North Texas Looks to Secure First Win of the Eric Morris Era Against FIU
The Eric Morris era for North Texas didn't have the ideal start last Saturday, as the team faced a much-improved California squad. However, it's now time for the Mean Green to regroup and focus on their upcoming game against former Sun Belt/Conference USA mate, FIU. North Texas has had remarkable success in their recent meetings with FIU, leading the series 5-2 and securing victories in the last three encounters. Nonetheless, this game may present a different challenge, as FIU has shown improvement under the guidance of second-year head coach and former Colorado coach, Mike MacIntyre. With North Texas still finding its footing in all three phases of the game, let's delve into the keys to victory for the Mean Green in their quest to secure the first win of the Eric Morris era.
1. Offensive Efficiency: In order to come out victorious, North Texas must find its offensive rhythm and execute it with precision. The Mean Green offense needs to establish a strong running and passing game, allowing them to control the tempo of the match. The team should focus on minimizing turnovers and capitalizing on scoring opportunities to put pressure on the FIU defense. Morris and Co. will need to get the stable of running backs going after the 41-yard performance against Cal. Getting the quartet of Adaway III, Adeyo, Johnson and Ragsdale going will help the offense in all facets.
2. Defensive Resilience: While North Texas has struggled to find its identity on defense, this game presents an opportunity for the unit to step up. The Mean Green defense must showcase discipline, solid tackling, and effective pass coverage to limit FIU's offensive production. Generating turnovers and putting pressure on the opposing quarterback will be crucial in disrupting FIU's offensive flow. Getting star DE Mazin Richards will be huge for the futures success of the Caponi defense. FIU has a Freshman QB Keyone Jenkins so it will be imperative to get pressure early and often to keep him from getting comfortable.
3. Special Teams Excellence: Often overlooked, special teams play can have a significant impact on the outcome of a game. North Texas should prioritize strong special teams performance, including accurate field goal kicking, solid punt returns, and effective coverage. By winning the field position battle and potentially creating scoring opportunities through special teams, the Mean Green can gain a significant advantage. The punting game is something North Texas has not had to worry about the past few years, but it was a problem this past Saturday. The hope is one of Jacklin and Evans will take the next step and secure the job moving forward.
4. Adjusting to the New System: It's important for North Texas to continue adapting to the new system implemented by Coach Morris. The team must learn from the growing pains experienced in the previous match and make necessary adjustments. Improved communication, execution, and cohesion within the team will be vital to overcome any challenges they may face against FIU. Not many fans were excited about the switch back to the 3 man front on defense. But when ran effective teams have had great success in college football. North Texas will need to take a step forward Saturday.
Conclusion: As North Texas prepares to face FIU, they are aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Despite their previous success against their opponents, this game could present a different scenario. FIU has shown improvement under former Coach MacIntyre, while North Texas continues to work towards establishing their identity under the Eric Morris era. By focusing on offensive efficiency, defensive resilience, special teams excellence, and adjusting to the new system, the Mean Green can position themselves for a victorious outcome. Saturday's game will not only be a test of their abilities but also an opportunity for North Texas to showcase their growth and determination.
So as hot as it was yesterday at the Cal game, I felt like it may not have been in the top 5 hottest UNT games in the last 20 plus years. I got there around 10:30 and there was some decent cloud cover most of the day, even a light breeze to boot. If you were lucky enough to be on the alumni side it was almost pleasant at times, especially in the second half. The hottest UNT football games I can recall were Baylor at home in 2003 (the game away in Waco was also hot in 2004) and another one was our first home game against Rice in Fouts Field September 11, 2010. The Baylor home game was notorious as the UNT concessions ran out of bottled water in the second half.
Cal game GMG tailgate (9.2.23), Jase Earle, Mike Randle, JD Davis and Head Coach Ross Hodge
The announced home crowd was 21,350 for Cal and that seemed about right. I thought the alumni section looked decent and the students were a little light. The 3pm start time is tough. On the postgame show, Hank lead into the Coach Morris interview by saying that playing a P5 to open the season could go wrong and thus was a risky proposition for a program like UNT. I disagree with that. The program absolutely should be able to take on a quality opponent to start the season and the performance in these types of games should be held to a very high standard. These pay for win games against lessor competition give us no idea where we stand and worse a false sense of security,
Among the many visitors that came by Tony’s GoMeanGreen.com tailgate on Saturday, we were especially pleased to welcome Head UNT basketball Coach Ross Hodge, along with assistant Jace Herl and 4 mainstays on the 2023 NIT Tournament Championship team, Aaron Scott, Moulaye Sissoko, Rubin Jones and Matthew Stone. What a great group of young men we have here. They took pictures and hung out with the fans and watched the end of the TCU Colorado game (which was a barnburner). Intelligent and well-spoken, these kids are great athletes but even better people.
If there is any consistent theme coming out of the absolute drubbing UNT received from the Bears on Saturday, it is that in this new era, the portal, and teams like Colorado and yes Texas State figured it out faster than many others. It’s not that UNT was not using the portal as best they could, but Colorado and Texas State took it to a whole new level. They were landing top notch P5 transfers in big numbers, which computes for Neon Deon and his Colorado program which is heading to the Big 12. In fact, there is irony in the fact he beat one of the very best at playing the transfer portal and NIL in the past few years in Sonny Dykes who landed the TCU job primarily because of his portal and transfer work at SMU. The bad news is that Texas State does not have the resources that North Texas does, and they were able to make it happen anyway. As much as I would love to focus primarily on high school players, the NIL combined with the transfer portal have diminished those opportunities. You don’t have 4-5 years to build a program anymore. And Texas State head coach GJ Kinne is the real deal.
GoMeanGreen.com has a new team of contributors who will be assisting in covering the team this year, the one and only JD Davis is back covering recruiting and everything else with UNT sports as he does so very well including articles, podcasts, social media, and the kitchen sink. We are welcoming back our good friend Lorenzo Robles, who will also be assisting us with his excellent content as well as his computer expertise and great photography. A new face is Miles Meador who is actual a current UNT student, and big UNT fan who will be our man on the ground in Denton and will be covering the team and taking photos and video as well as giving us the student perspective.
DC Matt Caponi (Courtesy UNT Athletics)
The reality is you cannot run the 3-3-5 defense without athletes. And right now, we don’t have enough of them. And that was the worst tackling technique I have ever seen. Defensive Coordinator Matt Caponi has his hands full this season. On a positive note, I think our secondary is pretty good. But what does it say when your leading tackler in the Cal game (9) is Jaylen Smith, a walk-on from Hamilton, Ontario?
Early line for the roadie against FIU in Miami is -14. FIU barely beat Maine 14-12. Looking at the schedule, this may be one of the best chances to grab a win early on and the second half of the season is looking frightful with SMU, Tulane, Memphis and yes even UTSA in a close loss to UofH will be very difficult games to win. Morris really needs his first road win at UNT in a big way this week.
In a disappointing start to the Eric Morris era, the North Texas football team suffered a defeat in front of 21,000 fans at the newly named DATCU Stadium. The game held significance for UNT as they hosted a Power 5 opponent, California. It was a momentous day for the university as the North Texas basketball team, present at the game, received their rings for their NIT Championship.
The game did not go as planned for North Texas, as they were outplayed by California, ultimately losing by a score of 58-21. The defeat was exacerbated by the fact that California had recently announced their move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, joining SMU and Stanford.
Adding insult to injury, former UNT Offensive Coordinator Mike Bloesch, now serving as California's Offensive Line and Run Game Coordinator, put on an impressive display in his first game. California's rushing attack was dominant, accumulating 357 yards on the ground, averaging 6.4 yards per carry, and scoring six touchdowns. In contrast, North Texas struggled to establish their running game, only managing 41 yards on 1.5 yards per carry.
Despite the loss, there were a few bright spots for North Texas. Wide receiver Ja'mori Maclin had an outstanding performance, recording four catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. However, North Texas faced challenges in all three phases of the game. The defense missed crucial interception opportunities and failed to make stops on fourth down due to poor tackling. On offense, interceptions were thrown, and the team struggled to generate any momentum. Additionally, special teams had issues with subpar punts.
The game also shed light on concerns regarding the defense under Coach Caponi. The two-deep roster included more walk-ons than players recruited by Coach Caponi, raising questions about the team's depth and potential impact on performance.
Looking ahead, North Texas aims to bounce back in their upcoming game against Florida International in Miami. Despite the disappointing start, North Texas opened as 17-point favorites for the game, indicating the potential for a rebound performance. The team will need to address the shortcomings from the previous game and make adjustments to improve their chances of success.
While this defeat was a setback for North Texas, it is important to remember that it is just the beginning of Eric Morris's tenure. With time, adjustments, and continued development, the team has the potential to overcome these challenges and achieve success in the future.
Part 1 of the 3-part Offensive Skill Position Preview - Running Backs
This position room has been North Texas bread and butter for the last few years. One of the deepest running back rooms in the country resides in Denton Texas. Led by North Texas Legend and he is also member of the North Texas Athletics Hall of Fame and the All-Century Football Team Patrick Cobbs. This group finished the 2022 season second in CUSA and 26th in the country in rushing, averaging two hundred yards a game along the way. North Texas had three of the top rushing leaders in CUSA with Ayo added 246 yards on the ground as well with three touchdowns.
If you told me that North Texas was able to survive the off-season without at least one of the four header monster of the running back exiting through the infamous transfer portal I would have told you that you were crazy. In the state of college football today, it is hard to keep all conference level players. Much less when you have depth, and everyone is not getting to “eat” as much as they could if they were the only horse in the stable. So, I give credit to Coach Cobbs and every baller in the room for building a culture and relationships to keep the gang together.
This foursome of Ayo Adeyi, Ikaika Ragsdale, Oscar Adaway III and Isaiah Johnson have all played a huge part in the #rUNThedamnball culture. North Texas made the transition from tee it high and let it fly during the Seth Littrell after the team struggled to replace Mason Fine at QB. They built a hard nose identity as a ground and pound team that is based out of an air raid setup. I believe Eric Morris will continue that identity. We have seen when Air Raid scheme meets a talented rushing attack it can work very effectively. Morris has a stable of great running backs to make that a possibility.
Each Running back brings his own style to the group. Ayo Adeyi the Jr from Mansfield Legacy is the smallest of the foursome, coming in at 5’7 188. But he is the most electric. He is the perfect change of pace back for some of the other bruisers in the RB room. He has racked up over 1300 yards in 2 seasons at North Texas, while averaging over six yards a carry.
OSCAR ADAWAY III
Oscar has been one of my favorite recruits of the last decade for North Texas. He is one of the lone recruits to come out of Arkansas during the Seth Littrell tenure. He brings a unique combo of size and speed that has shown promise while in Denton when he has been healthy enough to stay on the field. Injuries have been the only thing to slow him down since he arrived on campus. He has only been able to play in nineteen games during his 4 years on campus due to a couple of different injuries. But when healthy he could play on Sundays. During the nineteen games he has been able to rack up three yards shy of 1200 while also adding eight touchdowns.
Ragsdale came to North Texas all the way from Las Vegas, Nevada. He was the eighth ranked player to come out of Nevada that season according to 247 Sports. He could be described as the best all around back of the group. He has the size at 5-11 218 to be a goal line back, but also has the speed to take it to the house on any giving play. Ragsdale has added over 1200 yards and twelve touchdowns in his two full seasons on the field with North Texas. He is an every down back, as he is a threat in the passing game as well, adding 158 receiving yards and three touchdowns. I will be curious to see how much his workload increases this season.
The JR from Lubbock is built like a bowling ball at 5-10 210. Johnson is the most underrated running back of the foursome. When I think about Johnson, I picture in running of defenders on the goal line and looking for contact. But he is very under the radar receiving threat as well. He has added 145 receiving. He has also added 673 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground as well.
WHO IS NEXT IN LINE?
The Mean Green have three running backs waiting in the wings in BK Jackson, Qualon Farrar, and Mackenzie McGill. Depending on injuries and how the season plays out all three could see playing time this season. Bk Jackson is the most experienced of the three. He came to North Texas as one of the most highly recruited RBs in the past decade for the program. BK had multiple SEC offers including Ole Miss and Tennessee. He saw action against in five games last season racking up fifty-two yards on ten carries. I believe he could be next in line in one of the big four go down for an extended period this season. All the big four for North Texas RB room are Juniors. Each could be graduating and moving on after this season. I believe we will see more of BK this season just to have him ready to take over the reigns if needed.
North Texas has built a nice pipeline to SOC the past few months since Coach Eric Morris arrived. But the pipeline to South Oak Cliff began when Qualon Farrar committed to North Texas after leading SOC to state championship game as a SR. He is a compact change of pace back at 5-5 191. He saw action in four games last season while still being able to keep his redshirt. He racked up fifty all-purpose yards during his four games. Will be interested in seeing how the new staff uses Farrar in the new offense. We have saw Texas Tech back in the day have a ton of success with the like of Jakeem Grant who came in at 5-7 171.
The last newcomer is walk on from Mt Vernon Mackenzie McGill. I would not usually list a walk-on on one of the positional preview lists, but Mcgill is an exception. I had the privilege to watch Mackenzie live while he was at Mt Vernon. He was Mr. Everything for Mt Vernon HS. He played RB, QB and LB for Mt Vernon. He owns every Mount Vernon season or career rushing record, while accounting for eighty-two touchdowns in his final two high school seasons. McGill rushed for 2,557 yards and thirty-five touchdowns during that time. North Texas has had a great history of walk-ons turning into stars. McGill could be next in line for that.
OVERALL THOUGHTS ON GROUP
I believe Eric Morris and company will continue the mantra of ‘RUN THE DAMN BALL.” If it is not broken do not fix it. North Texas created a personality and has had success with it. The running back room is the one of the deepest in the country and I think will be a huge part of any success North Texas has this season.
The American Athletic Conference (The American) held its 2023 Football Media Days on Monday and Tuesday, July 24-25 at Live! By Loews Arlington Texas. The in-person event served as a celebration of The American's 10th anniversary and will be the first formal event under the league's new 14-team configuration. The Mean Green Report was there on both days and here is a summary of our observations of what we thought was a successful event.
Having attended many of these events in the past, I was impressed with the setting at Live! By Loews. It is nestled smack dab in the middle of AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Field and the Esports Stadium and Expo Center. We had a fun lunch at the Troy sport bar named after the Cowboys star QB and there were many other restaurants and bars to choose from. The facilities inside the hotel were top notch and the American support staff was extremely accommodating and supportive throughout the event.
There was a lot of interesting imagery to take in as a first-time participant. All the past UNT media kickoff events whether it be C-USA or heck even the Sun Belt were fun and interesting in their own way but this one just stepped it up a notch. Live By Loews is a nice facility that has a backdrop of Jerry World through its glass walls that is hard to ignore. The event itself had a more legitimate air about it, whether it was the sport coats and neat appearance of the AAC staff, or the updated media guides available in plentiful supply. There was just a positive and service-oriented mood that was flowing on both days that made you glad to be there.
In terms of visuals, it was a delight. Seeing SMU players in their jerseys and coaches wandering around was cool. Running into new FAU leader Tom Herman in the bathroom adjusting his tie. Seeing the excitement of the team representatives as they made their way through the busy radio and podcast sections doing their interviews and posing for pictures. Hearing media and sportswriters discuss who was going to have a good season and who was their dark horse team to surprise.
Commissioner Mike Aresco just continues to impress me as a thoughtful and enthusiastic leader who is not just going through the motions. Compare that to when we joined the C-USA back in 2013 and it felt like Britton Banowsky was going through the motions (in hindsight he was as he would exit stage left just two years after in 2015).
Aresco’s main soliloquy was in three parts:
1 – The American had defied the odds and is now "every bit a power conference" and that the P5-G5 perceived separation from the media and the power conferences is "manufactured." He spent a good amount of time on Tulane and their remarkable comeback bowl win against USC as a recent example of the success the conference is capable of on a national stage.
2- The six new teams entering the conference are all excellent additions who will bring a lot of success to the conference and the remaining teams are excellent as well. The 14-team format and six new teams will allow for some fun rivalries to develop as well as opportunities to win games against the upper echelon of programs.
3 – The NIL and Portal, while in some ways is problematic, it just needs to be adjusted to better serve the needs of the student athletes but also promote fair competition amongst all the NCAA teams.
My view is that Aresco is a good counter puncher and his desire to do away with the labels that have haunted non flagship or blue blood programs is right on target. And there is a lot of truth in that. The Power 5 versus Group of Five was a label that was perpetuated by the media. And it is not accurate anymore as the expansion to the 12-team playoff will provide a lot more opportunity for programs in the future.
Now to close, I would like to give my impressions of each of the 14 American head football coaches and their respective speeches and responses to media Q&A.
Brian Newberry, Navy: Taller, quiet guy that seemed sincere and proud of his team. He explained that NIL and portal were not really factors for them and somewhat of an advantage in that they did not have to deal with many of those battles. The type of players they were recruiting were looking at the bigger picture in terms of a career and commitment well after their football days were behind them. He has some work to do revamping his roster so it will be interesting to see how he plans out there.
Stan Drayton, Temple: Definitely one of the more personable coaches of the day and he was very engaging and interacting with the media. He lightened things up after a dry opening from the Navy HC. He has only been there a year so still trying to get more of his type of players in the program and having success. Temple is one of the few AAC teams who were able to win the conference in the last decade so he should have a decent chance to win some games there.
Biff Poggi, Charlotte: Very interesting guy, big and broad shouldered, you could tell he was staying in his shell and being more composed in his first year. I am betting he may be one of the most entertaining coaches in the AAC as time goes on. He was an exceptionally good salesperson in Charlotte, the city in terms of it being home to the US banking community and that their NIL will be able to take advantage of that in time. He did not get a ton of questions and slammed his hand down on the podium at the end jokingly saying after they win some games this year there will be more interest.
Ryan Silverfield, Memphis: Liked him, he was one of the better speakers overall. Interestingly he along with a few other AAC coaches never played college football himself and came up at Memphis under Mike Norvell. It sounded like they lost a few to the portal and NIL but also added a lot of fresh faces and he seemed optimistic about the team and of what they were capable.
Tom Herman, Florida Atlantic: One of the highlights of the event for me, Herman is not afraid to put himself out there and is just always an entertaining speaker. He said he is having fun again at FAU and that he locked up the locker room for a few days to wash away the 5-7 record and put last season’s dramatic drop from grace behind him. One writer made the mistake of asking him how it felt to be back in Texas again, to which Herman replied that it was just another state, town etc. He then joked about trying to get Commissioner Aresco to move it to Miami or better yet Boca Raton next year. Herman did reveal his transfer QB Casey Thompson had shoulder surgery but expected him to be in a battle for the QB spot with two others. Herman said he totally supported the NIL and players making money but felt it should be based on their own accomplishments and not on phony jobs and artificial tasks.
Trent Dilfer, UAB: I thought Dilfer was one of the most entertaining coaches out there today. As a reminder, this guy won a Superbowl for the Ravens as QB worked for ESPN as a broadcaster and has had a truly remarkable career. A writer asked him if he worried about what other college coaches thought about him not following the traditional path to becoming a head coach in college. He said he did not care about what any other coach or administrator thought about him. He only cared about his players and that he gave them everything he had. The guy obviously does not need the money and he said it was his wife that pushed him out of high school coach because he needed a new mountain to climb up. I could not help but think of other players with such notoriety as Clyde Drexler who crashed and burned but also guys like Jim Harbaugh who were able to make it work. Dilfer will be a lot of fun to watch regardless of what happens because he is not trying to move up the coaching food chain like the typical college coach is.
Mike Houston, East Carolina: Seemed like a good fit for East Carolina and you could not help but be impressed with their record last year (8-5) and defeating Coastal Carolina in a bowl. Houston is the opposite of Dilfer in he came up the ranks from high school, small college and then FCS powerhouse James Madison where he notched two consecutive 14-win seasons.
Jeff Traylor, UTSA: Traylor sported the Roadrunner Hat with the Armani suit and was his usual charming East Texas self. He heaped a ton of praise on Tulane coach Willie Fritz as well as the other coaches in the league. He spoke a lot about talented QB Frank Harris and how lucky he (Traylor) was to have him. Despite being one of the favorites in the AAC, Traylor reminded the crowd that UTSA had won a lot of close games in the past few seasons.
Alex Golesh, South Florida: Very young. Pretty well spoken and focused a lot on changing the culture at USF. Someone told me he was smoking a cigar after the presentations, but that he was not confirmed. I will say this, USF was at one time a particularly good football program and they had a ton of talent down there to build with so he could surprise us all.
Willie Fritz, Tulane: Seemed to garner the most respect from the other coaches. Softer spoken than I remembered. His voice has a whispery quality to it. Just a damn winner and you can tell he is building something extremely special down there. He did point out that last year the ball bounced their way a lot (12-2) and a similar team the year before lost ten games. Fritz said last year on media day they were picked to be 7th so that may bode well for UNT.
Kevin Wilson, Tulsa: Pretty straightforward and to the point guy. Seems like more of a technician. Said NIL had helped and hurt them which I thought was honest. He did give big time praise to QB Braylon Braxton from Frisco who he said could be a talented player in any conference.
Mike Bloomgren, Rice: Seemed like the typically smart Rice type of personality. Sounds like he landed a big time QB with JT Daniels who could surprise the league.
Eric Morris, North Texas: Morris was great, and I love how he can make fun of himself and how it disarms his audience. He had by far the most questions from the media and there were more, but the AAC staff had to keep the agenda moving. They spoke of his relationship with Mike Leach, and while he did not name Patrick Mahomes, he did say that he had developed some exceptionally good QB’s in his time in coaching. He talked about how he and his staff were trying to get into the Denton community and build relationships. He heaped praise on the two UNT player reps in attendance Mazin Richards and Jet Duncan. He spun the NIL and portal in a positive way, talking about how Richards developed later and was able to transfer to UNT and become a first team all-conference player. He also mentioned how he had a good handle on the make-up of the UNT team and roster as he was friends with Seth Littrell who was his coach at Texas Tech.
Rhett Lashlee, SMU: So, as you know, I am a UNT fan, and I do not care a lot about SMU. With that stated it is hard not to be impressed with Coach Lashley. He looks and dresses the part, and he is well spoken. He conveys the strengths of SMU very well, stating that SMU is in one of the top business cities in the country and that once you graduate with a degree from there you are set for life. He talked about how SMU has been building up to this point and he was excited about all the additions the coaching staff had made through high school and the portal / NIL. There was an air of confidence around him not just about the upcoming season but the future of SMU. He did not take the bait on a question pertaining to SMU being an addition to the PAC 10, but he also made it truly clear that NIL was opening a tremendous opportunity for them to get the program back to the days of The Pony Express.
Last note and I will let you go. I am pleased to announce that GoMeanGreen.com is working on a new premium service that we will be rolling out soon. Some of you may recall a project we did in the past called “The Eagle Eye” and it will be like that but with a new name. I will provide more details on this project later but suffice it to say that the GoMeanGreen.com you know, and love will not be changing, and we are just adding some additional premium content and features for those who are interested in that sort of stuff.
I want to be clear that has not been and there will not be any service like this out there covering UNT sports. I would not be doing it unless I believed we could be the best. There have been some news items and things in the past we did not feel comfortable talking in public and this service will give us the ability to do that in a more secure way. The amount of recruiting coverage and inside information we will be providing will be unparalleled. We are excited about this project and will be sharing more information on it very soon. Until then, and as always –
Go Mean Green!
Harry Miers ‘90
Join @Harry and @TheReal_jayD as they recap JD's visit to Denton, the latest in recruiting and Harry's update from basketball practice.
Direct Audio Link: https://traffic.libsyn.com/gomeangreen/GMG_7_11.mp3
Join Harry and North Texas Football recruiting expert JD Davis as they analyze the latest Mean Green Sports news, including some very exciting recent football and basketball commitments, assistant coaching hires and other odds and ends from Denton, TX USA.
direct audio link: https://gomeangreen.libsyn.com/gomeangreencom-barbershop-podcast-235
Join @Harry and @TheReal_jayD as they discuss UNT's monumental win over Wisconsin in the semi-finals of the NIT and upcoming final game against UAB.
Direct Audio Link: https://traffic.libsyn.com/gomeangreen/NITPREUAB.mp3