny Buyers who nabbed an interceptions and safety Kishawn McClain who appears to be the biggest hitter of the group, laying out tight end Marcus Smith on one play and just showing up in a lot of plays overall. Of the transfers, I would say I saw James Grays number the most. They had him playing deep safety in a lot of the formations which tells me they trust his instincts and abilities. Cedric Fernandes is a walk-on who looks like the real deal. I also think they have Jamal Marshall at the right position. If he could have a good season he will definitely get some NFL looks as he has impressive size and speed for a corner. Chad Davis will not be James Jones but he should be solid enough.

Final Thoughts

After the bowl year, there was not a question of talent but more so leadership among the ranks. I must say, there really is not a lot of leadership emergence that I see out there right now. Of course after a 4 win season that may be expected. It struck me that this was one of the quieter teams I had ever seen at UNT. Every year you seem to have at least a guy who is vocal with the most recent being Marcus Trice. Perhaps this is just an after effect of the instability at QB. You also have the biggest group of juco participants since Mac has been here and they are still feeling their way. I hope that more leaders will emerge in two-a-days and positive personalities will develop in time. I saw the term vanilla on the GMG board and I think it is pretty accurate for where things stand right now. There is certainly talent, but chemistry is a question mark.

As I walked out of the game I actually was feeling pretty good about things, until I peered up at listing of the 2015 home schedule on the big screen yikes. Rice returns their stud QB, WKU has the MVP of C-USA at QB, UTEP beat us to death with their running game and UTSA.. well we all know how that team seems to have our number.

Despite my misgivings about what will be a treacherous schedule, I do think that Coach Mac has addressed some key need areas for this program with the exception of the most important one which is TBD. This strikes me as a team which could win more games than they lose IF a playmaker emerges at QB. I repeat, a playmaker, not a bus driver. So with that in mind, I implore all Mean Green fans across this great nation to keep DaMarcus Smith's eligibility in your prayers for the next five months.

GMG!

North Texas’ first scrimmage of 2015 spring training began at 9am sharp and was met with nice, sunny weather although a tad bit chilly and slightly windy early on. The practice fields and soft grass were the setting for this day instead of the usual Apogee Stadium scene for scrimmages.

There was pretty fair contingent of recruits and fans in attendance which was great. As you enter the gates for sign-in and your name badge there is a big sign indicating no cameras. So, it does appear that even though open to the public, the staff does not want to get any images of what transpires in the session out to anyone else. So unfortunately I can offer no pictures to share and this will have to be theater of the mind.

The first section of the practice consisted of the typical warm up exercises so I won’t delve too deep into that.

Next, there was a spirited one on one Oklahoma drill in which Coach McCarney would scream out specific players by name, one offensive and one defensive player and may the better man win. This was probably the most intense moment of the day; a circle of the 100+ players and coaches formed and the two gladiators faced each other in the middle of the pit. Unfortunately for the spectators, the size and height of the circle prevent anyone less than 6-6 from really seeing much of what happened. I will say that the crack heard from the initial impact was extremely loud and there was clearly some major battles going on. Spirits were high and it was fun to see the players getting pumped up and cheering on their teammates.

After that you see the players break out into their positional areas and their position coaches. This continued for a good 15-30 minutes and then they began a 7 on 7 sectional. After the 7 on 7, they did a little more positional work and then went into the actual scrimmage which was officiated and full contact, with the exception of the quarterbacks who wore red jerseys.

Usually I will try to break out a practice report by positional area. In this case, I was so involved in trying to familiarize myself with who the starters were and matching new names and numbers that my notes were more stream of consciousness. So in this report I will just go through all of my chicken scratch and rapidly fading memory and add some editorial opinion on my part where necessary.

SMU Helmet?

The SMU helmet was very symbolic throughout the practice. Players were raising it up high during the Oklahoma drill as well as after big plays in the scrimmage and after the practice were over. It was pretty neat seeing them shaking it around and it emphasized how important that game is. The big question I had was how did they get their hands on an authentic SMU helmet? Inquiring minds want to know.

Injuries

I saw two players in boots, defensive back John Schilleci and running back Rex Rollins #20. Neither seemed to be serious and I would expect that both return pretty soon. I did not see one injury occur during the practice or scrimmage which is a plus.

General Practice Overview

Practice and the scrimmage itself were run extremely organized and on time. Coach Scotty Conley uses a loud speaker to notify the players of the next session in practice and the down and distance during the scrimmage. Mac keeps a good tempo going throughout the day and players are expected to move quickly or they will get bitched out. Assistant coaches are encouraging their players to run from each drill to the next so as not to be identified by Mac. As usual, Mac makes his way around the entire field and making comments - sometimes very pointed - as he sees fit.

The scrimmage was situational, meaning they would put either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd team offense or defense at a yardage marker and down. If the offense moved the ball and got a first down they would credited for that; same for if the defense was able to stop them. There was a fair amount of moving around and thus it was sometimes difficult to identify players and positions so please bear with me on that.

The starting lineups had a little variation but I saw the basic formations to be this:

1st Team Offense

QB – Andy McNulty, RB – Antoinne Jimmerson or #26 Jeffery Wilson, TE Marcus Smith, LT Michael Banogu, LG Sam Rice, C Kaydon Kirby, RG Conner Trussell, RT Micah Thompson, WR’s Carlos Harris, Turner Smiley and Darvin Kidsy. When they used a fullback in short yardage situations it was of course #39 Jarrod “White Mamba” Lynn.

Quarterback

The Quarterback situation remained with the status quo which is McNulty the clear #1 and Josh Greer at #2 group and DaJon Williams and Conner Means switching off at #3. I did not see any of the other quarterbacks in the scrimmage. The other QB’s including Caleb Chumley and Sam Wells did participate in the drills. Quinn Shanbour was not dressed out but was very involved in getting signals from the sidelines.

My honest assessment of Chumley is he is just extremely raw. His mechanics and feet are a ways off from being able to help this program at the quarterback position in my opinion. I found it interesting to see Chumley working as a defensive end during a punt drill. I personally believe there are WAY too many red jerseys out there for reps available and believe that this Spring will go a long way to figuring out who is in the future plans. I will say that Chumley is an impressive athlete and has a frame that could REALLY fill out in a couple of years.

It is important to note that the days of slow developing formations and reads seem to be behind us. Everything I saw today was moving quickly and with rhythm. There was a “hurry-up” segment in the scrimmage that focused on moving quickly after the play to lineup for the next one. All of the quarterbacks are now doing sort of a line-em-up clap of the hands prior to calling out the count. Sort of like a “get your ass in position” type of movement that I didn’t remember from last season.

Special Teams

Punting drills were handled primarily by Eric Keena and Blake Macek. Both sported some great spirals and made things extremely difficult for the returners with the wind. My biggest observation from this drill was that there were three returners, #1 Smiley, #4 Kidsey and #29 Willie Ivery.. Ivery really struggled to handle the punts, and the other two did fine. Before you think I am being too hard on young Ivery I think it is worth noting, I marked him down as one of my offensive MVP’s for the scrimmage (the other being TE Marcus Smith) as he was extremely elusive and fast with two big TD runs. I think if Ivery could get his hands right he could be a major weapon at punt return and perhaps today was just a bad day.

One other note on punt return coverage, there was a new face to me in #14 Ced Fernandez a redshirt from Arlington Martin. He was getting a lot of looks as the outside speed cover guy on punts and receiving a lot of attention from the coaches. He may well be a key special teams contributor to keep an eye on.

Kicking was primarily handled by #30 Trevor Moore and he was spot on with the exception of one kick which was a low snap. There was a fair amount of low snaps throughout the practice and scrimmage but this is fairly routine as things start out.

Walk-on making a name

As I cover these practices, I like to give mention to walk-ons who seem to be making a name for themselves in the program. I spent a fair amount of time in the offensive lineman drills and was impressed to see big Bo Pullin (6-5, 320) holding his own. Pullin hails from Victoria Texas and saw a good amount of play in the scrimmage albeit with the 2nd and 3rd teams at guard and tackle. He also held his own in the individual drills against some pretty salty scholarship players. Pullin appears to be on track to make a case for gaining a ship and his efforts should be recognized.

Big signee

As I walked around the offensive lineman drills in the sun I suddenly came under a cover of shade as if I had walked under a big tree or cloud cover. When I turned around to see what it was, I was amazed to see that it was actually UNT signee Jordan Murray from Coppell! Wow. I had not seen his 6-9 350 pound frame in person and all I can say is he is extremely impressive…not an ounce of fat on this kid. He may be the most impressive physical specimen I have seen at UNT.

Offensive Line

I spoke to the offensive line starters earlier but I wanted to add that I saw them working in a lot of transfers Brian Ochs, Aderius Epps and true freshman Chris Miles into the starting group. Ochs will knock your block off and Epps owned Sid Moore in the one on one lineman drills. It’s early but my guess is Banogu, Rice and Kirby are pretty set at their positions.

There will be a lot of battles for the other two spots. I thought Micah Thompson seemed more aggressive and active. I really like the size of #60 Avery Fortenberry. There is also a new face in #73 Garrett Gunter who hails from Spring Branch and Trinity Valley CC.

Tight End

The tight end group consists of senior Marcus Smith - who may be the most talented player on the roster – senior Chris Loving who seems to be settling in and Wylie Rheinhart. Smith and Loving appear set at #1 and #2. The coaches really seem to be pressing Rheinhart to move up and he seemed to be pretty responsive in the drills.

Defense

The #1 defense in the scrimmage looked like this, Austin Orr and Mustafa Haboul at tackle, I did not see Zero Wallace but that may just have been my error. Tillman Johnson and Jerrian Roberts at end, Fred Scott, transfer #27 Jeremy Bean, Calvin Minor and #50 Dakota Smith lining up outside at linebacker, and defensive backs Kenny Buyers, James Gray, and Kishawn McClain joining with a host of other players getting time at the other spot including former linebacker #8 Jamal Marshall.

#2 defense included but not limited to Sed Ellis, Chad Polk, Anthony Wallace, Cedrick Fernandez, Andy Flusche, TJ Tauaalo, #17 Courtney Finney and Jakii Moore the transfer defensive back from UAB.

I need to point out that I was extremely impressed with linebacker Courtney Finney. He’s not big, and he’s somewhat quiet but his instincts are outstanding and he can elude blockers with his speed. He is running second team right now, but I would not expect that to last long. Every time a play ran to his side he was involved in some way in the tackle. Exceptionally fast player.

#3 defense included Joe Kaho, AJ Smith, Brandon Garner, Jalen Montgomery, Matt Dash and Tarik Jefferson.

It appears that junior Mustafa Haboul figures greatly into the plans this year at defensive tackle. I was also encourage by freshman TJ Tauaalo who held his own. Sophomore defensive end Tillman Johnson appears to be one of the best we have on the field.

Impact Freshman

True freshman center Creighton Barr really impressed me in both the drills and scrimmage. He is running number 2 behind Kirby but he actually handled some bigger more senior defensive lineman on this day. He has a bright future for UNT.

7 on 7 plays of note

#21 transfer James Gray made one of the defensive plays of the day, batting down a pass intended for Carlos Harris.

#81 Daniel Khan runs extremely good routes and is very elusive. He almost had a touchdown but Greer was unable to place the ball where it needed to be.

QB Dajon Williams had a nice 40-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tee Goree but unfortunately Tee bobbled it incomplete.

#85 WR BJ Ebouzue a transfer from Evangel University got a fair amount of reps. He was often being covered by another new face in #13 Kerrick Rhone.

Josh Greer had a nice 30-yard pass to Marcus Smith although he did not get a lot of pass rush on the play. #25 running back

Andrew Tucker also had a nice 15-yard reception from Greer. Tucker would later have a big 70-yard TD run in the scrimmage so his stock seems to be rising. #14 Chris Loving also had a nice 10-yard reception from Greer.

Scrimmage notes

As I mentioned, #25 Andrew Tucker had one of the best plays of the day as he took an inside handoff, performed a sweet shoulder shake and broke away from the defense for a touchdown.

#10 defensive back Rashad Jackson was flagged for an interference penalty, one of the few infractions in the scrimmage. I do note that at the time of the penalty he was participating with the 1st team. He has good speed and appears to be a player to keep an eye on.

#7 QB Conner Means had 45-yard scramble which highlighted his mobility. After his run, RB Erick Evans ran it into the end zone 2-yards for a TD.

Kenny Buyers had a big INT on Josh Greer which he promptly returned for a 30-yard TD. It was a tough moment for Josh, as the pass was slow developing and he locked in on the primary receiver.

#29 Willy Ivery had the “broken ankle” play of the day as he scampered on a 10-yard handoff run from Dajon Williams. This guy is special with the ball in his hands.

Defensive end Chad Polk was terrorizing QB Sam Wells and the 3rd team offense with sacks. I had to question why Polk (a senior) was spending time on 3rd team but you can’t question his results.

I spotted a running back #34 with no name on the roster playing running back with some decent plays. I later found out his name is Porter and he was a late edition. He made a nice 3rd team offensive TD running for 50 yards. If anyone can provide some more detail on this kid let me know.

I thought QB Dajon Williams had a pretty good day overall. He threw a nice 12-yard completion to Tee Goree and made some nice scrambles. I still maintain he has the best arm and touch of the QB’s.

On a scary note, WR Carlos Harris had a nifty 30-yard reception but caught it at a weird angle and the tackler knocked his legs out from under him. He jumped right back up so all ended up well.

The biggest coaching rant award usually goes to Coach Tommy Perry who often yells so loud you could hear him across the highway. Today however the award goes to Coach Chico Canales who got very irate at Conner Means on a play mixup where he didn’t hand the ball off and got sacked by Andy Flusche. It happens.

Besides Ivery and Marcus Smith, I thought Austin Orr had a rather strong showing at defensive tackle. I saw at least 2 sacks from the senior which is not shabby coming from the inside.

Running back Jeffery Wilson did not have as spectacular a day as Willy Ivery but he did finish off the scrimmage with a strong 10-yard TD in a goal line scenario against the 1st team defense.

Click here to talk about this and more on the GoMeanGreen.com Football Board.

It was a fun night deep in the Heart of Dallas. Pretty decent turnout, although you would always like to see more. Georgio Dunham was the emcee and shared the stage with his radio color man and Deputy Athletic Director Hank Dickenson. The stage had a beautiful backdrop of the sun setting on downtown Dallas and behind us was the historic Cotton Bowl field.

The location was in the club level area overlooking the stadium. As you walked up to the entrance you saw that familiar Big UNT Green luxury bus that has been the main vehicle for all of the caravan events parked up next to the stadium. As you walked in the entrance to an elevator that took you to the 4th floor, you faced a very cool full wall image of UT Head Coach Darrell Royal. As you turned to the left there was a big wall shot of OU's Barry Switzer and some other neat game photos from years past. They served some delicious barbeque and there was a cash bar with cold beer. UNT Cheerleaders greeted you as you entered and Scrappy was up to his usual antics.

med_gallery_1_2_260500.jpgmed_gallery_1_2_506597.jpg

The evening started off with UNT Athletic Director Rick Villarreal speaking about the excitement of the Heart of Dallas Bowl victory and how being there in the stadium again brought back the great memories of seeing 35K UNT fans wearing green and cheering on the team. He spoke about what a special memory and place that victory was in the hearts of UNT fans. He thanked all of his coaches, the AD staff that was in attendance and other special guests. RV spoke about baseball in some detail, and said that we really needed it to complete the entire athletic program. He said we are so close to so much of the best baseball talent and that there are already a lot of head coaches at other D-I programs who are showing interest in coaching at UNT.

med_gallery_1_2_26148.jpg

Hank and George then introduced UNT footballer Mike Marshall who was a walk-on who earned a scholarship last year. Marshall is pursuing his graduate degree and spoke about how much his scholarship has impacted his life and his pursuit of education. Marshall gave out his appreciation to all of the fans in attendance and spoke about how excited the team was about the upcoming season. I was impressed with how well spoken Marshall was and I have always loved watching him play on special teams. Seems like a really good person.

The next segment was a Q&A with some of the minor sports coaches including Sujay Lama (tennis); Carl Sheffield (Track), Tracey Kee (softball) and Stefanie Slekis (cross country). The coaches all set side by side in chairs facing the audience and took written questions from Hank and George, Lama shared a great story about the time that he played against Martina Navratilova and how nervous he was the night before. He said she was such a class act and he had known she liked mountains and so he gave her a book on mountain pictures and stories I believe from his home island of Nepal. Hank asked Lama about the focus on international players. Lama said that out of the top 100 tennis players in the country like 60 were from foreign countries. Later he added that landing some of these international players would help the talent level which could ultimately help us land more local stars. Sheffield spoke about how much better the track team was and how they were signing some great athletes from around DFW. He talked about how Fouts was a good track facility and they were glad to have it. Slekis' mom was there and she talked about how excited she was to be the coach. I think she mentioned that she was from Florida State or something like that. Softball Coach Tracey Kee spoke about how she appreciated the support she received in her first season but that she thought the possibilities for this program were just phenomenal. I was extremely impressed with how well spoken and friendly Coach Kee was and of course her results make you believe the sky is the limit!

Hank got a moment to share some of his thoughts. He introduced a new member of the athletic development and fundraising. I may have gotten this wrong but I could have sworn he said the guy was from Penn State but don't quote me on that. Nice looking gentleman wearing a sports jacket who was not yet officially in his post. Hank mentioned him as the new "boss" which I found interesting. Hank spoke about the excitement he and George had at the Heart of Dallas Bowl and the turnout showed them so much in terms of the potential of UNT fandom.

After that, RV introduced the major sports coaches, Dan McCarney (football), Tony Benford (men's basketball), As usual, Coach Mac stole the entire show. He talked about the GPA's and how they had risen to the top of C-USA and how he wasn't having eligibility issues or problems with the law as you might expect with 120 18-22 year old boys. George asked about who would be the starting QB against Texas and Mac wouldn't answer that directly but he said EVERYONE was eligible and would be working hard this summer. He said that when that team took the field against Texas, it would be group of young men that would be prepared and the UNT alumni, students and fans would be extremely proud of. Mac just fills up a room and there were many points where I thought he was going to get a standing ovation as he encouraged the fans to bring in more fans and how he so wanted to fill up Apogee this season. Mac talked about the losing records before he arrived and how he was doing his best to change that mentality. He said that it was his and the teams cross to bear and that they would go into this season having a chip on their shoulder and that his team would do their best to prove that the 9-4 season was not a fluke. One big point that Mac made, as well as RV was in regards to attendance...he said they work their hardest to recruit athletes, develop them, coach them, motivate them and support them. But on gameday, when they come out on the field and the stands are half full it isn't right. He said he knows that winning will change that over time. But he also reinforced how important that having good attendance has on EVERY sports program at UNT. When you can bring recruits from any sport into a packed house it excites them and makes them want to be a part.

Quick aside -- the fact that Apogee has yet to sell out has sort of become an albatross hanging over us and you hope that we can put it behind us (hopefully against SMU?). Winning certainly will help this of course.

Mike Petersen took a moment to introduce his wife who was in attendance. He went through every new player that would be a part of the team this coming season. I believe he said there were six, two jucos and four high school players. He said good things about all of them but the one that stood out to me was a 6-3 post from Stroud Oklahoma. He said she had really broad shoulders and could really play in the paint. While there would be an adjustment since she was from a small school that he expected her to help them. He also spoke about a small point guard they signed who has the heart of a lion.

Tony Benford had one of the better speeches that I have heard him make. He spoke about all of his returning players in depth. He focused a lot of time on Jordan Williams, saying that he expects him to be an all-CUSA caliber player for them this season. He said Chris Jones has a lot of talent but he needs him to be more of a leader this season. He said that TJ Taylor has all the talent in the world and just needs to stay healthy and put it all together. He raved about Colin Voss and the leadership he brought as a coaches son to the team. He pretty much said that Voss "gets it" and he would be a team captain this season and would be counted on to take lead in the locker room. He mentioned Maurice Anfieok and that he was a good shooter. He said everyone was eligible and that there would be no eligibility issues.

Next he spoke about the new faces and there will be a lot of them. First he raved about Jeremy Combs from Dallas and he thanked a Kimbell high school coach (whose name I didn't catch but nicknamed Snoops??) who was a former UNT player who helped him in his recruiting efforts. Combs had an offer from Texas Tech and chose North Texas. He is evidently a guy whose motor runs the entire game and just scores and rebounds in bunches. He was extremely excited to have Combs in the fold. He talked about the new signing Muhammed Ahmed and compared him to former Marquette and Dallas Maverick player Jae Crowder. He said he can play down low but also can hit the three but most importantly he plays mean/nasty. He spoke highly of point guard Todd Eaglin, saying next to Chris Jones he was the only other true point guard and distributor that they had since he got here, and how he also shot better than 40% from the 3-point line. He said some nice things about Carrington Ward and how he expected him to help us in shooting and on the wing. He said Greg Wesley was a slasher that could help them in the transition game. The biggest surprise of the night for me were his comments in regards to juco signee DeAundre Harris. He indicated that Harris was a HIGHLY recruited player and evidently had some type of illness that required surgery and he had to sit out last season. He was naming off Big 12 programs that were after this kid and that he would make an immediate impact. Last but not least he spoke about the latest signee Greg White-Pittman. He said a LOT of schools were after White-Pittman before he committed to Tulane and they dropped off after that. He said Coach Scott Monarch got heavily involved when they found out he and Tulane had parted ways. He said the fans are going to love this kids game and that he will be a fan favorite right away.

If you haven't attended one of these events you really should. I can't tell you how many UNT friends I got to visit with and tonight I finally got to meet Mason Y'Barbo's mom Mitzi and her husband which was neat. Hanging out with the coaches isn't too bad either. It's just a fun couple of hours that doesn't replace an actual game but gives you that same type of comradery and feel of a tailgate. Heck - even our good friend KRAM was there with his lovely bride.

They also were giving out some door prizes, the funniest of which was a tennis lesson with Sujay Lama. Our good friend All About UNT won it and the thought of the old football jock playing tennis (he's never played) was well, pretty funny. I told him GoMeanGreen wants pictures. We should all force him to do it.

George closed out the proceedings with a good message. Often times at these events, if you are a UNT supporter in attendance you feel sort of beaten down about the need to increase the support, joining the Mean Green Club, bringing in more new faces etc. I think the vast majority of us attending these events try to do what we can. George gave his sincere appreciation for this but also asked us to consider trying to do a little more. He said he had increased his donations to the Mean Green Club this year and while he wasn't C. Dan Smith, he did what he could and felt good about doing it. He said we should all be proud about being a North Texas grad, and if you encounter alumni who are negative about the program ask them about whether or not they have experienced a game at Apogee yet. Invite them and the odds are they will come back! If you invited a friend to one of the games, try to get two or more to come this season. George's final point was, the program is so very, very close to being where it finally belongs - where we all want to see it be. I couldn't help but reflect, on how the UNT turnout at the Heart of Dallas Bowl game indicated how truly close we are as a program and how much fun it will be once we get there. GMG!

1). As talented as QB Dajon Williams athletically, is he just not yet ready for prime time. First off -- he's just a redshirt freshman... so after his medical redshirt he will have 4 more years to play. I think sometimes we forget that, and his performance in the Idaho home opener game last season probably didn't help in terms of our expectations.

Much like the Fall of 2013, Williams took UNT's first couple of weeks in Spring training by storm. He made great plays, plays that the other guys couldn't make.

med_gallery_1_227_2456647.jpg

When it's just football, Williams excels. When it comes to the system and understanding a fairly complex Chico Canales offense, Williams can no longer just react using his instincts and athleticism to make plays. This leads to improvising which can lead to turnovers which we all know Mac utterly despises.

Was I disappointed not to get to see Williams in the Spring game? Absolutely! Me and about 99.9% of the Mean Green fans as well. He started so damn strong, it was hard to watch him fall out of the picture.

The good news is that Williamss injury was not serious and he will be back 100% in the Fall. This time is so very important for him as it will allow him to mature and grow. I hope he will give his best in this offseason and focus on getting stronger. I still maintain he is a special talent the likes of which we haven't seen in this program. Now the pressure is off a little, he should have a chance to work on learning the system and becoming a better player.

2). Andrew McNulty - - I thought McNulty really helped himself with a pretty solid showing this Spring. McNulty is not the Showtime QB that UNT fans covet but he's very solid and consistent. Coach Mac will always lean towards the guy that won't hurt you with turnovers. McNulty probably offers a little more mobility than what we saw with Derek Thompson. He does not have a big arm but he can be pretty accurate in the short to mid-range passing game. He knows the system better than any of the QB candidates, and I imagine he might carry that title for the next two years of eligibility he has.

McNulty has been haunted by a poor performance in his first and only start against Tulsa a couple of years ago when he was a true freshman. I think fans hone in on that too much. He has done nothing but spot duty in games since. So we really haven't seen enough of McNulty in game action to form a fair opinion. Where I hope that Dajon Williams will have a good offseason and summer, there's no question in regards to that with McNulty. He will work hard and he will improve in the next 4 months.

The only thing that worries me about McNulty is he is so damn quiet. He appears to be a guy that leads by his actions which is a good thing. I just feel like you need an offensive leader to fill the void left by Derek Thompson and while McNulty could still be that he will never be a cheerleader or motivational speaker.

3). Josh Greer -- Greer had a solid first Spring with UNT and has won the support of many of the coaches and players. He's a quick learner and is picking up Chico's system which is a plus. I noticed in the Spring game that Greer's 6-5 height really gives him a visual advantage in throwing the ball over the middle of the field. He's very similar to Derek Thompson, although a little more mobile.

med_gallery_1_227_689164.jpg

I just noticed the players seemed to be getting behind Greer during the game, and while he was careful not to step on any toes coming in as the new guy, he brings some maturity and experience that could serve this program well. In the Spring Game, he showed that he can move the ball and find open receivers. Is he durable? You could ask the same question about McNulty so we wont really know that until he gets some real game action.

I think the coaching staff was very smart to bring Josh Greer into this program. He brings some unique tools that could be very important, even if he does not get the start in Austin. I noticed in the Spring game, even when things werent going his way, he tried to rally the troops and has a little more fire as opposed to the almost Vulcan-like qualities of McNulty.

4). Connor Means --- I posted a quick, off the hip opinion while watching the UNT Spring game in regards to Means. This wasnt meant to be a slam on the other two guys, but more of an eyebrow raising response to a young guy that I didnt expect to see a lot from.

I just was extremely impressed with a kid who Coach Mac joked Should be at his senior prom He plays with a high intensity level. I like his speed. Hes not a sprinter but he brings a higher level of athleticism then I see in McNulty and Greer. The fact that he is picking things up so quickly, and just the fact he is the first QB I can recall to early enroll at UNT gives me a lot of interest and excitement about this guy.

med_gallery_1_227_1283103.jpg

He showed some inconsistencies at times in the game, but he also showed some nice arm strength on some out patterns that arent easy to complete. Means may not yet fit into the game plan for 2014, but he made a VERY good first impression to the coaching staff and I think one could argue he had one of the more impressive performances in the entire spring.

5). Jamal Marshall If there was one player who made the biggest impression on me defensively in the UNT spring game it would be Derek Akunne but since Ive been singing his praises since last spring, it would be fairly anticlimactic. SO I looked for another player on defense that just stood out and it was Mr. Marshall.

Quick history lesson, Marshall was a relatively unknown cornerback recruit out of Fort Bend Elkins back in 2012. He was probably 6-3 and 180 dripping wet back thennow hes up to 215 and that is probably with a 0% body fat ratio. They moved this track star over to linebacker, and he has really excelled. He was already a standout special teams player last season, and I dont think I ever saw anyone beat him down the field on punt and kickoff coverage. I watched him make some amazing plays on Saturday with his speed. He will have some huge shoes to fill replacing Will Wright, and I would like to see him add more weight - but I think he could be really, really good.

6). Got to give some love to defensive back Zach Whitfield. Sure he dropped a sure pick six, and that is what everyone always seems to focus in on. What I saw was THREE times that he made a play on a receiver where a perfectly places route and pass was turned into an incompletion. If you grade the secondary film from the Spring game, you have to give Whitfield the best performance award in terms of a guy making plays.

7). I think another guy who really caught my eye was unfortunately a guy that wont be able to help us this season. #64 Sam Rice (6-4, 290), the offensive lineman transfer from SMU is going to be a very good player for North Texas. He played extremely well on Saturday, and while he didnt get a much reps as some of the other guys, he was just hard to ignore. He plays with a Mason YBarbo nasty streak and has extremely good size. I think it is important to mention him, because we lose the heart of our offensive line next season. Rice, Kaydon Kirby and some others will need to step up and take the reins. So even though he wont get to play in 2014, I think his addition is important for the program as we try to consistently win every year.

med_gallery_1_227_309267.jpg

8). OK, how could I have a write up on the spring without mentioning running back Erick Evans. In the spring game he averaged 10-yards a carry. But more than that, he has breakaway speed like we havent seen around here in a long time. But the other thing he offers is great field vision; he will find the seam and turn on the jets. I really enjoyed watching him run the ball and cant wait to see what he can do in the Fall. This is a guy who could help you fill the void left by Brelan Chancellor.

9). Other offensive performances worth noting:

Antoine Jimmerson The junior running back left no question that he is the lead dog at the position heading into 2014. 9 carries, 96-yards, 2 TDs and the biggest stat for Coach Mac, 0 turnovers.

Carlos Harris The junior wide receiver had an outstanding 2013 and looks like he will be taking on a bigger role in 2014 as he is the guy who could best replace Brelan Chancellor. Harris had 9-catches for 86-yards and a touchdown in the game.

Darius Terrell Terrell had his moments last season but he had a big role in the spring game with 3-catches and 74 yards. It was very clear in the Spring game that Chico expects Terrell to play a big role in 2014 with the graduation of Darnell Smith.

Turner Smiley Keep an eye on this redshirt freshman. UNT has some big names coming in this Fall with Tee Goree and Fonzale Davis but Smiley could be a nice playmaker for the Mean Green. Smiley had the best receiving performance for the winning White team with 4 catches for 42-yards.

10). Defensive performances:

med_gallery_1_227_177465.jpg

Jarrian Roberts Roberts is starting to come into his own. He had several sacks in the spring game and showed some nice bursts of speed. When you start thinking about guys who will step up and play major roles in 2014 you have to put Roberts at the front of the line.

Sid Moore I watched him a lot, and while he may not start in Austin, he is going to play a lot next year. Other than the great Brandon Kennedy, Moore gets off the ball quicker than any other player I have seen at North. Sometimes it gets him in trouble, and I believe he received a flag one time. Hes a little undersized at 6-2, 260, but his speed helps make up for that.

Alex Lincoln Lincoln is not a guy that gets a lot of pub, but I honestly thought he was the best defensive lineman on the field. Hes undersized but makes up for it with his technique and speed. I actually visualized him giving the UT giant linemen fits with his quickness. Great spring for him and it looks like he could have an outstanding senior season.

Sed Ellis and Calvin Minor -- both are tall, lean speed linebackers who are starting to rise to the top. I put them together because they committed, signed in the same class and almost look like twins on the field. I saw both making plays with their speed all day. I think these are another two guys who may not be initial starters but could work their way into the starting lineup as the season transpires. They will both most certainly help us on special teams. Just two more shining examples of how Coach Mac has slowly built his program around speed.

med_gallery_1_227_1640795.jpg

I was able to visit with some of the UNT coaching staff today and gleaned a few items in regards to the UNT QB situation.

Contrary to popular belief, they really don't have a guy in mind, all four of the guys they have (Andrew McNulty, DaJon Williams, Connor Means and Josh Greer) are in the mix and all have unique skills and abilities that they bring to the table.

I asked specifically about the excitement that was shown in regards to DaJon Williams heading into the start of last season. Some of that optimism was due to the fact that it was right after two weeks of pure football. Once classes started, and the difficulty of being a student athlete began -- it became apparent that Williams was like many college freshman who are juggling their new found freedom with the rigors of academics and of course being a D-I athlete. Add to that the fact he suffered an injury and the decision was made to give this young man a redshirt. In hindsight that was a very good decision.

Here's the good news -- his brief yet impressive showing in the Idaho game was not an illusion. DaJon Williams is still extremely talented, perhaps one of the most raw, talented quarterbacks Chico has ever recruited (he did not recruit Philip Rivers but did coach him). He has more God-given talent than any of the other QB's on the roster. Will he make good use of it? That is a question that may get partially answered in the Spring. He needs to add more size, he is still too lean. He needs to understand Chico's offense better. He needs to build confidence among his teammates. This Spring is extremely important in terms of whether or not he will take that next step forward and earn a start against UT in Austin or figure into the backup #2 spot which will also be a very important spot this season. Or will he occupy the #3 or #4 spot and become more of a down the road, "potential but not yet ready" type of player.

At the opposite end of the Dajon Williams talent spectrum we find Iowa City junior Andrew McNulty. McNulty is not the biggest or fastest of the UNT QB prospects but he may be the smartest. McNulty boasts the most true game experience of all of the candidates but unfortunately that isn't a lot of snaps. McNulty has been the best QB in terms of off season workouts, he can pass the difficult Chico QB exam and likely provides the safest option of the four. I don't get the sense that the coaches believe that McNulty provides the most upside but could provide the least downside among the options at QB. If I was laying Vegas odds I would put McNulty at the top of the list to start against UT because he knows the systems and has earned the respect of his teammates. He is a good kid -- he is a guy that as parents we would all be proud of.

Josh Greer poses the biggest threat to all of the candidates. This was a kid that Chico recruited heavily coming out of Arlington high school. Things didn't work out, UNT ran out of spots and Greer committed to Alabama Birmingham. He transferred into UAB early in the second semester of his senior year. Something happened at UAB to which I can't really say, perhaps it was a coaching change or something else but he found himself just a year later playing for Navarro College. For UNT, Greer is DT. He's probably got a bigger arm, and he's probably a step faster although he's not a speed demon. The big thing is, he was 6-4, 190 soaking wet coming out of high school and now he's 6-5 and closer to 220. I suspect that he may be even bigger and stronger by this Fall in the Wintrich strength and conditioning program. Josh Greer is very familiar with the system Chico runs. He is also a Chico protege, in fact Josh Greer probably wouldn't be at North Texas if it wasn't for Canales.

As an aside, I do not think we will see this remain a 4-man race coming out of the Spring. It's just not feasible to split the extremely limited and valuable reps 4 ways. My sources indicate that they would like to have a top two list coming out of Spring training. This plan may not be public but it just makes sense when you are trying to groom an untested D-I QB for the rigors of the season. It also impacts team chemistry.

Last but not least we have young Connor Means. Means seems to get lost in many of the QB debates that frequent GoMeanGreen.com. Means is actually supposed to be a high school senior at Deer Park but has enrolled early at UNT. Means getting a redshirt year would seem to make a lot of sense but it is not out of the realm of possibility that he could make a very strong impression on the coaching staff this Spring. Physically Means is about an inch shorter than Greer, but more athletic. Means seems to be very focused on winning this job despite his youth and inexperience. It's admirable to see that in such a young prospect but this kid has talent and his list of offers backs this up. While the odds of him breaking through to the starting lineup are slim, I would not yet count him out. I think he is going to try and show enough upside to allow him to slide into the #2 spot which means he really has to beat out three of the guys listed above.

This has to be one of the most interesting QB battles I can recall since following the program. Coming off the Heart of Dallas Bowl win just 62 days ago, and with Coach Mac's 5-year contract extension there is a lot of optimism flowing through the UNT football program. One hopes that this Mean Green winning vibe will bleed over to the quarterback battles that began today and will continue up until April 12 when UNT plays their Spring game.

The purpose of this article is not to look at the guys who everyone in Denton will be talking about in UNT 2013 Fall Camp leading to their first season in Conference USA. Those guys are - of course - Brelan Chancellor, Derek Thompson, Brock Berglund, Darius Terrell, Darvin Kidsey, Reggie Pegram, etc...

Rather, I would like to focus in on a few of the guys who may not be in the bright spotlight but could very well have a big impact on the success of the program now and in future years. Some are new and some have been around for awhile. This list is certainly not all inclusive. In scanning the updated roster I saw many, many players who have sort of fallen under the radar for various reasons. UNT Head Coach Dan McCarney has been very consistent in terms of signing high school players and redshirting most of them so strength coach Frank Wintrich can do his thing.

The exciting thing about this building strategy Mac employs is that it provides you with a lot of wildcard, dark horse candidates to think about and consider as we inch closer to the 2013 season opener against Idaho. Here's a look at 10 guys that I think fit into this category.

1). DT Sir Calvin Wallace - He's got good size (6-2, 293) and showed a nice burst of speed in the Spring. He was redshirted last season which was a good thing because he did not report into last year’s camp in good shape. He's raw, and he's still learning the system but he's at a position where UNT is thin (nose). This camp could be a huge one for Sir Calvin and if he could be a solid rotational player for the Mean Green this season it would be a huge lift to the future of the defense.

Quick Side note: Highly touted freshman Sid Moore is listed as DL not DT or DE like everyone else on the updated roster...could it be that his position could be either? One thing we know is this kid can play -- but at 6-1, 252 it might not be out of the realm of possibility that it could be at defensive end...

2). CB Freddie Warner --- ahhh Freddie, what a remarkable talent he was for UNT as a true freshman but the injuries he sustained make him returning to what he was a tall order. Wouldn't his return be a tremendous boost to this program? I mean really, if Freddie is close to where he was speed-wise agility our secondary could be extremely stout and deep. He is a guy I hope we will see get back on the field.

3). My main man -- TE Wylie Reinhardt who us listed as a tight end but according to the roster is at 6-4 275. He played some offensive line and then moved to tight end his senior year and is an OUTSTANDING blocker...that said I believe he has the attitude and mentality to play defense. He's a workout junkie, loves to pump the iron and ideally you would LOVE to have him spend a redshirt year building mass but I also wonder with the depth issues at DT if he couldn't be a possibility down the line or perhaps even DE like my boy BillySee has mentioned...a very interesting player that I predict could be huge for us down the line.

4). DE Brad Horton - the California surfer dude who stands out because he's just different than your average defensive end and he's also 6-6! Redshirted last year, and missed the spring drills because of rehabbing from an injury. There hasn't been a lot of talk about him from the coaches to this point which isn't unusual for a red shirt guy. My question is can he play? He has the size and I would love to see his length on the corner at some point. It was a big step back for him to miss his first spring training and so he has dug a pretty big hole for his 2013 prospects. I think this is a BIG show me camp for Mr. Horton.

5). LB LaJaylin Smith -- I was a big fan of his when he was recruited. The guy had one of the best highlight tapes I had ever seen. He's been stuck behind some good players -- he played in 7 games last year and had three tackles as a true freshman. They didn't redshirt him which says he has a little something but North Texas has some good linebackers coming in and more on the way in 2014 that have committed. The Louisiana experiment hasn't gone very well for North Texas thus far and it probably cost Justin Gaines his job. I'm hoping Smith will buck the trend. Smith will need to show that he can produce this season and a good Fall camp would help his cause. He may need to make some big plays on special teams and he is capable of that.

6). RB Mark Lewis -- Coach McCarney was very high on Lewis coming out of the spring. He said there were concerns about whether or not he was going to fit into what they were trying to do but that Lewis answered that during the spring. Lewis redshirted last season and the fact is he's sitting at #4 or #5 on the depth chart this year with guys like Jim Jim, Byrd and Purdue transfer Reggie Pegram chomping at the bit for PT. Special teams could well be where Lewis can shine for the program early.

7). TE Daniel Prior - Danny sat out last season with injuries and is showing up on the roster at 6-2, 246. If you're late to the game, Prior was a pretty highly regarded linebacker coming out of East Texas and then was moved to tight end. Mac has stated on several occasions that he is pleased to see Prior back in the fold for this season. He is not big from a positional stand point, but he does have really good speed and I think they may try to use him in some H-Back type of formations. With juco transfer Chris Loving, Marcus Smith and Drew Miller in the mix it won't be easy to land a whole lot of playing time at this position so Prior will need to make finding his niche a priority.

8). TE Marcus Smith -- Played as a true freshman until he suffered an injury that basically took his season away. Big and pretty fast at 6-4, 255. He's a physical specimen that just has not been healthy since his senior season. His future took a big step back when he was unable to participate in spring drills. He is supposed to be 100% heading into Fall practices. Will he be? If so, the guy has tremendous potential and could provide a huge depth boost to the UNT offense.

9). DE Daryl Mason - If you follow me on GoMeanGreen.com you know this is a player that I think a lot of. When he arrived at North Texas in 2011 he played fairly significant minutes as a 6-3, 215 pound defensive end. He missed a couple of games at the end of last year with injury and they sat him out in the spring. Now he's listed at 6-3, 253 and seeing him on the sidelines during spring you could tell that his weight and strength had increased dramatically. He looks like a D-I defensive end. If Mason is healthy, he has the athletic ability and now the size to really help John Skladany's defense. I thought it was interesting that Skladany has mentioned Mason specifically when he's not a coach that will throw a lot of names out there.

10). LB Fred Scott - Scott will be a true freshman linebacker this season. At 5-11, 238 he is strong, can run and is VERY physical. UNT's three linebackers are pretty set in stone (Orr, Akunne and Wright). With two of them graduating next season, it would be short sided not to give some other guys time and experience. I think Scott could be that guy. I think he could also push some of the older linebackers a little bit as well. If Scott shows signs that he could be the next Derek Akunne it would be a big lift against the graduation losses at linebacker UNT will face after this season.

The 2013 North Texas Friday Night Lights camp is in the books and it was a major success. The last summer camp of the year attracted 417 prospects from Texas and surrounding states. As a fan, it was really neat to see so many players wearing jerseys from throughout DFW, around the entire state and even Oklahoma and Arkansas. It just couldn't have been a better day, the weather was perfect and there was a good contingent of parents and fans to support the players.

North Texas Coach Dan McCarney took this concept from his time under Urban Meyer at Florida. It gives North Texas a chance to showcase its beautiful facility Apogee Stadium as well as the outstanding coaching staff that Mac has assembled.

If you are looking for detailed analysis of the performances of this camp you will probably be disappointed by this write up. The entire event, although well run, was very fluid and other than the high school jerseys the players wore and some twitter speculation there just wasn't a great way to identify who was who.

med_gallery_1_182_938242.jpg

Now with that disclaimer out of the way here's what I can share. When I walked in the gates of Apogee I was amazed at how many players were there. The players were pumped up by a very motivational speech given by Dallas Cowboy Ring of Honor recipient Drew Pearson. I thought Pearson did a really nice job and spoke about the fact he wasn't a highly regarded player coming out of high school or college and that he overcame that because he had a dream and worked very hard to make that dream come true. I really liked the addition of Pearson to the event. I thought his comments about the North Texas being on the rise and his praise of Coach Mac and his staff carried some weight with the many parents that were there watching their sons.

med_gallery_1_182_1605621.jpg

What can you say about Apogee other than the jewel was really sparkling on this particular day. We have gotten used to how cool Apogee looks during games, but when you see a bunch of high school players and their parents soaking it in for the first time it is pretty cool. The truth is North Texas only has close to 20 spots left to give in this upcoming class; most of the kids out there won't be fortunate enough to land a full ride. However, the memories of the camp experience and the impressive visual of Apogee will be shared with their family and their friends for many years to come.

med_gallery_1_182_1030153.jpg

After Pearson's pep talk, Mac jumped in and addressed the crowd of young men. Mac was typical Mac - full of piss, vinegar, motivation and inspiration. Of course he thanked Dru Pearson and all of the parents for bringing their sons to participate. He just represents the program in a first class way. You could tell he was really stoked about the turnout; he made the comment that when he came to North Texas having this type of turnout and participation in a camp was "a dream of mine".

Mac handed the mike over to Director of Football Operations Scotty Conley. You could tell that Conley was very involved in the planning and logistics of the camp. He gave clear instructions and they appeared to use a card type of system to identify the players and where they were supposed to be. I think Conley did a nice job. He threw out a lot of fun contests during the warm-ups, stuff like "Best Hair Award" and "Best socks". Fun little twists that kept things light and interesting.

After the warm-ups I saw a lady that was with her two sons and seemed to have arrived late. It turns out she was from Sugarland, Texas and had gotten caught up in traffic. She was worried that her sons wouldn't get to participate in the camp. After speaking with her briefly, Conley quickly got on his phone and made some arrangements that allowed them to get out on the field with their designated coaches in short order. I thought that was a really nice thing for him to do as busy as he was down on the field. I think things like that endear families to the school and the program.

sml_gallery_1_182_506413.jpg

UNT AD Rick Villarreal was in attendance and had several current UNT players with him watching the drills. Former letterman and Regent C. Dan Smith was also in attendance. If there was a UNT Coach not there I couldn't see it. John Skladany, Mike Simmonds, Tommy Perry, Noah Joseph, Ryan Walters, Nick Quartaro, Mike Nelson all of the grad assistants were running drills and coaching the attendees. Mac was stopping from one area to another, offering some advice here and yelling some encouragement there. The neat thing that I noticed is that the coaches gave the same amount of time to the higher level prospects that they did to the rest. I think there were mostly juniors there but there was a smattering of younger players as well. In typical Mac fashion thing moved very briskly. When they announced that the backs and receivers were to move from Apogee over to the practice fields it didn't take more than 7 minutes to get 200+ bodies over to the fields.

med_gallery_1_182_787997.jpg

Brett Vito of the Denton Record Chronicle shared in his update tonight a listing of some of the key targets that were in attendance and you can peruse that as well as his thoughts here. If you were following the GoMeanGreen.com message boards over the past couple of days you will see that an avalanche of twitter posts from players attending the camp were shared. It really was phenomenal how viral the camp went on social media. First one coach would say to a player, "you really should go to that North Texas camp", and the player would respond that he was and then several of his friends would chime in and next thing you know there are a LOT of players indicating that they would be in attendance. Let me just say this, there were some very good athletes out there and definitely some D-I size. I feel very confident in saying that this event will reap some immediate rewards for North Texas and I expect we will find more detail about this in the coming days.

Make no mistake; this was a big day for the North Texas football program. I think that this could be the start of something really big and I say that not to take away from the event tonight but to say that instead of 417 I could see 600, 700 - heck maybe even 1000 prospects eventually join the festivities every single year. You see there are so many good football players in this area and region. So many that for one reason or another didn't make the "list" but have the ability to play at the D-I level. North Texas offers them that chance. Even if you are not able to land one of the vaunted 25 full ride spots, the reasonable tuition costs at North Texas allows a kid with talent to walk-on and perhaps earn a scholarship. For those that are on the "list" having a first class camp that is in their backyard and the chance to be exposed to an outstanding staff and all of the tremendous facility improvements that have taken place is worth the price of admission.

I want to give a big thanks to Coach Mac, his staff, Drew Pearson and the entire AD Department for their hard work in pulling this event off and running it so smoothly. To the parents and players, we thank all of you for participating and we hope that you had a great experience at North Texas. For those of you lucky enough to get the golden ticket congratulations! Either way, we truly appreciate all of you for taking part and wish the best of luck to all of you in this coming season!

Go Mean Green!

Talk about this article and more on the Mean Green Football Board

14949835_BG1.jpg

OSU Practice Field - Image courtesy of Flickr

With all of the rumors and high hopes surrounding the return of baseball to North Texas, it could be viewed as a little premature to start planning out the next athletic facility improvement. Obviously, most North Texas fans are thrilled about the prospect of adding a new baseball facility in the Eagle Village Athletic complex. And the fact that the athletic department - with big help from our sainted donor Ernie Kuehne - was able to build the new basketball practice facility in such short order - was a big feather in their cap.

I was not one who thought an indoor football and athletic practice facility was a priority at North Texas. Sure, it would be a nice recruiting tool and knowing that Arkansas State is putting an 11 million dollar facility in place makes you think it must be pretty important to them. ASU is not a program that has a lot of T. Boone Pickens at their disposal. But is it really necessary to spend so much money on the convenience of having an indoor practice facility? I mean, maybe in the northwest where snow and inclement weather was an issue you could make a case. But this is Texas. It seems to me that UNT Coach Dan McCarney does just fine even in the heat by scheduling practices early in the morning and late in the day.

406844.jpg

Arkansas State Indoor Practice facility - courtesy howlyes.com

At the C-USA media day I spent a fair amount of time with Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship and a number of Tulsa beat writers and the discussion of Tulsa's plans for a practice facility came up in the conversation. I was laying back for most of my time with them just listening to their discussions but decided to chime in and challenge coach on his the usefulness versus cost of a state of the art indoor palace. "Is it really a facility that you would use on a consistent basis?" I asked. Blankenship looked me straight in the eye and said, "Absolutely! We would have that place booked up every single day of the year."

Blankenship went on to explain to me how last season - in the week leading up to the C-USA championship game - Tulsa has a major lightning storm hit the area. The team was too big in number to all fit in any of the gyms or dated facilities on campus. In the end it was a lost day, a critically lost day when you figure in their opponent Central Florida was able to put in a full day of work preparing against Tulsa. He said that even when they weren't using the facility for a full practice that it could be used in so many other ways and by so many other of the men's and women's sports teams.

Beyond the weather, as Blankenship states in the Tulsa World, "We’ve got to get that done. It just shows your commitment." One of the greatest delights as a North Texas fan was the building of Apogee Stadium. For a program that for too long suffered with sub par facilities and the subsequent effect on recruiting and fan appeal, Apogee was a beacon of light. The proposed baseball stadium, as well as the beautiful athletic center, basketball practice facility, Super Pit scoreboard and sound upgrades are all truly tangible signs of UNT's commitment to athletic excellence. UNT is building a 120 million dollar student union goodness sakes! To some, asking for more on top of all that has been accomplished in the last decade at UNT might seem... well... greedy.

My point is it's not. I think it's a valid concern that the decision makers at UNT may become complacent now that so many great athletic facility improvements have happened in such a short amount of time. The fact is that much of this work was playing catchup with the big boys and in some cases our peers. In reality, North Texas had to pay back for the sins of athletic neglect in the past. Selling a project in the current financial environment won't be easy, but even a winning program like Tulsa knows quite well even when things are going good you can't afford to stand still.

Talk about this article and more on the Mean Green Football Forum!

I thought the 2013 C-USA media event was well run and interesting. Of course, being that it was in Irving made it quite convenient for me to attend, actually took about 20 minutes for me to get there. The event was held at the DFW Marriott North, which is very close to C-USA's headquarters in Irving right off of Freeport Parkway and 114. They started the day at 9AM with the western division teams which included all of the head coaches and one player from every team. The eastern division teams did interviews with the television media in the morning; the western division teams met with the print media/websites in morning and then they switched it up in the afternoon.

The one question that I know every Mean Green fan wants to know is what about North Texas? I was able to interview Zach Orr although he was also being filmed himself doing interviews during part of the morning. He was very excited about the season and had high praise for both of his other linebackers Derek Akunne and Will Wright. He said that Akunne was a great playmaker for them last year and he would only get better. He said Will Wright brought excellent speed and the ability to pass defend on the other side. He was very emotional about this being his last year, wanting to "Leave his mark".

I would take the time to share all of Mac's thoughts on here but I actually videotaped much of the interview and will try to post that as soon as I can. First things first -- he looks great. He wasn't wearing his sunglasses. I think the major points of Mac’s message haven’t changed in the time he has been here. He's going to build this the right way, things weren't good when he arrived but they are getting better; academics have improved; there is quality depth that wasn't there before and more competition at positions. While these are all good things that we appreciate in terms of this event I would say the difference was there was a taste of agitation in Mac's motivational message. Let me be clear - Mac is as positive and motivated a guy as I have come across. I just sensed that the same words that rolled off his tongue in past years seemed to have a bitter taste this time around. I described to a friend as sort of an agitation in regards to words as compared to actions. Mac is tired of talking about the sleeping giant and doesn't have 10 years to build this thing...he wants results now. He wants to return to the C-USA 2014 media day with some feathers in his cap in the form of wins. So instead of regurgitate the same messaging that I've fed you before, I decided to break out and drink from the rest of the C-USA cup and see what I would find. Despite the lack of detail, take solace if you are a UNT fan..Mac is literally chomping at the bit for this season to begin and you can tell he expects to right the wrongs of last season’s 4-win campaign.

If you followed my tweets, you will notice that I mentioned the Old Dominion feud as being the most conflict inducing component of the event. Well maybe for some. I happened to be at the table where C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky was being interviewed by several writers from various schools. If you have been following this story, essentially Old Dominion cancelled a football game that was scheduled with Charlotte in 2014...why I really don't know but it was learned yesterday that now Charlotte cancelled a game with Old Dominion THIS SEASON...the beat writer for ODU was pretty worked up about it and immediately started questioning Banowsky who was evidently supposed to be some sort of mediator between the two schools. Long story short, it seems that ODU and Charlotte have some sort of personal feud going on and Minion did his best to try and roll C-USA into the mix. Personally, I think it's great because eventually in 2015 they will HAVE to play each other and boy will that hatred be building up in the meantime. I am sorry that ODU is without a game, but they will find one and life will go on. One interesting tidbit that came out of the ODU questioning was Minion asked about further C-USA expansion. Banowsky said we were stable at this time but he was prepared if anything was to happen. Minion indicated that he heard that C-USA had visited James Madison. Banowsky did not confirm or deny this rumor.

UTSA Head Coach Larry Coker is probably one of the nicest guys you will meet and a great addition to the C-USA coaching ranks. I sensed him stepping back the optimism just a bit in terms of how the Road Runners will fare against the higher level of competition which was probably a smart thing to do in this particular venue. He's an old school charmer, and he had nothing but nice things to say about the other teams in the conference and the conference itself. When asked about where his focus is, he mentioned that he would like to see some facilities get built. As North Texas fans we can recognize the challenges that provide for a building program. He seemed confident that they could get it done. I spoke to him about how much our fans were looking forward to visiting San Antonio and he said the same thing about coming up to Denton. I couldn't help but notice his national championship ring. The guy has skins. He made the comment, "I love what I am doing with this program because I can do it the right way.." I don't know if that was in reference to his days at Miami or something else but you get the feeling that the guy genuinely loves his job. I have found people in that type of situation typically do pretty well! I didn't get a lot of time with the UTSA player representative QB Eric Soza. I did catch a couple of quotes -- essentially that he was proud of the fact that the UTSA football program had become a source of pride on campus and that students in turn seemed to be more proud of attending UTSA which I thought was pretty cool and definitely something I could appreciate. You definitely came away with the impression that UTSA was the biggest wildcard of the conference and although they might not be world beaters they were sure moving up the food chain quickly.

I spent a lot of time with Tulsa Coach Bill Blankenship and it wasn't really planned that way. I happened over by his table with several of the Tulsa beat writers guys like Berry Tramel and Bill Haisten as well as John Klein and another guy whose name I forgot. Their conversation like most of the writers there were focused on the sabre rattling from the Big 10 and Big 12 regarding impending changes in the NCAA structure. I thought Blankenship's answer to their question was pretty funny, he said "well I think they are still going to want to play us" meaning essentially cutting off the C-USA's of the world would leave a lot of good programs as doormats in the new "semi-pro" league. Blankenship spoke at length about Tulsa's message to recruits and what was working for them. I have always found Tulsa's rebirth in college football a decade ago extremely interesting so to get the story from a man who witnessed it first hand was neat. In a nutshell, Tulsa uses their small size and good academic reputation to its advantage. Parents of top players know that kids can get lost in the bigger schools. It sort of gave me some insight into what we face against SMU and TCU in the metroplex. I found Blankenship to be a straight shooter and down to earth. He could easily have put on airs with everyone in that room holding the conference championship and heading to another conference. Blankenship seemed to really play down some of the hints of disparity in the league. "I just don't think people know how close these teams are in talent." There was some talk amongst the sports writers about a concern at kicker and even some other positions where Tulsa was "light" this year so it sort of gave me some hope in that we weren't the only team in C-USA facing those types of issues.

Curtis Johnson of Tulane is a very outgoing, animated person. He's a smaller guy, a receiver back in his college days. I didn't know that he had graduated from Idaho and then was an assistant coach under Larry Coker at Miami before joining Sean Payton's staff at New Orleans. He has a big smile and a good sense of humor. I asked him if Tulane academics had been supportive of what he was trying to accomplish and he indicated that they were although I sort of sensed it was still a job in progress. We discussed the interstate rivalries this year with them playing games against La. Tech, Louisiana Monroe etc. He said he loved it he said it would build on rivalries and start getting more fans to the games. He has the same setup as Dan McCarney had with his office overlooking the construction of the new Tulane stadium. When I asked him about the season he said he was excited and felt like they had the players in place to "make a big jump". As with all the coaches I interviewed, you get that mixture of nervousness and excitement about the season. Every one of them blends optimism with the stark reality that a fumble here and an interception there could turn a win into a loss.

UTEP coach Sean Kugler is a big mustached ex lineman, looks like he could still bench 350 if he needed to. Very nice man, complementary of North Texas and Dan McCarney. We shared a few stories about ex UNT coach Spencer "Lefty" Leftwich. Kugler has known Leftwich a long time dating back to when Kugler coached at UTEP and Lefty was at New Mexico State. Later on, the hooked up again when Lefty was coaching with Todd Dodge at Pitt and Kugler was coaching for the Pittsburg Steelers. He beamed with pride about signing Spencer's son at QB for UTEP. Spencer's son played for North Allegheny in Pennsylvania and was a teammate of Kugler's son Patrick (6-5, 290) who signed with Michigan. Man it makes you feel old when you can remember Spencer's son running around at 3-4 years old on the worn down Fouts turf at one time. UTEP's player representative was a defensive tackle from Huntsville, Texas Adam Ayala. Ayala is every bit of 6-5, around 260 and you just wish he was suiting up in green. He will be a load to handle this season. We spoke about QB Jameil Showers the Texas A&M transfer and Kugler said he was a very smart kid that graduated early and will have two years left to play for the Miners. He comes from a good family and Kugler said he "expects him to be in the hunt" for the starting quarterback job. UTEP has some good players coming back this season and Kugler having coached in the NFL will have them ready. I sort of came away from my UTEP interview feeling like they might be the most overlooked team in the western division this season.

I didn't get as much time with Rice Coach David Baliff. He's a big dude, must have been an offensive lineman back in the day. Very soft spoken but articulate. He must of been really good friends with Louisiana Monroe coach Todd Berry because he was insisting that one of the Louisiana beat writers send his best regards to Todd. I did get some time with Rice QB Taylor McHargue who was at one of the tables. Really intelligent guy, not as big as I would have thought. He talked about how last year Rice had to prove that they could win and now they were in a position where they know that they can they just need to execute. He said Rice has developed more quality depth than he had experienced in his years there. If there was any sense of "being left behind" or slumming it with the non-private school crowd I didn't sense it. Both coach and player were extremely cordial and positive about the newly configured C-USA lineup.

Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz must have been the last TV interviewee because he sort of showed up to the party a little late. He's also a big dude, a lot bigger than his daddy. Well dressed. I really didn't get much time with him, would have liked to but he was pretty much surrounded for the remaining time I saw him there.

Lastly, I was able to spend a fair amount of time with conference commissioner Britton Banowsky. I've said it before on this blog I just sort of like the guy. He seems very approachable and is willing to discuss issues in an open way. He's very descriptive which is probably the lawyer in him but as we know many of the issues surrounding the NCAA are fairly complex. For much of the day he was getting pestered with questions about the possible NCAA split and the name of Big Twelve commissioner Bob Bowlsby came up at least a dozen times. A less tolerant person might have said, "hey look guys this the C-USA football media day, let's talk about our great football programs" but Banowsky patiently answered all of the questions to the best of his ability. I decided to move away from that circular topic and ask him on his thoughts regarding the Heart of Dallas Bowl and the recent Big 10 affiliation that was announced. His eyes lit up, you could tell it was something he was proud of (Banowsky sits on the board of the Heart of Dallas Bowl which raises money for the homeless population). "We started it up from nothing and last year we had Purdue and Oklahoma State and almost 50,000 in attendance." He mentioned that they were able to raise a lot of money and through volunteers were able to help a lot of people in need. He said they were pleased to work out the deal with the Big 10 but qualified it by saying, "the Big 10 wants exposure in Dallas and the metroplex which is a part of why the alliance made sense." The other comment that I liked was addressing the movement caused by conference realignment and C-USA's role that, "C-USA is sort of like the Switzerland of football conferences", describing the position of wishing schools that depart the best and welcoming in new schools that have potential to thrive. I also asked him about "The Alliance" that had formed with the Mountain West and if there was a chance that that relationship could reattach in future years. He said Craig Thompson was a great commissioner and "dear friend" and felt that it very well could come back into play after this latest round of changes were able to have a "cooling off" period.

I wanted to start and close with a shout out to the C-USA staff. I thought they did a nice job with the event. A lot of logistics go into a conference event with so many teams involved and I thought it went well. GMG!

Click here to talk about this article more in the Mean Green Football Forum!

sml_gallery_1_181_233140.jpg

Dan McCarney - "This league is loaded with real talented head coaches. Real successful guys, you look at the resumes and their pedigree and they're really a great lineup of coaches...We're [uNT] just lucky to be there because we know there's lot of teams that would rather be in our shoes... We just hope we can be a factor in the race. We're in the process of trying to restore some dignity, some respect to North Texas football that's been missing for a long time.

sml_gallery_1_181_733978.jpg

Bill Blankenship speaking on the C-USA coaches - "We really have a great camaraderie, the coaches here had a little social gathering last night and there was a lot of laughter and a lot of stories being told. There was very little talk about conference realignment."

On he and Larry Coker getting to meet again (Coker was Blankenship's coach back in '77) - I'm a little fearful of it to tell you the truth, I think he's forgotten a whole lot more football than I'll ever know. Hopefully we'll get a hold of them before they get things going. He's got that thing going in the right way. Coach Coker was a great teacher he was very patient. I was a fifth year senior, he was not too proud to ask questions of the veteran players and ask how you did something before."

On the resurgence of Tulsa football - "You go back to Steve Kraigthorpe era, I was fortunate that I got to join Todd Graham's staff. When I came on the staff the best thing I was able to do was capture some momentum and some players who learned how to win. I think we understand how to recruit to Tulsa. We're probably not getting the top recruits as measured by everyone else but we feel like they fit us and what we do. We think we know who you can win with.

On who Tulsa is looking for in a player - "We're looking for the same player that the service academies are looking for but we don't require the same 4 year commitment after they graduate. They're not all Eagle scouts but we think leadership is important. And then they have to have the athletic ability to be able to play at a high level. We have 23 players out of the last 3 recruiting classes who turned down scholarships from the Big 12, Big 10 SEC etc. We're at a place we've identified that if you and your family value a great education in a smaller size student body where everyone can put a face to a name we can offer you that."

sml_gallery_1_181_18504.jpg

C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky on the sabre rattling from the BCS institutions for NCAA changes: "I think the issue is how do you deal with the issues of the day - together. There's issues around how you deal with the student athletes financial package, there's issues with the safety of the game and players health which should be of the highest priority, we have financial sustainability issues in the long run and in the short we have issues of too much commercialization. It seems to me that we addressed conference realignment and now the [NCAA] system needs realignment now.

On Student Athlete stipends - If you think about it the student athlete is on a full scholarship, room board and books and food. Does he she have a need beyond that I think if you start adding on that - at what point have you broken from the philosophical of amateurism? And then where does that stop? On the flip side, you clearly have an explosive commercialism, you have coaches’ salaries which are skyrocketing and how do you keep and equilibrium between the student athlete financial package and the financial prosperity of certain athletic departments. It's just a dynamic that is very challenging. From C-USA's perspective we're generally supportive of trying to find ways of supporting those who have unmet needs and trying to make sure they are completely satisfied. We would all generally agree that once you go beyond the attendance and educational element of this you are going into a space that is unchartered territory.

On the possibility of a BCS conference breakaway -- I guess anything is possible, but there would have to be a rationale for it, a strong motivation. I think if you look at it, we have great leaders who have the ability to lead -- so we just have to all get behind some shared values and try to lead our members to that. We have a responsibility to do that and I'm fairly confident that we will. These associations in some cases have been together for over 100 years, we move members around but the universities stay in the same places. Some get bigger some get really big -- some stay about the same size, some are private some are public...it's the network of higher education. My sense is that fabric is there; the presidents will get around these issues and focus on it. If we've done a good job of leading we should be able to solve it."

As a North Texas fan suffering through a 4-win 2012 season it was pretty easy to lay the blame on #7. Derek Thompson (DT), in his junior year had his struggles throwing as many interceptions as he did touchdown passes (14 TD's-14 INT's). He also made some bad decisions at key points in key game like throwing an ill advised interception at the start of the 4th quarter against Western Kentucky when UNT was winning the game 24-10. Of course WKU came back to win that game and a big upset win on the road to end the season slipped through Dan McCarney's fingers like sand.

Since then, UNT fans have seen the dream of future star quarterback recruit Brock Berglund taking the reins fade. Berglund came highly regarded as a three star transfer from Kansas. A pulled hamstring in the beginning of spring training limited his snaps and put him way behind Thompson heading into this season. It's not that Berglund doesn't have the skills - he does - but he has yet to put them all together and a turnover conscious McCartney isn't likely to roll the dice on him, at least early on in the season. Mac needs wins and he despises turnovers. With all the upside athleticism Berglund possesses he is basically a new quarterback to this system - and the FBS game itself. He will make some mistakes on the field as he earns his stripes.

DT -- who has become the poster boy for disappointed UNT fans lately has admitted he had a rough season in 2012. Is it possible that all of the offensive troubles last season weren't just his fault? Could it be that the other end of the passing ball could be part of the problem? Could the errant throw in the 4th quarter at Western be more than just a bad decision by DT? Could it be that the receiver he was supposed to be throwing to...gasp...have run the wrong route?

It's not a huge leap to say the wide receiver position has been a challenge for North Texas over the past few years. It's not to say there isn't talent there, because there is some but not much of it is scholarship talent and many of the key players have risen up from walk-on status. Ivan Delgado was no doubt UNT's most productive wide receiver last season and yet he walked on to North Texas and earned his spot primarily as a clutch possession receiver. He led the team with 570 yards last season although he did not score a touchdown. Delgado has graduated. Brelan Chancellor is an absolute speed demon and great talent but missed the final 5 games of last season with injury. Next in line is Darnell Smith, another former walk-on who pulled in 28 receptions for 379 yards in 12 games. Smith is back and could be a big piece of the puzzle. Freshman scholarship player Carlos Harris had a nice first season with 263 yards and a touchdown.

North Texas was ranked 83rd in all of the NCAA in interceptions thrown (14) -- that's a scary stat when you know that North Texas rarely throws the ball. Were all of these interceptions DT's fault? Is an interception always the fault of the quarterback or could the receiver not running the correct route be a part?

One thing that is clear, rival assistant coaches looked at the North Texas team and said that there wasn't one guy -- with the possible exception of Brelan Chancellor that really scared them in the passing game. This led to 8-9 man fronts and gave these teams a huge luxury in being able to focus their attention on a pretty potent UNT running game and offensive line.

An assistant coaching change was made in the off season that didn't really garner a lot of attention. Nick Quartaro was moved from wide receivers to tight ends and was replaced by Mike Grant. Grant was replaced at running backs by new coach Tommy Perry. Why would you move Grant who did a fine job with the UNT running game over to wide receiver? At the time I figured it was to make a spot for Perry. Now, upon further review, I think it may be because Mac believes Grant can get more production out of the wide receiver position. Grant is a hardnosed, accountability guy and he will make sure that the wide receivers are running the correct routes and giving their best effort. The running backs made plays last season, even when against 8-9 man fronts. Mac knows that he needs that same type of production out of the wide receivers in this inaugural Conference USA season.

Hopefully Grant will inspire more big plays. North Texas hasn't had enough of them lately and hitting on some long pass plays early in the season would certainly be a plus.

There will be some new faces in the mix, talented Texas transfer Darius Terrell participated in the spring and true freshman Darvin Kidsey from Houston could help right away. Most of the receivers from last season are back this year. If North Texas is to make positive strides in their first season of Conference USA improvement at the wide receiver position will be an important piece to the puzzle.

blog-0218642001367989886.jpgThe following is a recap from North Texas Head Coach Tony Benford’s speech at the UNT Coaches Caravan stop held at the Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, Texas on May 7th, 2013.

 

After an introduction from UNT Athletic Director Rick Villarreal:  Benford said that he appreciated “Coach V’s” support but after a long meeting today he told RV, I’m a big guy – of course I need to drop some pounds and I’m working on that (audience laughter) – but no what I said was coach, I can take care of myself -I’m a big boy and I’ve been doing this a long time and I know what it takes to win and what I have to do to get this program to the level that we aspire to be at.  He personally thanked Ernie Kuehne (called him the Godfather of North Texas basketball) and Julie (wife of David) Anderson from Texas Capital Bank who helped to set up the event to the applause of the crowd. He said he appreciated everyone's support and would do his very best to build a program they could be proud of.

 

On the new Ernie Kuehne practice facility:  the facility is phenomenal, what Mr. Kuhne and others have done for us is unbelievable from a recruiting standpoint.  We have a building that we can sell.  The one thing I tell recruits all the time is we are going to invest in them, not only as a person but also on the court in terms of their game.  With the new practice facility – there’s no excuses.  With the facilities we have and the new Jumbotron and some other things that we’re doing there are no excuses.  We have a phenomenal institution – we just have to get the word out and we’re doing that.

 

On his staff:  He introduced the entire basketball staff to applause.  Said assistant David Anwar was the “hardest working man” in college basketball.  He’s always recruiting.  Thanked Jeff Luster his Director of Operations for his hard work.  Coach Bart Lundy just turned out a head job.  He’s a great coach, tremendous family guy – does a great job of developing our players.  I’m very fortunate to have him.  My Associate Head Coach is Robb Evans.  Robb Evans was successful head coach at Old Miss and Arizona State.  Coach Evans was just voted the #1 mid major assistant in the country by a publication.  He brings a great deal of wisdom.  With the year we were having this year, I turned to these guys and asked them have you even experienced this and they had not.  Especially in terms of injuries. 

 

On Academics:  All four of my seniors are going to get their degree.  Niko came in today and hugged me to say goodbye.  He already had his plane tickets to head back to France.  He won’t be able to walk the stage but he earned his degree.  I will miss Niko.  I am really proud of him.  A lot of people had given up on him.  I told him you have to be positive.  We’re going to miss him.  Roger also got his degree and he will be playing in Europe and already has a job there.  Jacob Holman graduates and is wanting to coach so we are looking to help him do that as a graduate assistant.  Justin Patton is going to graduate but he will limp across the stage because he just had surgery.  Unfortunately that is what our season was all about (injuries).  All of those guys got their degree and I am really proud of that.  All of the guys we have do not have any academic issues.  We have a great academic support system led by Cinnamon Sheffield and she does a great job.  On my watch, we are going to prevent anybody from being ineligible at the semester. 

 

On this past season:  We knew the expectations were really high this year.  We knew that.  We didn’t run from that.  We tried to temper it a lot.  I told my guys you have to play the game at your best because you never know how it will play out.  We did a lot leading up to the season to prepare them, we had a sports psychologist come in and we did a boot camp.  Losing Brandon Walton hurt a lot.  I’m not saying he was a one man team but we made as a team this year 113 3’s; the year before he hit 54 3-point shots by himself.  That tells you what we missed with a guy like Brandon being out.  Knowing that we moved through the season and we thought we lost some games we should have won.  There were some games we gave away I feel like.  Defensively we weren’t very sound.  Those are things we have to do better as a coaching staff.  As we went on through the season we had some other injuries that set us back.  Losing Chris Jones, I thought he was really starting to buy in to what we were trying to do.  He was beginning to be a true point guard and being a coach out on the floor.  Then he goes down, at Western Kentucky.  Nobody is even around him and he breaks his foot.  Now we go from a guy leading the league and averaging six assists to then as a team only averaging 8 assists the rest of the season.  So that was a terrible blow for us losing him.  Then Holman, Patton is out.  That’s just how the season went.  One thing about our guys is they never quit.  Even when we had 7 or 8 guys total in practice they never quit.  We almost had to suit up Coach Anwar (laughter) but I don’t think he could get up and down the court very well.

 

What won't happen again:  I won’t ever go into a season like this last one without enough shooters, in particular 3-point shooters.  When Brandon went down it really hurt what we were trying to accomplish.

 

Breaking down the numbers:  We averaged three 3’s a game.  Bandon Walton averaged two 3’s a game the season before himself.  We were last in the league in assists.  We led the league in turnovers.    So – if you understand basketball, this is very tough (to overcome).  And people say, “yeah well you have Tony Mitchell”… yes he’s a great player but if you can’t get the ball to him, you can draw up any play that you want.  It was very difficult for him to do anything especially with teams swarming around him.  In Tony’s defense and Roger’s defense – those guys gave great effort all season, they were positive they kept working and they never quit.  That’s one of the things I am proud about is that these guys never quit this season. 

 

On Jordan Wililams:  I thought a guy like Jordan Williams really grew up this year.  I have pro scouts there to see Tony asking about him now, “what about Jordan Williams” and I tell them he’s got a chance…a lot of pro scouts are looking at him and they have him on the radar right now. 

 

On TJ Taylor:  When I took the job here I encouraged TJ to check Marquette out and he goes there for two weeks and I get a call from Buzz saying he doesn’t think it is going to work out and the kid wants to get back home.  So he came back and obviously we tried to get him eligible and it didn’t work out.  He’s a really, really good player.  He has the potential to be our best player.  He can really shoot the ball, put it on the floor.  He’s going to bring a lot to our team next year. 

 

On Keith Coleman:  The big kid returning back Keith Coleman, well I sort of did a disservice to Keith because I didn’t get him enough playing time.  I just felt more comfortable with Tony Mitchell and Roger Franklin in the game to be honest with you – I should have developed Keith a little more…but he’s worked hard, his attitude has been great lately, I think Keith still has a chance…he’s 6-10 very athletic.  I still think he still has a chance to be a really good player at this level.  When I was at Marquette we signed a lot of junior college guys and one of them plays for the Mavericks right now (Jay Crowder).  A couple of those were three year guys.  What you learn is they often need a year to adjust to the game.  I feel like Keith falls into that category – he needs to give us a really good summer and I think he can still help this program in his remaining two years.

 

On Vertrail Vaughns:  We got a transfer from George Mason and you guys are going to love him.  He got his degree in three and a half years.  He’s eligible to play right away and he’s going to get his Masters in a year.  A really good three point shooter. In his sophomore year he made over 50 3’s.  So you can see where we are trending now, we have some guys who can make some shots.  I’m never going to have a team that can’t shoot the ball in my career.  He’s a great leader and a great student and he’s going to bring a lot to our locker room and the court.    He’s a really, really good player.  He can really shoot the ball, put it on the floor, I mean he’s going to bring a lot to our team next year.  Tony Mitchell called me and was really impressed that we had signed this kid – saying he wished that he could play with him and some of our other signees.

 

On Greg Wesley:  An all stater, He’s a cross between Tony and Jordan, very athletic and slasher he’s got a chance to be a good player. 

 

On Josh Friar:  He’s a big, strong, athletic rebounder.  I saw him two weeks ago, I was down in Houston at the John Lucas (former NBA star player) basketball camp and Josh was there and he did a great job going against a couple former NBA players and some college guys. 

 

On Colin Voss:  Colin is a Juco All American, former football star – I told Coach Mac he’s going to love this guy when he sees him.  He wants to play football when he’s done here also.  He played football in high school and his dad is a football coach.   He’s a really good basketball player.  He’s got great feet, great hands – nobody is going to push us around inside anymore I can tell you that.

 

On Armani Flanigan:  We call him Flash, y’all get used to “Flash”, Coach V has watched Flash play and he can probably tell you he hasn’t seen somebody jump that high in a long time…he is about 6-8, from Chicago by way of Wyoming Junior College.  If you can envision Tony Mitchell’s athleticism and with Rogers motor…not saying that Tony’s motor didn’t run all the time.  He's going to be a very good player for us.

 

Future scholarships and NCAA changes:  We may sign two more – we’ve had a couple guys come and visit. There’s a new NCAA rule that Coach Mac has benefited from and say a kid can graduate in three years, and he wants to leave and he can prove there is a degree plan offered at the school he wants to transfer to that is not available at his current school he can play right away.  Now you have Duke, North Carolina every great program in the country who is recruiting these types of kids – it’s like free agency in basketball at the NBA level.  So you have all of these major programs trying to recruit and wine and dine these guys.  I have a friend at Memphis and there was a player there named Tarik Black, and he wanted to transfer and you had guys like Coach K, Coach Self etc. on campus trying to get a visit with the kid.   That shows you how the game in college basketball is changing with these 5th years guys that can make a tremendous impact.

 

How the strategy will change:  The guys that we are bringing in will really change the way that we play.  We want to get out in the open, get some easy transition buckets – spread the floor.  With the team that we have now we are going to able to do that.  You know at the Super Pit there is a board that keeps track of 3-pointers.  That thing stayed on one number all last for a long time…it never moved.  I think we are going to able to move that board this year with our guys ability to shoot the basketball.

 

On defense:  One area that we have to get better at is defensively.  Now I think with the perimeter guys we have we will be able to do a better job of contesting three point shots.  Because of our lack of quickness on the perimeter we could not contest the three point shot this last season. 

 

On moving to Conference USA:  We will really benefit from it from a TV standpoint.  Stephen Howard our SID does a great job.  Last year we played a total of 25 games on TV in the Sun Belt.  Last year C-USA played 180 games on TV.  So that will help us to get exposure. A lot of those games will be on Fox Sports so you will be able to see them here in the metroplex. It’s a league with quality teams like UTEP who will be really good and Tulsa who will be good.  Louisiana Tech, a lot of teams that won 20-games this last year.  There will be a lot of good teams that will be coming into the Super Pit that you guys haven’t seen that you will be able to see.  We are looking forward to the challenge.  With the guards that we have, our guards will be as good as anyone in that league.  We will be ready to compete right away.

blog-0622406001364827702.jpgI was able to attend the Saturday scrimmage at Apogee and the first thing I noticed was Mac is always on time.  I was a few minutes past 9am when I pulled into a pretty packed parking lot and heard the whistles and shoulder pad crunching of live action.

 

It was every bit of 120 plays or more.  The speed of the day was typical Mac -- quick moving, almost a constant flow of bodies on and off the field.  This update won't be as long, I am going to provide some of the things that jumped out or amused me.

 

  • Brock Berglund - Brock didn't look like he was running or walking well from the moment I started watching him, although he participated in a couple of series.  There wasn't an impact injury or anything of consequence that I could see.  It appeared that he was having issues when he extended his leg/hamstring.  He actually jogged of the field to the training room and then later returned to the sideline sans his shoulder pads and seemed very upbeat.  I think pulling him out was precautionary and hopefully not a lingering injury.  I initially thought the downer of the day was having Berglund lose almost an entire scrimmage of reps but of course that later turned out minor as compared to the injury sustained by stud defensive end Quenton Brown.

  •  Quenton Brown was playing end on the opposite end from where I was.  All I can say is he went down on his stomach...the trainers were out there pretty quick.  I know it was pretty serious but that said, he did get up and walk off on his own accord to the training room.  I couldn't help but think "wow this is North Texas luck" when I saw it was him, he was one of the guys you just really hoped would stay healthy.  This is an extremely physical game and the intensity level Mac requires puts everyone at their best.  My hope is that it is not a serious injury and he will be okay.  Keep your fingers crossed because our team takes a big loss talent wise if he is gone.

  • Last injury note -  and I'll move to evaluations - Antoine Jimmerson was on crutches and had a boot on his foot so -- I would expect it is likely an ankle.  Not a big issue - we know what he can do.  Just hope he comes back quickly.

  • Boone Feldt and Shawn McKinney - I saw a pretty good battle going on between these two and of course with current starter Kaydon Kirby.  They really seemed to be all over both Feldt and McKinney throughout the scrimmage.  Feldt certainly made his presence felt seeing a fair amount of time with the #2 squad.  At times he looked comfortable at other times he didn't.  He suffered a setback in a situational series where the #3 offense started from their own 5-yard line.  On first down he shotgun snapped it badly to Jordan Gill.  Or did he?  I really wasn't able to verify whose fault it was but it ended up as a fumble and a touchdown for the defense and Coach Chico and Mac came unglued.  Feldt impressed me in terms of how he handled the situation.  Instead of blame anyone he took full responsibility.  I am going to say Feldt's stock is up right now.  Part of that is due to the fact I had never seen him play in a live situation.   He looks the part and you can see why he was so highly regarded.   McKinney has his moments but he is needing to lose weight because the speed of game is tiring him and diminishing his impact.  You could tell that Mac and Coach Simonds were spending a lot of time with him, coaching him on things yelling at him at other times.  I think McKinney is better than Feldt at this point in the running game.  I think Feldt is the better pass blocker.  Keep an eye on McKinney later in the spring, he should lose some pounds from all these workouts and hopefully he will prove his mettle.

  • Mark Lewis  - Lewis, with the loss of Jimmerson is getting a lot of snaps.  Brandin Byrd has been flat out spectacular and Pegram looks like he will help us immediately.  Lewis is getting a lot of looks as a redshirt freshman and he seems to be answering the call.  He had a couple of really nice runs and shows a good burst of speed.  I also thought Wilhite showed good at times and saw a nice dive into the goaline by Pegram.

  • Chad Polk - I kept saying who is #42 and the reason was he was making plays.  Turns out it was Chad Polk, the linebacker turned pass rushing defensive end.  Polk had a sack and several tackles for a loss.  He seems to like coming off the edge and his speed is impressive.  He will not be a guy who can take on a 300 pound tackle consistently against the run but could prove valuable in third and long situations.

  • Cade Carter - I saw a lot of #96 at tight end and finally figured out he was Cade Carter the walk-on from Lucas.  He's quite tall but not very thick.  He seemed to be very aggressive as a blocker and made me think he might have a little something.  Clearly he will be in a logjam behind Miller and Smith and juco Chris Loving.  I know Cooper Jones was in there some but he didn't catch my eye.

  • DT and Andy McNulty - I thought DT had the pass of the game on a long TD to Brelan Chancellor who just outran the secondary.  With Berglund going out, McNulty got a lot of snaps and I really like what I am seeing.  The biggest thing that I noticed is McNulty's speed as a runner.  He also threw the ball away when there wasn't anything there several times and one time I saw Chico clap and praise him for doing that in a controlled scrimmage.  For the crtics of McNulty - he isn't going anywhere and he's a much better player than he was as a true freshman.

  • Jerrian Roberts - Got a fair amount of evaluation plays on Roberts Saturday and I liked what I saw.  He almost looks like a clone of Aaron Bellazin right now but as a redshirt freshman he could be a lot bigger than Bellazin before it's all said and done.  He showed me an ability to hold his ground on power plays against the first and second team O-lines.  He didn't always make the play but he wasn't getting pushed back on roller skates either.  He brings a lot of speed and quickness from the outside and could be a fierce pass rusher at times.

  • James Jones - Jones is quietly having a nice camp.  No he didn't get the pick six that proven starter Zach Whitfield did, but as a second teamer I watched him blanket receivers all day long.  I also saw him return a quasi action punt return and make some nice moves.  He isn't getting a lot of headlines but he seems very composed and fundamentally sound in coverage at corner.  I liked what I saw of him on Saturday.

  • Young D-Line - Saw some real good things out of Sir Calvin, Austin Orr and Dutton Watson on Saturday.  Again, they likely won't set the world on fire but they made solid plays against the run and held their ground well to allow the linebackers to make plays.  Mustafa Haboul had a pretty nice day against the 2nd and 3rd team lines too.  The starters at tackle and end are pretty well set but it's the rotational backup spots that are up for grabs and I would say right now DT is a three horse race between Wallace, Orr and Watson.

  • Biggest hit of the day - Laramie Lee absolutely laid out Brandin Byrd on an ill advised outside run. You can see the picture of it gallery_1_170_1073565.jpg   It struck me as one of the biggest hits I have seen in a practice scrimmage in a long long time at North Texas.  Lee is not a big guy but he sure hits like one.  It's nice to see big hits every once in awhile.

  • Darnell Smith - Had an amazing catch and next to Chancellor may be the best receiver on the team right now.  Hard to believe this guy was a walk-on from a community college when you see him on the field.  He is silky smooth and had great hands.

  • Note to Coach Chico - For some reason, perhaps it's because he is the "new guy" but no one every throws the ball to Texas transfer Darius Terrell.  Terrell looks great in his pads, runs good routes and seems to have all the tools.  For the sake of the fans would you please throw the ball his direction some before we get through spring ball?  We'd like to see what the kid can do!

  • Signees and recruits - I saw two UNT 2013 signees, Wylie Rheinhardt and Dominic Walker.  You can see a pic of them http://www.gomeangreen.com/forums/uploads/gallery/album_170/gallery_1_170_524899.jpg  Really like both of them physically and I agree with one of the board posters suggesting Rheinhardt be moved from tight end to defensive end.  He looks like a bad dude and has some size.  You can also see exactly why they signed Walker as well, he is every bit of 6-5 and big framed, very lean right now but could be huge in a couple of years.  There were a couple of guys that North Texas is recruiting as well, offensive lineman Brad Lundblade from Argyle and a kid named Jackson Lamb who is a 6-4 quarterback  from Frisco Wakeland.  Lamb's Hudl video is here.  I could see why there is interest in Lundblade, the dude has a big lower body and some size.   After practice was over Mac had all of the signees come out and be introduced to the team in the middle of the field.  The recruited guys had to stay on the sidelines.  It was a nice moment, seeing the new guys meet up with their future teammates.

GMG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had the opportunity to watch North Texas’ Wednesday football practice and wanted to share my thoughts. The weather was windy but very nice, and there was a good group of fans, athletic department and students watching intently and enjoying the warm weather.

Most were there to catch a glimpse of the heralded QB transfer Brock Berglund. In case you have been hiding under a rock – Berglund was a 4-star rated dual threat quarterback prospect out of Colorado who eventually signed with Kansas and then ran into some off the field issues which landed him briefly at a junior college and ultimately in Denton. Brock spent last Fall on the scout team and is really getting his first real action with the program this spring.

While I certainly was interested to see Berglund, it was also a good chance to familiarize myself with some of the many new faces heading into the third year of the coach Dan McCarney era at North Texas. I was fortunate to be beside good fan Bill Covert who had a paper roster and helped me out with some of the numbers and names.

Make no mistake – this is a much different team than what fielded Apogee last season. There are a LOT of red shirt players who are now in the mix, not to mention some key transfers who are expected to make a big impact in the win column this fall.

My first impression was numbers – there are more players than I recall seeing participate in spring in quite some time, perhaps ever. A fair amount of these are walk-on players but many are redshirt freshmen or redshirt sophomores who haven’t yet made the field. I also was impressed with the overall size and speed of this team. The one exception to this would probably be the defensive line which has four guys out but at just about every other position we are deeper, stronger and faster than we have been under Mac.

Quarterback

I spent a good amount of time watching Berglund as I hadn’t really seen him in a true practice setting before. The irony is I ended up watching a lot of Derek Thompson but more on that later.

Berglund is as advertised although you can see that he is shaking off some heavy rust having been off the field of play for two years. He has quick feet and a strong arm but the biggest thing that stand out about him is he possesses an amazingly natural and quick release throwing the football. In fact, you would almost label him a “slinger” but it is very natural. By comparisons, Thompson and McNulty both take longer from the point at which the make a decision to throw the ball and release it. In terms of pure arm strength, I would say Berglund and Thompson are very close.

The “Play of the Day” for Berglund was not a pass however. During the scrimmage portion Berglund went back for a simple quick out pattern to the inside receiver and upon realizing he was covered up started to zig zag back and forth in five yard increments as an angry mob of defenders were eagerly chasing after him. It didn’t look good, in a couple more seconds he was going to be sacked for a 40-yard loss but somehow he had a quick burst to the outside and started moving up the field. The defense seemed shocked that he was able to get around them and started pursuit. There were some “oohhhs” and “Ahhs” on the sidelines as he promptly made his way back to positive yardage before being mugged on the sidelines about 15-yards in the black… we have not had that type of exceptional runner at the quarterback position since maybe – Danny Meager?

I can’t finish off the Berglund section of this write-up without making a couple of things clear. He’s struggling to get a good grasp of the system and he’s not close to the comfort level you see in a Derek Thompson right now. The good news is that he seems highly motivated and brings a light positive attitude with all of his accolades. He will get there and there is no disputing that he possesses some serious skills. He's extremely talented and it will be fun watching him put the pieces together.

Derek Thompson was not supposed to be my main focus of the day, but I couldn’t help watching him for a lot of the practice. A couple of reasons, he is svelte – I’m guessing he’s probably lost 20 pounds or more. It gives him a whole new look, he looks faster -- more confident. Clearly heading into his final spring he knows the drills, he know the playbook and more importantly he knows what this coaching staff is looking for.

Thompson has received the ire of the fan base – and with good reason last season – but he strikes me as a really good kid, someone if you ran a company you would love to hire. He goes through the drills with full focus and intensity and in the scrimmage he plays with passion. I thought his arms strength and touch on a windy day was superb and with the lowered weight he seems to adjust to the pressure better as opposed to being a statue. He threw several nice long balls to Brelan Chancellor (one that was a sure touchdown was dropped) that showed a nice touch. This is one practice but from my vantage point Thompson really held his own and will not be laying down for Berglund. In fact, I would be very very surprised if this battle is decided before this Fall. Having a guy like Brock Berglund in the mix is the BEST thing that ever happened to Derek Thompson.

Andy McNulty is the clear number three, and despite his critics I saw some good things from him. The red shirt season was a blessing as he looks stronger in the pocket than from what I recall. He fits the dual passing runner prototype that Mac loves although I would put him behind Berglund and Thompson in arm strength. He seems to have a good grasp of what they are trying to do and in that regard is a welcome addition back. The 4th guy appears to be Jordan Gill who despite being smallish at 6-0 180 has a pretty nice arm so you can see why they have asked him to stick around.

Running Back

Clearly this is the deepest and most talented position on the team. Senior Brandin Byrd got the most reps and made the most of his time. I was extremely impressed as he made some 20 and 30-yard spectacular runs, on both the inside and out. I had sort of pegged him as a vertical, between the tackles sort of player but during this practice he wowed me with his speed and moves. He received big praise from new running backs coach Tommy Perry, who seems to be a reincarnation of Spencer “Lefty” Leftwich with his low growling voice and flamboyant use of the language. I only saw a few plays with Antoine “Jim Jim” Jimmerson and let’s just say he hasn’t lost a step. The guy that caught a lot of my focus was Purdue transfer Reggie Pegram. Pegram runs with authority and seems to be more of a north south runner ie Byrd. He has a nice burst of speed and is very physical. He also appears very durable. At one point he was running towards the goal line and got pulled down from behind by a blitzing defensive back. There was concern on the sideline as he grabbed his leg. Luckily he got up on his own two feet and walked to the sidelines. Next thing I know he was trying to get back in the scrimmage to the chagrin of the trainers. Also got a glimpse of Louisiana product Mark Lewis. Really liked what I saw, he like Byrd and the others is big and physical with good speed. Lewis did make the cardinal error of fumbling the ball and received some verbiage from Mac who was in the vicinity.

Wide Receiver

The scrimmage was focused on more short yardage situations and seemed to lean towards the running game so I really couldn’t get a good evaluation of the wide receiver position. I will say this – we’re bigger/taller at the position than I seem to recall in recent years. #11 Darius Terrell looks the part and seems to have really slimmed down from his playing days at Texas. Brelan Chancellor had a couple of drops but the good news is he looks like the Brelan of old speed wise and I see no ill effects from the separated shoulder. There are a lot of new faces at this position, I did see transfer John Chelf and he seems to have a little something. Carlos Harris is starting and really seems to have made himself a “go-to” guy in the eyes of the coaches. What strikes you is with a good contingent of scholarship talent like Terrell, Chancellor and Harris there is also an substantial amount of former walk-on talent at this position including Lynrick Pleasant and perhaps the best performing wide receiver in camp thus far Darnell Smith. I was unable to catch much of Nick Schrapps and Rod Lancaster but hope to do that on Saturday.

Tight End

Most of the plays in this area went to Drew Miller who appears to have put on some additional weight, Tanner Smith who reminds me of Jeff Muncheow and Daniel Prior. Prior is returning from a medical redshirt year and brings a LOT of athleticism to the position although he is undersized. Prior has the type of speed where he can line up as an H-Back and really chase down a linebacker. Miller and Smith seem to be the more traditional tight ends who you like to double down on a defensive tackle. Cooper Jones seems to be more of the passing option. He’s tall and lean and really doesn’t strike me as a guy who will ever get really big. He is athletic and could provide a weapon in the passing game. The most impressive body belongs to Marcus Smith but unfortunately he’s standing on the sidelines this season due to a knee injury. It’s a shame because this kid is a beast physically and could be the coveted blocker and pass receiver that they hope and pray Fall arriving juco Chris Loving will be. Smith said he should be 100% starting this summer but I can’t help but have my doubts as he hasn’t been healthy since he arrived here.

O-Line

I know I said running back was the deepest position on the team, but I would put O-Line at 1.b. I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to look at the size and numbers we have at this position at this particular time. And here’s what gets me excited, it’s not guys like Cyril Lemon, Mason Y-Barbo or Antonio Johnson. They are already proven commodities. It’s the youngsters – guys like Connor Trussell, Ryan Rentfro, Kaydon Kirby and Travis Ellard who are all redshirt freshman, BIG and look like they can help us from a depth perspective RIGHT now. The weight program is paying dividends under Frank Wentrich and it is nowhere more evident than at this position. I also liked what I saw from juco transfer Justin Manu who is a tall, imposing figure who plays nasty. Manu’s biggest issue is trying to unseed starting right tackle Chris Anyiem who has really has a chance to end his career at North Texas on a very high note. I really did not get a good evaluation of Boone Feldt or his brother Cam. Prosper walk-on Michael Banogu is every bit of 6-5, 275 and certainly looks the part. Let me end on this, I was really impressed with Connor Trussell both in terms of how he played in drills and the scrimmage and his size, he really has dedicated himself in the offseason.

Defensive Line

OK good news bad news here…we’re down close to four players due to injury and this may be the lightest area in terms of proven talent on the team. The good news is we lost nothing at tackle, and although KC Obi was productive at defensive end he was quite undersized.

The returning tackle is big Richard Abbe. Abbe looks like his weight is good and seems to be the man at nose tackle. He looked ok. Ryan Boutwell was on the sideline. At defensive tackle I was impressed with three guys. The first two are Austin Orr and Dutton Watson. Orr is a sophomore and Watson is a redshirt freshman. They both have good size, 6-3 265? and can move a bit. I see neither as major impact players necessarily – right now - but they both could be critical to the success of this team. Keep an eye on both of them this spring as their progression will be critical for the program. The third guy is Sir Calvin Wallace. Wallace was a disappointment early on, but I saw signs that he could be a contributor. First off he’s lost a lot of weight – whoever is managing his diet deserves kudos. Where’s he’s different than the other two is he showed me a tremendous burst of speed on a couple of plays. His continued progression could be a huge boost for the program. Mustafa Haboul can hold his own in the drills and brings a certain toughness but man he looks small out there.

At defensive end there are two guys who really get me excited. One is transfer Quenton Brown. This kid is an impressive physical specimen and backs it up with his play. He looks like a defensive end! He’s tall, long arms and a good nose for the ball. I think he will have a tremendous impact on this defense. The second one is red shirt freshman Malik Dilonga. Dilonga is 6-4, 255? and he reminds me very much of Eddrick Gilmore with a tremendous wing span. There were times when he looked lost but there were more times when he was actually making nice plays and showed good quickness and speed. He REALLY intrigues me. He is lean – I mean he could be 285 in a couple of years so I could see him as a possibility at defensive tackle. The bottom line is this – he showed signs in the practice of being able to help us this year which is fantastic.

Couple more notes, I did not get to see a lot of Jerrian Roberts at defensive end – I think Alex Lincoln is our best bet at tackle opposite Abbe right now. He’s always going to be a little undersized but he is just a great football player and makes plays. I hate to say this but Brad Horton is not participating in Spring drills and that’s a shame because he probably needs it the most. My best news note to end is on junior Daryl Mason who is out for Spring Drills as well. Mason – unlike Horton – has shown us already on the field he can play – he was just undersized. Well – he grew! They have him listed at 6-3, 233 on the official roster – my guess is that he is more like 6-4, 255 now. Absolutely looks the part and could be a HUGE piece of the defense this season.

Linebackers

Not a whole lot to report here – I really didn’t get a good chance to see much of their drills. It looks to me like Zach Orr and Derek Akunne are the studs and Will Wright will be the guys and there’s a plethora of guys fighting for the backup spots. I saw a couple of nice plays from sophomore LaJaylin Smith and did not really get to evaluate newly moved Jamal Marshall. I will try to focus on this area more in future updates.

Defensive backs

The story here is Louisville transfer Zed Evans who really looks good, great speed and just makes plays. I witnessed a terrific play from safety Kenny Buyers who appeared to be with the starting unit. He dropped Brandon Byrd for a loss in the backfield and caused a fumble with a big stick. With walkons included – there must be over 20 defensive backs running in and out of there - you could probably spend an entire practice just focusing on that particular area. In summary, I think this may be the most athletic and the fastest group we have seen – it is not the most physical group. I do like the fact that we have so many numbers because it will force the cream to rise to the top. Like Linebacker I will try to put my eyes in this positional vicinity for future updates.

Coaching, Etc…

You would never believe that Dan McCarney was a year away from having a stroke. He is in TREMENDOUS shape, running around from drill to drill – screaming out orders or admonishments…he is a joy to watch. I think what sums it up for me are the little things, when he was sprinting back and forth from one side of the field to the other he spotted me walking up and took the time to stop what he was doing and shake my hand. Before he closed out practice with the team he ran over to the officials to thank them for their efforts…he made sure to get to every single high school coach on the sidelines some face time and a handshake and thank you. He’s just a remarkable man, and his attitude is contagious among the players and the staff. He represents North Texas so well, in a down to earth way you just want to see him succeed.

I saw a lot of good things from new running backs coach Tommy Perry – he’s the loud, growling type but very similar to Mac in how he is constantly moving and coaching. Ryan Walters is much more quiet and thoughtful as opposed to his predecessor Justin Gaines. Director of Operations Scotty Conley has incorporated a megaphone to keep players on track during the periods. Safeties and Recruiting Coordinator Noah Joseph is very active and maintains that same tip of your toes intensity that you see from Mac. Joseph must be from Wisconsin cause he has that Jerry Lundgaard (Wiliam Macy) type of imploring accent to his voice. It seems like a great staff, good instruction, highly motivated and you can’t help but think it rubs off on the players. While the criticism can be biting at times you also see strong praise delivered when it is deserved. You get a clear sense that there is much at stake and that everyone will need to give their all or get the hell out.

Mac’s wife Margy was in attendance with Mac’s dog. Also seen were George Dunham, Hank Dickenson, Eric Capper, Steven Bartelotta and a plethora of high school coaches – I noticed Frisco Wakeland well represented. If you are able to make it up to Denton, I strongly encourage you to do it. Guest are encouraged and welcomed. I know many will attend scrimmages on Saturday but if you can break away during the week, the practice field scene gives you a good sense of how the program is being run. GMG!

blog-0032598001360198287.jpgIt was my understanding that the UNT AD will be releasing the press conference including the audio and so rather than recap everything that Mac said I will focus on a couple of the key points that he made… “Program got better”, a fairly generic coaching quote for signing day but seemed quite sincere…

he signed 13 high school players and 5 JC’s, 20 out of 23 played high school call in the state of Texas…Alluded to K-State Coach Bill Synder in reference to the recruiting rankings saying that Snyder typically did not have the highest rates class by the services but managed to have a very good program that won with class etc…As of August 1 2013 Mac indicated that North Texas would – for the first time since he’s been here – have the full allotment of 85 scholarships…they have gone from 72 to 107 players participating in their off season workouts and the walk-on program pool is getting deeper and more talented… Mac’s big quote was “We will WILL this program to success...”  Mentioned that they did not sign a punter but felt like Sulphur Springs’ Blake Macek could be that guy and they were confident enough at this stage to not give up a scholarship but reserved the right to do that later if necessary…emphasized how big an impact that strength coach Frank Wentrich was making on the entire program and how different the team looked from a physical perspective as compared to when he had arrived…Defensive tackle Dylan McDorman and end Daryl Mason both has off season shoulder surgery and won’t participate in spring but should be back in the fall…Andrew Tucker will play safety and participate in spring drills…Louisville transfer Zed Evans brother Erick will be joining the team from Seagoville as a walk-on…Juco transfer Shawn McKinney transformed from 405 pounds down to 355, he is also a very talented tennis player.  He shared a story of when he was playing ball for I-A Hubbard he had some interest from Baylor and Baylor coach Art Briles actually came to watch him play in a tennis tournament that Hubbard was participating in which at his size is not something you see every day.  McKinney said Wentrich had a good plan for him to keep the weight down and that part of his issue was not the type of food he ate but eating late at night which many of us can relate to...at 6-4, 340 he is a specimen physically. When I asked him about playing other positions other than center he indicated his sole focus was to solidify the center position as UNT lost their best lineman Aaron Fortenberry and they didn’t want to take any chances there…James Jones the cornerback transfer from Kilgore was a fun interview, he is a VERY accomplished player and very well spoken.  He started out at Kilgore playing safety and on special teams where this last season he had three touchdowns on punt returns.  In his sophomore year his coaches told him that at his size he would be better served to move to cornerback where he excelled.  He was a talented quarterback at Aldine and had a lot of big school interest.  I asked him about his vertical jump and if it had ever been measure because I had seen a picture of him blocking a field goal way up in the air online, and he laughed and said he tested ok on vertical but seemed to always jump higher when he needed to on the field.  James is enrolling in the UNT Business School and studying business marketing. He plans to start at cornerback and also return both punts and kickoffs.  That may seem fairly forward for him to say but as a Junior College All American who led his conference in punt returns he has every right to approach it that way.  When I asked Jones about UNT in general he said “I Love it here!” …UT transfer Darius Terrell was my next interview and like Jones very well spoken, very polished giving thoughtful answers to my questions.  Terrell has been here since the Fall semester and maintains a 3.0 average which impressed me. I asked Darius about his transfer from Texas and how the change in offense may have contributed which he agreed but he also said that the changes in the coaching staff complicated things there.  I’m not going to lie, he was not pleased with the way things were handled at Texas and said his decision to go there turned out to be a “mistake”.  The good news is he is very happy at North Texas and can’t wait to get on the field.  Having been a cheerleader for his teammates on the sidelines all season, he said after the Western Kentucky game despite being sorry for his teams' loss he felt as “Chains had been lifted off of me...” and that he could finally start to fulfill the goals he has set for himself at the start of his college career.  He made it very clear that when he had made his decision to leave Texas it was his former teammate Zach Orr that helped to convince him that North Texas was where he needed to be and then Chico Canales after that. As an aside, one thing in all of the interviews that I had was a concurrent theme that Chico Canales was a very positive influence on these players, either directly in their recruitment or indirectly during a visit etc.  That was encouraging for me to hear…But back to the Terrell interview – Terrell will play on the outside at wide receiver.  It does not sound like he will get his number at Texas #15 and he was not sure what his number would be.  He was really excited about finally getting to play this spring and show what he could do.  He looked lighter than some of the pictures I had seen and towered over James Jones to my left...Back to Shawn McKinney, he was under the radar at IA Hubbard and despite interest from Baylor he decided to go juco.  Seemed to love Denton and the school.  …Next up was Quenton Brown.  Very impressive physical specimen, he was as tall as McKinney but much more defined.  Sort of a no nonsense personality answering my questions quickly and directly but also a good sense of humor.  He was a captain and leader of his Arizona junior college and while he played weak side end there he said UNT did not really have a strong or weak side position in the Skladany version of the 4-3.  His father was a boxer and actually had a tryout with an NBA team.  His dad was 7 feet tall but was only 6-6 when he tried out with the NBA team which I thought was interesting.  I get the feeling that Tony Benford will want to become fast friends with Quenton as he told me his younger brother is the #1 shooting guard prospect in the COUNTRY out of Wheeler Georgia, name is Jaylan Brown.   Quenton has been in Denton for 4 weeks.  When I asked him about what he thought of Denton and UNT he said, “Nice little setup.”  I brought up that he had left Central Florida and wondered if that was due to the coaching staff (as had been reported in some outlets) and he said that there were some issues with the coaching but the main reason he signed with UNT was due to a connection and belief in John Skladany from when he played under him at UCF.  Brown had 9 sacks last season and he is a huge Skladany disciple in that he truly believes he can surpass those numbers in Skladany’s system...Zed Evans the Louisville transfer was up next and we talked a little bit about his bowl game experience with Louisville and how much fun it would be to get back to one with North Texas.  Zed’s brother Erick Evans is a walk-on at North Texas and he is coming from Air Force.  Erick is a running back.  Zed will play safety and play on special teams at North Texas…Justin Manu is every bit of 6-5 and 300 pounds.  He is planning to be a Kinesiology major at UNT.  Manu said Chico Canales was a key component of him signing with North Texas. He said he knew that coming on the scene he would have to prove himself to his teammates but that he was a “leader” at Snow JC both on and off the field and expected to become the same here.   Fairly soft spoken and quiet he was very proud of his All American Juco selection and said he owed that to his coaches and teammates at Snow.  Manu said Denton was “Really Neat!” and said Frank Wentrich workouts were proving to be “challenging”.  My final interview was with Andrew Tucker who was excited to be reunited with former teammates Rex Rollins and Sir Calvin Wallace.  He felt Wallace could be a big part of the team at defensive tackle and seemed sincere. Tucker will play safety at North Texas and I have no doubt he has the athleticism and he reassured me that he loved the contact so it could well be a good match.  Tucker is living in Victory Hall and seems to enjoy it saying he was “comfortable”.  Unfortunately I did not get to have time with Brock Berglund who seemed to be like a celebrity with all of the media and flash bulbs going on around him and several other players that I would have liked to have spent time with but I really appreciated the ones I got.  Thanks to UNT SID Eric Capper for this format which was very helpful in getting to know some of the new faces in the UNT football program.  GMG!  

blog-0028412001357586131.jpgThe 10th annual GoMeanGreen.com Bowl has an official date!  Please mark your calendars for this April 13th (2013) at 10 AM!  For those fans who have not yet experienced this fun event please plan on doing it this year and bring some friends!  This is a flag football game that includes both UNT Fans as well as former great UNT athletes from all sports. This is an event for EVERYONE no matter what your skill level and we encourage the ladies to join in.  The only thing that matters is your passion for North Texas!  The game features real referees and is played on the sacred ground of beautiful Apogee stadium. Their will be an official draft conducted to select both the green and white teams.  The game takes place the morning of UNT Football's annual spring game.   As in past years we will offer a silent auction and are working on other potential fun events.  More info to come but please mark down your calendar now for this fun game which raises money for UNT athletic scholarships.

 

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING, DONATING, SPONSORING or VOLUNTEERING - Please mark the date on your calendar and leave a comment on this page below!  We will be using the website for much of the communication this year so we want to make sure you are in the loop.  Also, if you know of a former athlete or alumnus that you would like to invite please let us know if they are able to participate. With this event growing every year, we are very much in need of volunteers, silent auction items and sponsors.  Please give consideration to volunteering in the following ways:

  • Gameday - We need players, referees, and volunteers to set up the event, help with the setting up the game and clean up after.
  • Silent Auction - We need donated silent auction items and assistance with setting up and running the auction.
  • Sponsors - We are looking for individuals and businesses to donate either as a T-shirt sponsor (back or two sleeves) or through other ways.
  • Players - We have former players and alumni that would like to participate in this game but need to know about it.  Please pass this info on to Mean Green Friends and Family.
  • Fans - Just because you can't play doesn't mean we you can't participate!  Come be a fan and cheer on your favorite player in the game!

TO DONATE OR PAY YOUR $25 PARTICIPATION FEE VIA PAYPAL CLICK HERE!

Stay tuned to the gomeangreen.com website for more details!!  GMG!

blog-0384240001353816017.jpgGeorge: Thanks Hank, outside the North Texas locker room with UNT Head Coach Dan McCarney… boy a tough one to take…let’s kinda take it in order here, you take a halftime lead… you take a 24-point lead into the 4th quarter I guess at that time you had to feel pretty good about this one.

Mac: Yeah George I mean, we were doing lots of the things you need to do – winning the turnover margin, not many penalties, running the ball with pretty good efficiency – getting some stops on defense. So it wasn’t like anyone was arrogant or overconfident or anything like that but we knew what we had to do to win that football game but we just didn’t go do it. Obviously we got 3 turnovers on defense and I think…I believe we only got a field goal out of it…*pause*… and we’ve got to do a better job of complimenting each other in each phase of the team. When you get turnovers you have to get some points. Obviously the one big mistake for the pick six really gave them the juice to get back into that game and feel like they could go on and win it.

George: Well and the field goal you got that’s when you’ve got the interception from Derek Akunne down to their 10-yard line and that’s a case where maybe you feel empty that you get a 3 instead of 7..

Mac: Yeah, Absolutely you know in those kind of situations where you get a big, big play go in there knock it in for 7-points on the board and we were not able to do that. So I am extremely disappointed and this is a hard one to swallow right now George.

George: Yeah, now let’s talk about where the game seemed to turn – when you are up by 24-10 and the interception the pick six by Dawling from what you could see from the sideline the play itself what was called and what you were trying to do there?

Mac: Just poor execution George, without going into all the details of it – really poor execution. The last thing I said to the offensive staff was let’s protect the ball, our defense is playing their tails off…just take care of the football…we’re playing really good defense. Obviously we didn’t do that and it’s really, really disappointing. And the guy that made the play was a guy that I helped recruit to Florida, Jonathan Dawling from Bradenton southeast and he left Florida and transferred to WKU and it was a sensational play he made for the touchdown today.

George: And not just on the scoreboard but it seemed their defense seemed to play differently after that…they seemed to fly around a little bit more and it seemed to just give them a huge boost in addition to what it did on the scoreboard.

Mac: Yeah – we’ve all seen that through the years George, you’ve seen it just like I have. You get new energy new enthusiasm, new confidence when someone rises up to make a play. A play like that can really flip a game around and it did. But really was a disappointing loss at the end. But as I told my football players and my team in there I’m really proud of these seniors, there’s no cracks in the foundation of this program because of them – it’s a strong foundation and from the bottom of my heart and the fabric of my soul I appreciate all that they’ve done for us. I want them to go on in life and be real successful and thanked them for all that they’ve done in our second year of building this thing.

George: Well it’s tough probably to look forward after a game like this but you have 65 freshmen and sophomores on this team a number of players who have transferred and are sitting out this year, tough to think about now but the future of this program does look like it’s on the upward swing.

Mac: Well there’s no doubt George, there’s really no doubt and we gotta learn from today and that’s really important as coaches and players so that doesn’t happen and we get into situations in the future that we hold on to those leads and we keep playing aggressively and we play smart and we don’t beat ourselves which it really looked like we did there..later in the second half. And learn from it so that when we get in these situations next year we can close the deal, win some games and have opportunities to go on and play more games at the end of the season.

George: Dan -- thanks for the time, appreciate it…

Mac: Sure George thanks and thanks to all our fans for the phenomenal support. I’m really proud to be the head coach at North Texas and the people that support us and the people I work for are as good as I’ve ever been around in college football.

George: Thank you.

Let me preface this by saying I have nothing but respect for Todd Dodge and the way he handled the situation he was in at UNT. Unlike Dickey - he left his post with class and dignity. I think we all wish him and his family well at Marble Falls.

The problem is he should have left a year earlier than he did; and I believe had we been able to make that change we would be a much stronger program now - and we wouldn't be leaving the Sun Belt in the manner as it appears that we may this season.

Dodge's record in his first three UNT seasons (2007-10) was 2-10, 1-11, 2-10... Dodge was dismissed in October of 2010 (his 4th season) after going 1-6.

Everyone, including Todd Dodge knew that after year three things were likely not going to turn around. I think Dodge was surprised that UNT granted him the fourth year rather than just pay out his 5-year guaranteed contract and move on. But, either one or some combination of Dr. Bataille and or The Board of Regents chose not to do this, and I don't know if we will ever know exactly why.

Some cite that giving Dodge an additional year would help them put together a more respectable package for the new coach, and allow for a significant increase in assistant salaries which were woefully light. Whatever you think the reason was, one thing is clear. A college football coach cannot recruit quality high school athletes when they know his contract term is not going to be renewed. 7 years of osing football hurts recruiting without a doubt but when parents know a coach will likely not be there for their son's 4-5 university experience they most often will take a pass. After two consecutive losing seasons Dodge was in a hole and he knew that time was not on his side. Especially with UNT's biggest capital expenditure ever - a new stadium - on the horizon.

So Dodge did what any other coach would do in that situation, he sold out juco. Unfortunately when he rolled the dice it was UNT's chips on the craps table. Dodge thought if he didn't win in 2009 (year 3) he would be gone...so in his 2009 signing class out of 21 he signed 8, again almost half of the entire class. Then, likely surprised that he was being given a pass for year 4 out of 22 signees 10 were jucos, again almost 50% of the entire class.

This is - in my opinion - the MAIN reason we are struggling as a program right now. As Tasty and others point out, it's certainly not the ONLY reason.

Some say other Sun Belt programs have been able to turn things around faster with new coaching staffs. Hugh Freeze benefited mightily from a very talented roster that Steve Roberts has assembled. At ULL Hudspeth inherited Ricky Bustle's best team since he had been there. While Dodge was going juco, Willie Taggert was building his program with good high school talent and it started paying off. I did an analysis of Sun Belt schools and their juco recruiting awhile back and the consensus was very few of the Belt schools here lately do a LOT of juco recruiting, the biggest one appeared to be Troy and I think it has been hurting them the past couple of season. The reason they don't is because most of the time it DOESN'T work and in the case of Dodge it is taking years for us to rebuild from this mistake.

Here's where UNT is struggling in recruiting now and they aren't alone. Dicky used to tell me that he wanted 6-3, 6-4 guys that could run. If they had size great, but if they didn't but had the frame to add size it was ok. This is the prototype that EVERY college football team wants and to compound the situation they are extremely rare. These guys turn into defensive ends, defensive tackles, tight ends and sometimes offensive linemen. I haven't seen enough of this YET in Mac's 1st full year class -- I hope we will see more of this in future classes.

We need to get better and deeper at QB. Just watch TCU to see what the impact of the QB position can be, with Pachall they could win the national championship, without him they are a mid tier Big 12 team at best. What would Arkansas State be without Ryan Aplin? Finally, we need more size on defense, especially on the defensive line and at linebacker. I love the way our defense moves to the ball but we need to bring more cement with them. The Dickey era teams lacked speed but more than made up for it with their ability to punish runners and receivers with the ball. Mac’s love for team speed has kept us somewhat devoid of the headhunter category at linebacker and safety.

I received an email from a good fan asking if the talent level wasn't up to par why wouldn't they be playing more of the freshmen signees. Mac understands that while some of these kids could probably help us this season, for the good of the program they should spend another season building their bodies under Frank Wentrich. Having an additional year of development and growth will only help in their confidence and make them better players. This is a strategy I am 100% behind Mac on.

The one area that I will share in others with is you have to recruit well to improve your program and we don't have 5-years to get this ship righted. I don't know if anyone doubts that this coaching staff is one of the best we have ever had in terms of experience. What they haven't yet been able to prove to us is that they can recruit. This will take a year or two because remember they really only have one full year of recruiting class under their belts. Last season they didn't officially have the C-USA move to sell, it was only rumor. Now they have it and I am really interested to see how having 4-Texas teams in conference will play with recruits and their families. I know that Dickey and Dodge would have killed to have that to sell not to mention the stadium. After losing to MTSU we likely won't get to a bowl but its not impossible. I think now you try to win as many as you can to help the 2013 recruiting class. GMG.

blog-0082572001337020025.jpgProjected Immediate Impact Signees (8)

1). LaJaylin "LJ" Smith, LB, 6-0, 218, LaPlace, Louisiana (St. Charles Catholic HS) Coached by Frank Monica - Smith was a three-time Class 3A all-state pick and a three-time first-team all-district pick at St. Charles Catholic, who went 15-0 and won the Louisiana 3A State title in 2011….As a senior Smith led the St. Charles Catholic defense with 60 tackles and 13 sacks and as a junior he racked up 75 tackles, eight sacks, and five PBU’s….Smith was a three-time first-team all-river parish selection….Smith played in the 2011 Bayou River Showdown All-Star Game…. He was named to the Louisiana Football Magazine Heart of Champions team after the 2011 season.

Harry's thoughts: I think Smith has the ability to help us right away. If not at linebacker, he could most certainly help on special teams. He will have to adjust to the size of D-I players but certainly is the type of athlete that could raise the level of play from day 1.

2). Boone Feldt - C - 6-3 - 276 - Buda, TX (Buda Hayes HS) Coached by his father Blake Feldt - ESPN ranked him as the #9 center prospect in the country...He is a two time first team all district selection and was named to the Austin American Statesman 2011 All Centex First Team...Named to the AP Class 3A All State First Team...One of the very best linemen in the State of Texas in a year considered to be one of the deepest in that position..younger brother of Cam (a 4-star Rivals recruit) who transferred in to North Texas from Arkansas last season and will be eligible to participate in Spring Practice...played center for most of his career before moving to center at Pilot Point HS...Father Blake is the head coach at Buda Hays and lettered at Texas Tech...Outstanding strength and agility, he is expected to compete for playing time immediately alongside his brother on a pretty experienced UNT offensive line in 2012...He committed to North Texas on 07/30/2011.

Harry's Thoughts: I know that our offensive line is pretty loaded this year but I still see a chance for Feldt to break into the two deep unless a decision is made to redshirt him. He's a very good player and could immediately help us at center if we wanted to move Fortenberry to guard.

3). Xavier Kelly, Cornerback, 5-11, 170, Katy, Texas (Mayde Creek HS) Rated a three-star recruit by Rivals.com…Kelly had 60 tackles, two interceptions, two blocked field goals, and four PBU’s as a senior…Moved to Texas from the state of Florida, where he compiled 98 tackles, five interceptions, and 13 PBU’s at Winter Park HS…..Kelly was named to the 2010 All-Orlando First Team as a defensive back…..Kelly was a 2011 BrightHouse Sports Network Preseason Football Honor Roll Honorable Mention pick as a defensive back.

Harry's Thoughts: This is a guy who because of the position he plays could be an IMMEDIATE starter for North Texas. I think because he moved from Florida he was very under the radar and I know that they will be expecting big things from him right away. At the very least I expect him to be in the cornerback rotation.

4). Sir Calvin Wallace - DT - 6-3 - 300 – Tyler, Texas (Chapel Hill HS) Coached by Thomas Sitton – Another key component of Chapel Hill's run to the State Championship win against Alvarado in 2011...He was recruited to North Texas by Coach Anthony Weaver...Named 2011 Class 3A First Team All State team by TheOldCoach.com...Had 73 tackles as a junior and nine tackles for a loss….Wallace was named District 17-3A First Team this season...In 2010 Wallace was the Defensive Newcomer of the Year for District 17-3A and a second-team All-East Texas Defensive line pick...

Harry's Thoughts: Starting to sound like a broken record I know - but I see a role for Sir Calvin here right away. Perhaps not at nose tackle, where we bring in two 300 pounders in Big Dick Abbe and Tevin Cantly, but rather he could provide depth at nose which would allow someone to help out defensive tackle where we are small and thin. I would be shocked to see Sir Calvin as an immediate starter, but I think if he shows up in shape he could certainly be a rotational player at nose.

5). Devante Davis- S - 5-11 - 185 - 4.5 - Baton Rouge, LA (Woodlawn HS) Coached by Don Jones - All District his junior and senior year.....Davis was rated as the No 63. safety in the nation by ESPN…..As a senior, Davis had 97 tackles, four PBU’s, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery….MaxPreps.com ranked Davis as the No. 48 rated player in the state of Louisiana….Davis played the in the U. S. Army Red Stick Bowl All-Star Game and was named the Defensive MVP of the game as he had an interception … Had 85 tackles, eight pass breakups, five forced fumbles, and two interceptions as a junior and was named first-team all-district. Davis committed to North Texas on 07/05/2011....he runs a 4.5 40-yard dash and is considered a four-tool player meaning that he can play cornerback, safety, punt and kickoff return.

Harry's Thoughts: With Freddie Warner's injury Davis could be an immediate impact player at corner.

6). Dutton Watson - DE - 6-3 - 245 - 4.8 - Midland, Texas (Midland HS) - Was selected Honorable Mention on the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors on the Class 5A All-State team...Watson finished the season with 48 tackles and a team-high 18 tackles for loss and six sacks which is impressive given the fact most teams schemed around him...Won the District 3-5A Discuss Championship by breaking the 170-foot barrier...Coached by Craig Yenzer...Watson was a three-year starter at defensive end for Midland High. During that span, he made 132 tackles, 13 sacks and 36 tackles for loss. Watson has been a first-team all-district selection the last two seasons.

Harry's Thoughts: I really like what I see on film for Watson and despite the fact I would love to see him get a redshirt year to bulk up in the weight room, I just think he may be too talented to leave on sidelines. I see Watson as an immediate rotational guy that could vie for a starting position as the season evolves.

7). Jarrian Roberts - LB - Ht:6'2" Wt:220 - Clarksville, TX (Clarksville, HS) - Versatile athlete that played defensive end his junior year and middle linebacker in his senior year. Was an honorable mention 1A All State Selection at linebacker in 2012... Was recruited to North Texas by Coach Mike Simmonds... As a junior and senior he lettered in four sports; All-State in basketball, All-State in football, a regional qualifier in shot put, and an All-District pitcher in baseball. Committed to North Texas on 07/20/2011....Roberts was named the All-Red River Valley Football Defensive MVP by the Paris News as he averaged 13 tackles a game this season…...Roberts piled up 118 tackles on the year, eight tackles for a loss, and six sacks as he was named the District 6-1A Defensive MVP.

Harry's Thoughts: I really took it on the chin here - I'll admit, I was worried about a small school kid making the transition to FBS ball but as we learned close to signing day that this kids stock skyrocketed and Iowa State and Tulsa both offered him late. After reviewing his video, I think he may be really, really special and could help us right away especially with the big loss of Stock at outside linebacker.

8). David Busby- DB - 5-11 - 179 - 4.5 - Coppell, TX (Coppell HS) Coached by Joe McBride -Busby was rated a three-star recruit by ESPN.com and 247Sports.com, Busby and ranked No. 67 among all 2012 cornerbacks in the country by ESPN. He was a first-team all-district selection his senior season and he had six interceptions and 70 tackles and was an AP honorable mention all-state selection….Busby notched 85 tackles, 14 pass break-up’s, and had seven interceptions as a junior….The seven interceptions in 2010 were the most in the state of Texas….In 2010 Busby was an AP First Team All State pick….In 2009 Busby was the District 6-5A Newcomer of the Year and an all-district pick as a sophomore….He totaled 15 interceptions during his high school career.

Harry's Thoughts: I have to put Busby as an immediate impact guy, not because safety is as big a need area as say corner might be but rather, Busby is battle tested at a high (5A) level of competition and against top notch wide receivers with speed. I think Busby may very well be backing up Oklahoma transfer Mike Trice from day one...he's that good.

Carlos Harris - RB - 5'8" - 175 - 4.4 - Frisco HS (TX) As a senior had 1723 yards rushing and 21 TD’s at Frisco...Was the District sophomore of the year...Named the Dallas Morning News Player of the Week after rushing for 446 yards and 7 touchdowns in a game...As a junior Harris rushed for 713 yards and 8 touchdowns...Could play running back, corner, return kicks and punts but most likely will see time at wide receiver...will remind fans of former Mean Green star Jamel Branch from Katy..

Harry's Thoughts: I won't list Harris as immediate impact although you could make an argument that what he brings to special teams would fit for that category. I will say this, I wouldn't put it past Mac and Chico to find a way to get this kid on the field in key 3rd down situations and due to his speed and elusiveness. With Brelan Chancellor moving to more of a traditional wide receiver it is quite possible that we see Harris move into the old Chancellor offensive role with reverses and quick outs. He should be a very fun player to watch sort of a Billy "White Shoes" Johnson clone.

Ryan Rentfro - OG - 6'4" - 280 - FM Marcus (TX) Was a second team All State selection by OldCoach.com...Named to the All District 8-5A Team as a senior...Logged 68 pancakes and 42 knockdowns as a senior...Rentfro committed to North Texas on 01/22/2012

Harry's Thoughts: Rentfro is a good sized good looking prospect that will help North Texas but based on the numbers we have coming back in the O-Line and barring major injuries I see him as a red shirt candidate this year.

Jamal Marshall - DB - 6-3 - 185 - 4.4 - Fort Bend, TX (Elkins HS) - Marshall is a track athlete who just recently started playing football...Had 46 tackles, 10 pass blocks and 2 sacks as a senior...has outstanding speed and size for his position...His personal best in the 200-meter was 23.17 seconds and he participated in the State relays for Elkins.

Harry's Thoughts: Marshall is probably the most intriguing of all of the signees in that he has boiler plate size and speed for a cover corner. Given the fact that cover corner is a major concern for UNT with injuries, graduation etc..I probably should place Marshall as an immediate impact guy but I think he may need a year to learn the system and adjust to the speed of the game at this level.

Connor Trussell, Offensive Line, 6-5, 285, Arlington, Texas (Martin HS) -

Was a key member of an offensive line that helped Martin rush for nearly 3,500 yards last season and advance to the Class 5A Division I state quarterfinals…Primarily played right tackle, but also has experience at guard and as long snapper….Ran a 5.49 40-yard dash…Ran a 1.82 10-yard dash…Bench pressed 185 pounds 27 times…

Harry's Thoughts: Trussell is a good sized good looking prospect that will help North Texas but based on the numbers we have coming back in the O-Line and barring major injuries I see him as a red shirt candidate this year.

Mustafa Haboul, Defensive Tackle, 6-0, 247, Arlington, Texas (Martin HS) Was first-team All-District 4-5A...Dallas Morning News named him Player of the Week following a 19-7 in over Euless Trinity, in which Haboul had five tackles going against Hiva Lutui, a four-star offensive linemen rated one of the best in Texas …Did not play football until his freshman year…Started as a sophomore… Nicknamed the "Beast"...Had eight sacks, 49 tackles, and a fumble return for a touchdown in 2011…In his junior year, he had 18 tackles, six tackles for loss, one sack and three fumble recoveries...Was used on offense in short-yardage situations and scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion…Also member of the Martin track and field team, competing in shot put and discus.

Harry's Thoughts: I love the heart and desire that this kid brings to the table, and he could be a big surprise in Fall camp because I don't think he will take much crap and will immediately bring a physical nature to his coaches and teammates. That said, I would like to see him get a full redshirt year to develop in the weight room and work on his technique. I think he's a McCarney blue collar lunch pail type of kid that will make the players around him better.

Rex Rollins - RB – 6-1, 185, 4.5 - Tyler, TX (Chapel Hill HS) Coached by Thomas Sitton – An outstanding athlete, Rollins moved in from Hallsville just before his junior season and would become a key cog in Chapel Hill's 2011 State Championship run. He played both running back and cornerback...Rollins was a first-team District 17-3A pick as a running back this season…..He rushed for 961 yards and eight touchdowns. …..As a junior he rushed for over 800 yards, with eight touchdowns and he averaged 9.6 yards a carry...Was a key member of his high school team that went 15-0 and won the Class 3A Division I state championship and a teammate of UNT defensive tackle signee Sir Calvin Wallace... Rollins participated on Chapel Hill's 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams at the state finals...he was a past teammate of Chapel Hill defensive back Laramie Lee, who played for UNT last year...former North Texas Coach Anthony Weaver recruited Rollins...Rollins was North Texas’ first recruit of the 2012 class committing on 6/15/2011.

Harry's Thoughts: Rollins is slated to be a safety and with the addition of transfer Mike Trice (Oklahoma) and depending on how he performs in two-a-days may be looking at a redshirt year.

Jamarcus Jarvis, Running Back, 5-10, 195, Houma, Louisiana (East. Ascension HS) - Jarvis was a first-team all-district selection in 2011 as he rushed for 932 yards and 11 touchdowns…He also had 20 receptions on the year for 343 yards and compiled 1,275 all-purpose yards on the year with 15 total touchdowns his senior year….Jarvis rushed for 800 yards as a junior and had 10 touchdowns…He played in the U.S. Army Red Stick Bowl All-Star Game in which he rushed for 36 yards on six carries, and was the second leading rusher on his team….Jarvis, also a sprinter, was a member of the Class 5A 4x100 relay team that won the state title last season and took first place at the LSU Relays and the Griffin Relays.

Harry's Thoughts: Not sure where Jamarcus fits, he could be the redshirt running back with a long line of guys at that position or they could decide to move him to safety. Not sure if he would be looked at corner or not. As with all of these, his performance during two a days will dictate whether or not the staff sees him helping out on special teams. I won't put him as immediate impact player but he's an interesting player to consider.

Malik Dilonga - DE - 6-4 - 245 - 4.95 - Cedar Hill, TX (Trinity Christian) Coached by Offers NT, ULM COMMITTED North Texas 07/20/2011. Dilonga (6-4, 245) was a first-team TAPPS Division II, District 2 selection and 2nd team all district selection as a junior. Had 45 tackles 4 passes blocked...Did you know: Malik's sister Monique and two of her friends who are also close to him are students at UNT...plays center on the TC basketball team.

Harry's Thoughts: This one is tough, because I have no idea on how Dilonga shows up...he has the potential of growing significantly (ie comparisons to Adrian Awasom) and I sense that he may end up at defensive tackle before all is said and done. Assuming he shows up close I think Mike Nelson will choose to try and redshirt Dilonga if he can.

Nick Schrapps WR Ht:6'3" Wt:197 40:4.62 - Beaumont, Texas (Monsignor Kelly HS) – Schrapps was a first-team all-state and first team all-district player his senior season...Was a 3-time TAPPS 3-5A all-district selection...as a junior he had 68-receptions for 718 yards and 7 tds...He committed to North Texas on 09/01/2011...an outstanding basketball player, Schrapps gave up hoops in his senior year to focus on football...Recruited by North Texas Coach Mike Nelson...He was a first-team all-district player and a second-team all-state player as a junior... Named the week eight winner of the Built Ford Tough award for a 10 reception, 230 yard and three touchdowns….Was a second-team all-district player his freshman season…..Schrapps was named the Port Arthur News 40th Super Team Wide Receiver….Also named to the Beaumont Enterprise 2011 Super Gold Football Team….Schrapps was also academic all-state selection his senior year.

Harry's Thoughts: I like Schrapps and can see a possible place for him as a possession receiver but I won't put him as immediate impact with the usual disclaimer that he could make a place for himself in 2-a-days. I do this because I think we may be ok in terms of possession receiver this year, especially with a solid spring from Chaz Sampson and may be looking more for a speed guy to infuse into Chico's offense.

Brad Horton DE Ht:6'6" Wt:240 40:4.7 - Liberty Christian Argyle TX - Coached by Greg Price - A 1st Team TAPPS 1-I Selection at defensive end...Tremendous potential with great height (6-6) and speed (4.8 40)...Focused on basketball until his junior year...He committed to North Texas on 09/09/2011...Dad played baseball for Texas Tech...Recruited by former North Texas Coach Clint Bowen. Named 2011-12 TAPPS All-State Defensive First Team and a First Team all-district pick his senior season….Horton was an all-district player his junior season…..A versatile athlete, Horton is also a three-time all-district basketball selection.

Harry's Thoughts: Big Brad will come with a LOT of fanfare due to the fact he has a frame and size that we just haven't seen much of around here. I'm going to lean towards redshirting him (similar to Diloga) because a year in the weight room could do wonders. He could be a future bookend of Skladany's defense and I would expect that his best years come in C-USA.

Mark Lewis, Running Back, 5-10, 210, Livonia, Louisiana (Livonia HS) Lewis rushed for a school record 1,965 yards and 33 touchdowns his senior season….He was named to 2011 LSWA (Louisiana Sports Writers Association) Class 3A All-State football team and was the leading rusher in Class 3A in the state of Louisiana...Lewis was named the District 5-3A MVP and was a Class 3A First-Team All-State selection his senior year…..He was named to the All-Metro team by the Baton Rouge Advocate his senior season…..Played in the U.S. Army Red Stick Bowl All-Star Game and was the leading rusher in the game with 53 yards along with being named the skill player MVP for his team….He was a two-time first-team all-district player and a four-time all-parish team selection…. Lewis was a finalist for the Warrick Dunn Award.

Harry's Thoughts: Very talented player that is at a position with a bit of a line. Lewis' best chance is if he can prove himself to be a guy that can get 3-4 inside the tackles consistently. An interesting thing to keep in mind about Lewis is he was a fierce linebacker prior to moving to running back so defense is not completely out of the question. With the numbers we return at RB I will not list him as an immediate impact but again performance in camp could get him in the mix and he most certainly could be an immediate impact player on special teams.

Dustin Clark OLB Ht:6'0" Wt:202 - Borger HS (TX) Clark, recorded 18½ sacks as the Bulldogs advanced to the Class 3A Division I playoffs. He committed to North Texas on 12/17/2011...Was selected to the All State AP 2nd team and was the District 10 3A MVP...shows an incredible burst of speed from the edge and projects to be a linebacker and could help out on special teams right away...Was Coached by Rusty Purser..Was recruited by UNT Coach Nick Quartaro.

Harry's Thoughts: Initial thought is his edge speed makes him a possibility on passing downs but I will lean towards letting him redshirt if you can. Obviously Stock's departure gives him an opening that hadn't been there prior. And Clark is clearly a possibility for special teams.

Let's hear your thoughts on this topic! Please provide your comments here or on the

blog-0912803001336195606.jpgWe arrived at Apogee Stadium early and were able to get a pretty good seat in the press area. There was some confusion in the elevator whether or not it was on the 3rd (club level) or 5th (media) floors. We went to the 5th and it was being held in the Bill Mercer press room which is pretty nice albeit much smaller than the Club area that they used for the Tony Benford press conference.

Evan and Joe recognized Coach Rob Evans when he walked in almost immediately. I wasn’t sure it was him and there were a lot of suits in the place by that time. I finally got the courage to go over and shake his hand. He made no mention about the UNT job and I didn’t ask but I went away thinking this man is going to be coaching for us!

I recognized several other people as they filed in. C. Dan Smith was a familiar face, and I was happy to shake his hand and thank him for all of his contributions over the years. A really good man, we are lucky to have him. There appeared to be a fairly good contingent of faculty and administration folks, and the usual suspects, Vito, the Daily and the like. There was definitely a sense of excitement in the air as the room started to fill and you couldn’t help but admire the CUSA logo’s intermingled in the North Texas décor.

SID Eric Capper called things to order and introduced RV who quickly passed the mic over to UNT president Lane Rawlins and the Chairman of the Board of Regents Jack Wall. Wall spoke on behalf of the Board and tried to emphasize that this was about student athletes and the importance of proximity to other Texas cities. He spoke of the academic prowess of schools like Rice, Tulane and Tulsa and how good it was to be associated with them in that particular regard.

I really enjoyed hearing Dr. Rawlins speak. You could tell it was a proud moment for him, having once started C-USA and now later in his career being a catalyst in securing North Texas’ spot. Rawlins was very strong and direct in his comments, saying that the stadium /facilities and location were major factors in UNT’s admission and giving Villarreal credit for getting the stadium done. He spoke to how hard it was to get ailing programs going in the right direction these days, and how had we made the type of commitment we had of late 20 years ago it would have elevated us to a completely different place. The positive thing that comes from that is that we – as an athletic program – have proven that we can overcome obstacles and make things happen.

Rawlins best point was during a Q&A session where he basically said that we should “Celebrate this moment but get ready to get up and do some work”, because opportunities like we have in this conference can either be maximized or squandered having experienced both in his career. He and Villarreal seemed optimistic that UNT was poised to take advantage this time.

Villarreal spoke for most of the event – and rightly so – having been here a decade and witnessing the transformation that has occurred. I thought he carefully covered all of the bases that he needed to. Thanking the students, fans, administrators, coaches etc... I couldn’t think of one group that he left out. I thought it was particularly nice that he chose to thank the former players from past conferences who kept the dream alive for the program despite lacking facilities and support.

You sensed how much Rick had matured in this position and there was a sense of confidence in his speech. Two of the guy’s hires were now at UT and LSU; he had landed one of the most promising basketball coaches in the country in Tony Bedford (who is already showing he can recruit) and just weeks before convinced women’s basketball coach Mike Peterson to leave a solid Wake Forest program. This guy is on a roll and the C-USA invite may well be the biggest prize of his career.

There were a few emotional moments, which were given the circumstances expected, but overall I thought it was a very good speech – a little long perhaps but again he had a lot of people to thank. Rick got pretty choked up speaking to how Wright Waters took him under his wing and helped him along even though he had never been an AD before. Also when he thanked Dr. Pohl, who didn't know sports and yet knew that it was important to the University. Even threw a bone to Gretchen Bataille for making the stadium process happen.

But all of this was stuff that you could watch yourself on the video of the entire event of course. You probably would gather a lot more of the specific details that way.

As a fan it was a glorious day. There were lots of smiles and handshakes, an overall sense of “We Made It!” reverberated throughout the room. I’m not going to lie; I saw a lot of smiles. People were very upbeat and it was nice visiting with folks like Hank Dickenson who had been around since the Helwig years.

I even got to throw in a question near the end. I couldn't believe that there hadn't been one baseball question so I carefully asked RV how C-USA would impact UNT's baseball timeline. He snapped back quickly, "I knew you were going to ask that question.." and everyone laughed. I got a real sense that baseball was close and that he had just a few more details (and probably money) to sew up before it could be finalized. If you are a baseball fan you should be excited because it's coming, it's just a matter of time and C-USA is a very good baseball league.

The surprise and really highlight of the event was the appearance of Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky. It was late in the presentation and Rick said we have a special guest introducing Banowsky who came in through the back door and walked through the crowd receiving a nice applause. I figured out later that he had been to Louisiana Tech earlier in the day and was just getting in from the airport.

Banowsky was taller than I pictured him in person, very charismatic almost the polar opposite of the more stoic Waters. He’s a youthful 50, big smile and appears very lawyer thoughtful peering through his designer glasses, always careful to qualify his genuine enthusiasm for North Texas with “and the conference as a whole..” He made particular mention of the fact that C-USA was looking to get some regional traction in these “market based” moves almost like a chemist that was mixing a conference stew.

At times it felt almost surreal, the CUSA red banners, a window view of beautiful Apogee to my left, and the Conference USA commissioner who I had seen in pictures was speaking to us as part of his team. We finally, after some long and precarious roads, had made it into Conference USA. As a UNT alum and fan, it was one of my best moments.

GMG.COM BOWL 2012

FLAG FOOTBALL RULES

START OF THE GAME

1) Game time is starting time. The officials watch will be the timepiece used to decide game time.

2) The WHITE TEAM will be designated the HOME TEAM and shall call the toss. The winner of the toss shall have choice of options. The options are:

1) Offense

2) Defense

3) Direction

4) Defer to second half.

GAME TIME AND TIME OUTS

1) Games will consist of two 20 minute halves. The clock will be a running clock for the 20-minute duration of each half. At the expiration of each 20-min. half an additional seven (7) plays will be allowed. Half-time will be ten (10 minuets in duration.

3) The offensive team has 25 seconds from the time the ball and restraining line is set by the officials to put the ball back into play. If the team exceeds 25 seconds a delay of game penalty will be assessed.

4) A game or half cannot end on a defensive penalty unless the penalty is refused.

PASSING

1) All players are eligible to receive a pass

2) Only one forward pass per down (either over handed or underhanded) is allowed.

3) No forward hand-offs between the quarterback and the center is allowed.

4) At the time of a pass reception, the receiver must have one foot down and in bounds for a complete pass (ball in complete control).

5) Any number of backward or lateral passes are permitted.

FUMBLES

1) All fumbled balls touching the ground are dead immediately at the spot the ball first touches the ground and the ball is next put in play from that spot.

2) The team fumbling the ball retains possession except on fourth down.

3) The “kick” which touches the ground after being touched by a receiver is dead at that spot.

GMG.COM FLAG FOOTBALL 2012 RULES P. 2.

4) All incomplete laterals or passes behind the line of scrimmage will be spotted where the ball lands.

5) Any player catching a pass or fumbled ball that does not touch the ground can advance that ball.

6) The offensive team may not fumble a ball forward in mid-air to advance the ball.

FLAG BELTS AND LEGAL “TACKLES”

1) Each player must wear a flag belt. Each team should wear a different color flag belt id available. Every player must have their shirt tucked in their pants.

2) If a player losses his/her flag belt and has possession of the ball, the defense must touch them with ONE HAND between the shoulders and knees to make a legal “tackle”.

3) A legal tackle is made when a defensive player detaches the flag from the ball carrier.

4) A shielding infraction will be called if a ball carrier uses his/her arms, hands, the ball or clothing to hide or prevent an opponent from pulling the flag.

5) The ball is dead if either knew of the ball carrier touches the ground at any time.

TIE AND OVERTIME GAMES

1) In case of a tie at the end of regulation play, overtime will be played.

2) Each team will get one possession.

3) The ball will be placed at the forty yard line. Each team will have four (4) downs to either score or get a first down to continue possession. In the event neither team scores, the winner will be determined by yards gained in the overtime period.

EQUIPMENT

1) Only sneakers and artificial turf shoes are permitted (no metal cleats, spikes or bare feet will be allowed).

2) No jewelry (rings, necklaces, or earrings) is to be worn when playing.

FIELD DIMENSIONS AND DOWNS

The game will be played on a regulation 100-yard long, 50-yard wide playing surface. A first down will be earned upon a gain of 20-yards by the offensive team within the allowed number of downs (4).

NUMBER OF PLAYERS

1) There is a minimum of six (6) players per team to start a game with a maximum of nine (9) players per team on the field at any one time.

GMG.COM FLAG FOOTBALL 2012 GAME RULES P. 3.

2) Free substitution is allowed after the ball is ready for play and before the snap, each player or entering substitute of an offensive team can be lined up anywhere behind the line of scrimmage.

3) There will be a one-yard restraining line for the defensive team while in any formation or situation; the officials will mark off the restraining line.

4) Only one offensive player may be in motion parallel to the line at any one time before the ball is snapped.

LINE OF SCRIMMAGE

The team in possession of the ball must have a minimum of five (5) and a maximum of seven (7) players on the line of scrimmage at the start of each offensive play. A maximum of five (5) defensive players may rush the passer after the snap and upon a count of “two” (2 second delay) after the snap. All rushers must rush around not through opposing and blocking players. Blocking players must have their hands behind their backs (no hands), and leg blocking is not allowed.

PUNTING

1) The referee will ask the offensive team on all fourth downs if the intend to punt or “go for it”. There are no fakes allowed.

2) All players must remain at the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. Defensive players may put their hands up and/or jump to block the punt as long as they do not cross the line of scrimmage.

3) On a bad snap, the ball is dead where it first touches the ground.

4) The ball may be punted or an arcing “pass” may be substituted for an actual punt.

5) The receiving team may have a max. of three (3) players back to receive the punt (or pass in lieu of punt), all other receiving team players must be on the line of scrimmage and cannot move until the receiving teams punt return ball carrier passes the original line of scrimmage. Punting team players are free to proceed downfield after the ball is punted to defend the punt return.

6) If the ball is muffed or dropped by the receiving team after a punt (or pass in lieu of a punt) the ball is dead where it first touches the ground.

7) If the punt (or pass in lieu of punt) hits the ground prior to being touched by a receiver, the receiver must obtain possession of the ball after the first bounce in order to advance the ball.

BLOCKING

1) The only type of blocking allowed is screen blocking. All blocking must be made with the blocker in an upright position with both hands clasped in front or behind their backs or directly at their sides.

GMG.COM FLAG FOOTBALL 2012 GAME RULES, P. 4

2) No player may use his/her hands to go through, over or around an opponent.

3) No body blocks, roll blocks or shoulder blocks are allowed at any time (Penalty will be expulsion from the game). Offensive players may not keep their elbows out when blocking, they must be against the body.

INADVERTENT WHISTLE

The ball will be ruled dead at the spot where it was when the whistle was blown.

SAFETY AND TOUCHBACKS

1) A fumbled ball by an offensive player in their end zone constitutes a safety

2) If a team intercepts a pass in the end zone and does not advance the ball out of the end zone it is a touchback.

3) If a team receives a punt in their end zone and does not advance it out of the end zone, it is a touchback. The ball is put in play on the 10-yard line.

4) Following a safety, the ball shall be placed on the 10-yard line of the team credited with the safety.

SCORING

1) Touchdown scored by a male participant: 6 points

2) Touchdown scored by a female (as runner, receiver or passer) participant: 7 points

3) Safety: 2 points

4) Point after Touchdown:

A. From 3 yard-line: 1 point

B. From 10-yard line: 2 points

C. Extra point scored by a female participant (as runner, receiver or

passer) adds one (1) point

PENALTIES

Section 1: Penalties with a loss of 5 yards:

Delay of game

Illegal substitution

Free kick infractions

Interference with opponent or ball before snap

False start or any other illegal act by the snapper

Encroachment

Less than 4 players on line before the snap

Illegal position at snap

Player illegally in motion

Illegal shift

Illegally handling the ball forward

Illegal forward pass (includes loss of down)

Illegal procedure

GMG.COM FLAG FOOTBALL 2012 GAME RULES, P. 5.

Offsides

Section 2: Penalties with a loss of 10 yards

Delaying start of either half

Pass interference-(if defensive ball spotted at infraction & first down)

Holding, illegal block or blocking below the waist

Striking, kicking, kneeing (also result in disqualification)

Clipping, tripping or hurdling

Illegal participation

Unsportsmanlike conduct by player, coach or attendant

Pushing runner

Illegal use of hands or arms

Roughing the kicker (automatic first down)

Roughing the passer

Holding the ball carrier to remove the flag

Guarding the flag or stiff arming

Section 3:

Measurement of half the distance to the goal line is done inside the 10-yard line for 5-yard penalties and inside the 20-yard line on 10-yard penalties.

After Evan and I recorded our make-up podcast with UNT AD Rick Villarreal, I was able to catch most of the scrimmage that took place this afternoon. Here are some of my impressions:

- Running back Brandin Byrd had an impressive 75-yard touchdown run against the 1st team defense. For those who have questioned his speed, I may suggest you may want to revise that. The kid is deceptively fast and his powerful inside running make him very useful in the offense.

- I saw good things from all of the running backs today. Even little known Dimitri Wilhite (#26) had some bright spots and could end up helping us this Fall. I was particularly impressed by a short yardage touchdown run by redshirt freshman Zac Whitfield, who went wide on the defense - who seemed to know the play - and was able to stretch the ball for 6 just across the goaline with a mixture of athleticism and toughness. Antoine Jimmerson had some nice moments and showed some very good toughness in between the center and guard. The days of the workhorse running back at UNT appear to be behind us, I can see 3 running backs get significant time in this offense.

- #7 QB Derek Thompson is clearly the lead guy out there and I could really see some seasoning in his footwork and decision making in the scrimmage. I thought to myself a couple of times this guy looks the part - he looks like the guys we often have played against. #5 McNulty is getting the next most snaps although it did seem like Brent Osborn got close in plays to McNulty in this day. Both had their moments. I was pleased to get to see young Cooper Jones on a couple of plays, one in particular when he kept the ball on an option. He looks a little stiff at times (perhaps because he is so damn tall) and I was worried that when he took a big hit but he bounced right up as if nothing had happened. I did not see Dodson play but that could have been just me missing him.

- The energy level on both sides of the ball and off the field is insane...players, coaches are all waving around towels and jumping up and down on both good plays and bad...more on good plays of course. There is a lot of encouragement and cheerleading going on out there and you get a sense that with all the video equipment no one wants to be caught with their dopper down.

- I can confirm that new defensive coordinator John Skladany will use a curse word now and again. He's very tall and lean, and sort of looks like a stork flying in after plays to offer his critique. He's not as loud or athletic as Clint Bowen (Skladany wears a knee brace and favors it a bit) but he's certainly quite vocal and active on the sidelines.

- A big fight broke out between defensive end KC Obi and offensive tackle Antonio Johnson. It took 4-5 teammates to break them up and Coach McCarney came absolutely unglued. He told both players to leave the field and start running laps. Both complied immediately. If anyone believes for a second that McCarney has pulled back a bit after his medical situation you just needed to see how pissed he got about that fight. Later, when practice was ending, McCarney told both players that he did not question their toughness but that those types of episodes would get them pulled out of a game and he needed his best players against LSU.

Here are a few individual player observations that I had:

#71 Antonio Johnson - He may be the most impressive physical specimen we have on the line and his demeanor in the fight against senior KC Obi surprised me a bit. I wonder if even though McCarney was pissed about the lack of discipline he was pleased inside to see the nasty side Johnson displayed. This kid is only a sophomore and I think has a bigger upside than Matt Tomlinson although he isn't there yet.

#6 Hilbert Jackson - Will be a junior this season. I was surprised at his height, he is a legitimate 6-1 which looks really tall at the corner position. He has real good quickness, he caused an interception which was returned for a touchdown by Jeremy Phillips. I came away impressed with him and at this point he is playing better than juco DQ Johnson in my opinion. The kid is an athlete and just needs an infusion of confidence to be a fairly high level Sun Belt performer.

#8 Marcus Trice - He's short but very strong and very quick. His speed at the safety position takes a lot of heat off of the corners. I liked his instincts and the fact that he will deliver a blow at the point of attack. He kind of remind me of Marikeith Knowlton but he's faster and more athletically gifted. Should be a LOT of fun to watch the next two years.

#74 Cam Feldt - Man I love his size but I was a little disappointed in his play. He's certainly not a come right in and start right away type of player - based on my limited views from today. Let's keep in mind, he's just a sophomore and hasn't really played college ball. Because of all the line injuries he's getting fed to some of our better defensive players. He certainly has promise but he is not an immediate starter at this point in the game.

#15 Mike Marshall - Marshall had the biggest hit of the scrimmage from I believe the safety position...I recall Marshall had some huge hits on special teams last season and this walk-on looks like he may be earning a scholly if he keeps this up.

#52 Derek Akunne had a big play in the goal line situation where he burrowed through two blockers and kept the running back from getting into the end zone by hog tying his legs out from under him. Zac Orr is still the top dog of the linebackers but Akunne is really doing some nice things out there and is making himself be known to the coaches.

#14 Chaz Sampson had a couple of nice grabs in traffic.. this guy looks a foot taller than everyone he was up against. They seem to like having him run 7-yard curl/timing patters and just beat out the defensive back for the ball. He could add an interesting possession aspect to the passing offense.

#81 Chris Bynes was making catches all over the field and really looked to be in a groove today. You just have to hope that he stays healthy because he could have a huge final year for UNT.

#92 - I think this is Micah Thompson but I am not sure (he is listed at #65 on the roster)...anyway it looks like he is playing tight end and fullback, perhaps h-back. Anyway I didn't really see him do that much but it was interesting worth mentioning that he is playing that position.

#95 Lincoln Alexander is getting a lot of reps at the defensive tackle position. Not sure he will oust Ryan Boutwell but they are giving him plenty of chances to show himself.

#29 Kerry Swarn really impressed me with his size at safety. He looks a foot taller than Trice and showed some solid plays against the run.

#70 Coleman Feeley looks the part of a legitimate D-I offensive lineman (6-5, 305) and had a couple nice blocks in the running game.

#84 Marcus Smith the greyshirt freshman is getting a lot of the reps at tight end with Andy Power being out this spring with the elbow. Smith is a physical specimen at 6-4, 245? and really could turn out to help us. There are two other tight ends battling for playing time. Drew Miller (6-2, 250?) had a nice grab in traffic and doesn't appear to shy away from contact. Tanner Smith #88 had his moments in the scrimmage as well, primarily in the running game. He is every bit of 6-3, 240+.

This is a different team than the one that had Lance Dunbar on it. There is not one "showdog" player out there but one gets a sense that on a whole the size and athleticism has improved in the program.

After practice McCarney told the team that he was pleased with their effort and that they would be studying the video of the scrimmage to identify the playmakers. I am starting to get a better feel for McCarney's style with the players. He is very businesslike and matter-of-fact that the players who will help him win on game day are the ones who will show that same ability during these scrimmages...essentially it is all about making plays. He addressed the fight situation between Obi and Johnson being careful to let each player know that he knew both of them could be counted on and needed them both on the field against LSU. He said that there were some players that they knew could get the job done but others who had not yet shown this, encouraging them to make the most of the opportunity.

The discussion of summer school came up and it appeared that Friday was the deadline for them to identify the pairs of players who would be rooming together at Mozart Hall this summer. McCarney pointed out that last season some of the players signed apartment leases and that the program's preference was to have all of the scholarship players living on campus so they could better manage their funds and would have access to meals etc...

It sounds like there is a scrimmage on Saturday and tomorrow's practice will be at Apogee with shorts and shoulder pads earlyin the morning - in fact tapings are slated to begin at 5am (ouch!).

I would describe the practice as very intense and crisp. Unlike some prior regimes, there is very little standing around or group discussion...everything is geared toward getting as many clean reps in as possible so a good number of video evaluations can be assessed. McCarney seems to be enjoying himself and it comes across to the players. All of the assistants are very vocal and active during the practice - as are the players, but when you see McCarney jumping up and down or raising a fist all the white noise seems to disappear and it becomes very clear who is running the show. GMG

If you follow this recruiting stuff closely you may recall a signee that North Texas beat out SMU and some other good programs on last year - in the class of 2011 - a kid by the name of Terrell Brooks. At 6-4, 305 "kid" may not be the appropriate description.

gallery_1_49_76436.jpg

When two-a-days started in the newly finished Apogee stadium I remember taking a snapshot of Brooks as he approached the new Eagle statue in the south endzone. Wow, what a physical specimen and at a need position. This guy was the prototypical defensive tackle, and he was a true freshman with 4-years to develop and hone his skills.

Well we all know the end of Brook's story at North Texas and it wasn't pretty. After playing a few plays in a monsoon and quite forgettable blowout loss road opener against Florida International, Brooks shocked the Mean Green nation and most certainly Dan McCarney by hanging up his cleats. We never really got the final word on why, other than Brooks had lost his desire to play D-I football. The dreams of seeing him stuff up the middle of the line for years to come vanished and left UNT's coaching staff scrambling for replacements amongst an already thin depth chart.

We may never know what really happened with Brooks but we do know this, he didn't transfer to another school and more importantly - if you are a North Texas fan - a critical scholarship spot was lost as Brooks will most likely never played another down of football for the Mean Green.

All of a sudden, the questions as to why a big strong prospect like Brooks fell into our lap became a little more clear. Is it all about size and speed and stars?

Fast forward to this 2012 signing class and we signed several players who did not have a lot of D-I offers. Reason for this is usually they are a few inches short or a 20-30 pounds lighter than you would like to see. Please understand, I realize that in a perfect world you would have 20 linemen who all stood 6-6, weighed 300 pounds and ran a 4.6 40. The problem is linemen with these attributes are as scarce as hen's teeth.

I think when it came down to it, Coach Mac measured results, heart and desire more this time around. The experience with Brooks probably reinforced it. Mac has stated many times that one of his favorite players on this team is sophomore Ryan Boutwell, an undersized defensive tackle listed on the roster at 6-3, 261. Boutwell looked a little out of place lining up against the mammoth offensive linemen of the Crimson Tide last season, but he still managed to be productive and have one of his best games. Boutwell has the spirit of a champion and a determined will to succeed no matter what.

With the outstanding weight program Coach Frank Wentrich brings, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Boutwell ends up closer to 275 or 280 before all is said and done. I think most would agree that his next two years could be pretty special. I think several of the 2012 North Texas signees fit the mold of Boutwell. Evan Cardwell was a former player who was undersized and developed into a very nice defensive tackle at North Texas. Chris McIver from San Antonio comes to mind as well. Guys that were here for 4-5 years. Dedicated guys who were leaders both on the field and in the weight room. Guys that didn't take plays off and motivated their teammates through example. There hasn't been enough of those players in the last 6 years.

None of these players had a ton of offers coming out of high school but they did share in one common trait...desire. The dedication to succeed, to improve -- to get better. Desire to win and make plays. This didn't happen right away for them. They had to work hard in the weight room and on the practice field. They had to rely on their dedication more than probably a 4-star recruit would.

In fact, one might argue that strength, weight and speed are correctable factors to a certain extent. Weight training, diet, speed training have all improved with technology and time. trying to make a player who is gifted with physical tools become passionate about a sport is much more difficult.

The pundits are saying North Texas took a gamble by signing some players who didn't necessarily meet the "D-I" size criteria or didn't have as much interest from other schools. I see it differently. North Texas signed some blue collar, lunch pail guys that were tremendously productive at very high levels of competition in Texas high school football. If you doubt that just watch their film...talk to their coaches and teammates. North Texas took some players this year who possess a 4-star level passion and desire to succeed in this game.

Mean Green Historians are usually in agreement, the North Texas signing class in year 2000 under Darrell Dickey had to be one of the best if not the best in the history of the program. This class would lead the program to 4-consecutive nationally televised bowl appearances and some of the greatest players to ever wear a Mean Green uniform. What's more amazing is this is a class that was signed after the team had logged a miserable 2-9 record in 1999. Let's take a look back at the class that turned it all around.

Comments in Bold

1 Bradshaw, Matt 6/4 250 4.9 TE Spring 2000 - Bradshaw was a solid player that Dickey redshirted. He was a very good blocker and helped in the two tight end formations. Not a star but a solid 5-year member of the supporting cast.

2 Brown, Josh 6/4 295 5.1 OT NE Okla JC 2000 - Josh was one of the higher rated players we signed but he never really panned out and injuries kept him from getting on the field. One of the few busts of this signing class.

3 Claiborne, Justin 6/3 225 4.65 LB Apache, Okla 2000 - Much like Bradshaw, Justin was not a star but he was a solid performer that played some linebacker and fullback. Good size and very physical, I remember him partaking in some of the big hitting defensive drills and his unselfishness when they asked him to play fullback in his senior year. Justin has helped support our GMG Bowls and I've seen him at transfere a few games.

4* Brewster, Andy 6-2, 240 OL West Texas - I had to add Brewster because I do believe he joined the team this year as a walk-on but quickly received one...that's right this kid had no other scholarship offers, joined North Texas and became the best center we have had starting 4 straight seasons and winning multiple Sun Belt honors. He like many others in this class was a leader that everyone looked up to and although undersized one of the technically best blockers I have ever seen.

5 Daigle, Chip 6/3 295 5.0 OG Navarro JC 2000 - I don't know if Chip ever made it on the field, so I'm going to call bust on this one. I think he's a game warden now and doing well.

6 Dominique Mackey 5/10 190 4.5 DB Austin Reagan 2000 - Ah, the speed of Dominique. This guy was possibly one of the fastest players I have ever seen at North Texas but his career was riddled with injuries and he never really was able to perform at the level they hoped.

7 Eleby, Lajace 5/10 170 4.4 DB Cleveland 2000 - Great, great high school player that never got academically eligible and to my knowledge he never played for North Texas. In many eyes, he might have been the best on paper talent they signed in this class. He played QB in high school and was incredibly elusive.

8 Gardner, Randy 6/4 235 4.7 TE Midland 2000 - One of the pillars of the class, Gardner was a Top 100 TE that UNT landed. He was one of the best blocking tight ends we ever had. He gave four outstanding years and was a big reason that Pat Cobbs and the other UNT running backs had so much success. He fought through pretty major back injuries to be a multiple All Sun Belt performer.

9 Hall,Scott 6/1 195 4.6 QB San Antonio Schertz Clemons 2000 - Without question, the most successful UNT QB in the history of the program. You can go on and on about this kid, but he was a winner and leader like we haven't seen since. He gave this entire program a winning attitude in the time he was here. I recall A&M looked at him hard but wanted him to play defensive back. North Texas gave him a chance at QB and the rest is history. First ballot North Texas Hall of Famer.

10 Harrison, Joey 6/2 245 5.0 DL Sulphur Springs 2000 - High hopes for this kid but ankle injuries kept him from ever being what he could have been. I think he finally gave up after realizing the injuries had taken a toll. I seem to recall he had a brother that played at Notre Dame.

11 Howard, Kevin 5/10 175 4.4 WR Dallas Carter 2000 - Kevin Howard was a great athlete that showed up in big games with big plays. He was a special team phenom and brought a level of speed North Texas just hadn't had in prior years. Having to miss some games due to eligibility issues was the only blemish in an otherwise solid career.

12 Johnson, Freddie 6/2 190 4.5 RB Wichita Falls 2000 - Great football player who I believe had eligibility issues or injuries and never played in a game or played in very few.

13 Kadulbar, Brad 5/11 185 4.8 K Ennis 2000 - Kad was one of the best we ever had.

14 Kennedy, Brandon 5/10 285 4.9 DT Terrell 2000 - What can you say, this guy may be the best player North Texas has ever had other than Joe Greene who only played here two years. Booger was unstoppable from the day he stepped on campus. I remember talking to veteran O-Lineman Andy Lott when BK arrived as a true freshman. Lott, a senior and pretty good football player, was blown away at how good this kid was and how strong his hands were. Again, if this kid is not a first ballot UNT Hall of Famer there is no justice in the world. The BEST player in probably the best signing class we've ever seen at UNT.

15 Kramer, Shawn 6/5 270 4.8 TE Coffeyville JC 2000 - Sad story, Kramer suffered a terrible injury that required Care Flight to come to Fouts and land on the field. I remember being there and the scene being surreal. His name bears an award for Most Inspirational at UNT.

17 Land, Chris 6/4 320 5.3 OT Katy Taylor 2000 - Great high school player with good size that never got eligible.

18 McBride, Cougar 6/2 190 4.5 LB Alpine 2000 - One of the most colorful players I can ever recall. Rare to see him out of a cowboy hat, he seemed to be from a different planet. Undersized, but without a doubt one of the fiercest players I have ever seen on special teams. He was a crazy headhunter and was one of the few guys I ever remember the coaches having to reel back on gameday. He got involved in an off the field incident which ended his time early at North Texas. I believe he's some type of hunting guide now.

20 Northcutt, Ryan 6/3 290 4.8 DE Keller 2000 - Real sad story, this kid was a great football player that got some type of illness which the doctors said he could not play football again. Devastating news for this kid and his family. Never got to play a down at UNT.

21 Priestly, Walter 5/10 180 4.5 CB Alief Elsik 2000 - Small, not real fast but just a tremendous competitor that I think started 4 straight years on bowl teams. Great signing for North Texas coach Bruce Bell who used to get us great players in Houston.

22 Ridgeway, Chris 6/4 225 4.8 DE Friendswood 2000 - A bust. Chris may have been one of the most lauded players we signed that year out of Houston but he never really got his college career on track because of injuries.

23 Taylor, Casey 6/3 240 4.7 TE San Antonio Marshall 2000 - Another Hall of Fame candidate from this class, Casey was a state top 100 that had visited Baylor and did not get an offer. The knock on him was that he was 190 pounds "dripping wet". I'll never forget when he came into his first game as a true freshman against TCU at Amon Carter and I realized how good he was right away. He went on to have an amazing career, became one of the strongest guys on the entire team and one of the best linebackers we ever had. What people don't realize is guys like Taylor Casey were big time leaders and motivators for the program.

24 Tei, Aaron 6/1 190 4.5 LB S. Grand Prairie 2000 - A bust. Tei had big accolades but was undersized and once he realized the linebacking talent we had left the program.

25 Zuniga, Nick 6/3 308 5.0 OL S. Grand Prairie 2000 - Nick turned out to be one of the best linemen we have had and was one of the meanest we ever had. Great sign for North Texas because he was an all Sun Belt performer for multiple years.

The interesting thing is many point to the 2000 class as being the one that turned UNT's fortunes around. When you look at this class you realize that really only about 50% of the signings turned out to be good/great players and there were a lot of guys thought to be the better players that ended up busts.

Let's face facts, this weekends loss to ULL on the road by 20 (30-10) hurts. It puts us out of the Sun Belt race pretty early and raises more questions about our sputtering offense which could only manage 10-points on a Sun Belt foe.

I am not as concerned about the fact that we are struggling on the field. I think we all knew this was a distinct possibility. I - like Vito - am more concerned about the timing of it. Fortunately and unfortunately realignment has placed us directly under a microscope. Instead of having an expected big year in a new stadium attendance wise we are worrying about getting 20K and which day the Rangers are playing.

For whatever reason, the decision to axe Dodge was put off for that critical 4th year. If you recall he had a 5-year deal which is standard for the head guys at FBS. I always wrote it off to finances, ie getting the athletic fee in place would allow us to significantly raise the salaries and land a coach of McCarney's caliber as well attracting top notch assistants. We knew that Dodge wasn't going to be able to turn it around in year 4 and we were basically going through the motions. I remember thinking wow we're signing a LOT of juco players. I was amazed when he was allowed to EARLY recruit a couple guys, one of which had broken his leg and was out for his entire senior season! But Dodge was being given every chance to do whatever he could to save his job even if it was not in the best interests of the program long term.

I have never waivered in my belief that Mac could get the job done here but the reality for this season is playerwise he was dealt a 2, 4 and 7 and Hudspeth got 3 aces from Bustle.

I loved the fire I heard from Mac after that Lafayette loss. He was clearly pissed and frustrated. He still has a burning passion to succeed and we will benefit from that.

We have to recruit. And I think we will. Still, wouldn't it have been nice to have a coach like McCarney for the year before the stadium opening? Never again should we put ourselves in the position of having to give away an entire year because we can't buy out two years of a head coaches contract.