North Texas' 11th 3-star commitment in the 2019 class is tight end prospect Asher Alberding from Clear Lake, Texas (Clearlake HS).
Alberding measures in an impressive 6-4, 230 pounds, and can move well for his size. He is listed as the 58th Ranked Tight End in the nation by 247 Sports. He chose North Texas over offers from Air Force, Rice, Yale, Texas State and Louisiana-Monroe. Alberding hauled in 14 catches last year for 261 yards and a TD as a junior.
His main recruiters at North Texas were coach Marty Biagi (having a great 2019 recruiting cycle BTW) and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. He specifically mentioned his relationship with UNT head coach Seth Littrell as being important, as the two kept in touch during the entire process. Littrell’s past success with developing the tight end position (including Rob Gronkowski currently with the New England Patriots) also helped in adding Alberding to an already impressive North Texas 2019 commitment list.
Quick Hits with Asher Alberding
Q: How was visit to North Texas?
A: It was awesome. I loved it the campus and the stadium was beautiful!
Q: What led you to committing to join #F19HTCLUB?
A: The staff and the culture at UNT is incomparable to anywhere I have been. All the love I have received from the Mean Green Family just makes it feel right at home for me. Our 2019 class is going win a lot of ball games and I can’t wait to be a part of it. This is a special place.
Q: Favorite Restaurant?
A: Cane's!! I get that #25 meal and eat all I can!!
As the 2018 North Texas football season inches closer, there is no disputing the level of excitement and anticipation is reaching a fever pitch. Optimism abounds and it’s not just from the die-hard fans who frequent the GoMeanGreen.com fan website.
The Mean Green were picked to place first in the Conference USA Western division in the league’s 2018 preseason poll and junior quarterback Mason Fine was selected as the league’s most valuable offensive player. UNT returns 17 starters, and pretty much it’s entire coaching staff including head coach Seth Littrell who led the program to bowl games in both of his first two seasons. They also can boast the #1 ranked 2019 recruiting class in Conference USA according to 247 Sports.
North Texas had struggled for most of the past decade prior to Littrell’s hiring in 2015, notching only one winning season in 2013 under then coach Dan McCarney. In 2016, Littrell took a 1-11 team he inherited from McCarney to a bowl game in his first season as head coach. Later, in the summer of 2016 UNT hired athletic director Wren Baker and after solid 2017 performances in all three major revenue sports the future could not look brighter.
Yet, despite good signs, as a long down trodden North Texas fan, there is always that chip on your shoulder, and concern that even the best of expectations can be derailed. It's just not that easy being green. If that admission means I fall into the #OLDDENTON category so be it.
I could not help but think back to a similar place we – as North Texas fans – found ourselves just four short years ago back in 2014, after an amazing Heart of Dallas bowl win on New Years day against UNLV.
Dan McCarney was hired as head football coach by North Texas in November 2010. This hire was the culmination of a prior disastrous hire of high school coach Todd Dodge made by then athletic director Rick Villarreal. McCarney seemed to be everything Dodge wasn’t. He had experience, having been a player at Iowa under former North Texas legend Hayden Fry and the head coach at Iowa State in some of their glory years. Oh, and by the way, he also won a national championship ring as a defensive coordinator at Florida.
McCarney immediately played the “major rebuild” card that newly installed coaches like to play, and quite honestly, he was probably right as Dodge had run this thing into the ground. His first season at UNT (2011) in the Sun Belt conference earned him a 5-7 record; in 2012 he regressed to 4-8. Alumni and boosters were antsy. How long and could he ever get things on track?
2013 was the season that it all came together and in hindsight unfortunately extended McCarney’s stay an additional 2-years. North Texas went 9-4, and despite not winning their division were able to secure a rare bowl win in front of a good crowd.
Suddenly, the whispers of who would replace McCarney became a chorus of demands to renew his contract as quickly as possible although very few will admit this sin today.
There are certainly some similarities between how North Texas fans felt heading into the 2014 season and how they feel now. Int 2014, North Texas was picked to win the West division of Conference USA and Marshall was expected to win the East. UNT returned seasoned offensive coordinator Mike “Chico” Canales and talked defensive wizard John Skladany out of retiring. They returned 5 offensive starters and 4 defensive starters from their 9-4 squad and recruiting had been solid.
The season started off roughly on the road at the University of Texas as hopes for a major step forward against a P5 program were dashed. UNT would lose the game 38-7 despite a good defensive showing in the 1st half. In week two, UNT bounced back in a big way, defeating arch rival SMU in Denton by a score of 43-6 and the bandwagon started back up. Fans were bleeding green again.
Then reality sunk in after a disastrous home loss against Louisiana Tech by a score of 42-21. After a cupcake win against out-manned Nicholls State, the Mean Green would go on to lose four straight conference games. McCarney would only manage two more conference wins that season against the bottom tier Florida C-USA schools and finished the season at 4-8.
Much of the issues UNT faced in 2014 revolved around the quarterback position. They tried several options during the season, including Iowan Andrew McNulty, juco-transfer Josh Greer, and Dajon Williams. None of them seemed to work, with junior, and McCarney favorite McNulty earning the most game reps.
UNT hoped this setback season was just a blip on the radar screen but the worst was yet to come. In 2015, McCarney would start out 0-5 and was summarily fired after a disastrous 66-7 loss to FCS program Portland State at home.
One could argue that the North Texas program is under solid footing with Coach Littrell and his staff heading into the 2018 season. The biggest difference appears to be the return of junior quarterback Mason Fine. One cannot question the importance of the quarterback position and UNT appears miles ahead of where they were in 2014 both in terms of talent and depth. ‘
Mason Fine will go down as one of the most prolific quarterbacks North Texas has ever had on the field. But he is a not a big guy, and with a porous offensive line, he has had some injury issues in his first two seasons. If you lose Fine, it could put you in a similar situation that McCarney faced in 2014 where he had no significant experience at the most important position on the team.
A look back at North Texas’ 2017 season reveals that Littrell won a fair amount of close games, especially in conference. UNT beat UAB by only 3 points at home and just bested UTSA by 3 at home with seconds left on the clock. They beat Old Dominion by only a touchdown, and La. Tech by only 1-point. Turn those around and throw in an Army non-conference 3-point win and the season could have looked a whole lot different in terms of the record. UNT also benefitted from some lucky breaks, for instance Southern Miss losing their starting quarterback. And you have to factor in that they lose all-time great field UNT goal kicker Trevor “Ice” Moore. The loss of Moore makes the parity in the conference more concerning heading into this important season.
The other factor is the strength of the league. In 2013, many feel McCarney caught Conference USA in a down cycle. In 2013 opponent Tulsa went 3-9, UTEP 2-10, Southern Miss was 1-11 and La. Tech went 4-8. SMU is always a nice win, but that was one of the worst seasons they had in a long time.
In 2018 you know the Western division won’t be easy. La. Tech will likely be back strong after beating SMU in the 2017 Frisco bowl. Southern Miss returns a bowl team, UTSA is always tough, and UAB may have some of the best returning talent in the west. The non-conference slate includes a powerful Florida Atlantic squad, a rising Old Dominion program and Arkansas from the SEC.
Recruiting is another factor to consider, as 2014 unveiled the stark reminder that in his fourth season Dan McCarney’s recruiting abilities – with a few exceptions - had been abysmal. In 2018, Littrell will have more of his players that fit his system in place. He has proven that he and his staff can identify and develop good offensive players such as Fine, and receivers Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence and Rico Bussey. As to whether this skill translates to the defensive side of the ball remains to be seen.
If anything, the 2014 season reminds us that expectations can be misleading. There is a real momentum that is being felt around 1301 Bonnie Brae right now. Can Littrell take this program to another level? Or will he fall victim to the curse that North Texas coaches before him have fallen? A solid season could catapult an already amazing recruiting haul into one for the record books and cement Littrell’s legacy as a head coach at the G5 level.
It seems like just a few years ago, North Texas fan attention was locked in on a heated QB battle that included the likes of Danny Mac prodigy Andrew McNulty, juco-transfers Josh Greer and DaMarcus Smith, and of course fan favorite Dajon Williams. Unfortunately, things just did not work out on the field (or the win column for that matter) and the quarterback position became one of the more challenging issues the program faced in its quest to rebuild. North Texas had become a hard place to recruit a good quarterback to. Fast forward to 2018 and suffice it to say, things have changed for the better.
One can certainly argue that Seth Littrell hasn’t necessarily lit up the recruiting world the last two seasons. That said, the class of 2019 - on paper - appears to be extremely good. What he has done is improved the roster at every position, not only at the top of the 2-deep but also in terms of depth. Of every position, quarterback could be the most improved group overall making it a good place to start the GoMeanGreen.com roster position by position preview.
#6 Mason Fine QB 5-11 185 JR Peggs, OK Locust Grove HS
Mean Green Sports.com Facts
Currently sixth all-time on the school's passing list for his career (5,624 yards), sixth in passing touchdowns (37), first in passer efficiency (133.88), sixth in career completions (479), seventh in career pass attempts (772), second in career completion percentage (62.0 percent), has the most 300-yard passing games in program history (8) and fourth most 200-yard passing games in program history (17)
Owns North Texas single-season passing yardage (4,052), touchdown (31), completion (324), pass attempts (511) records, all set in 2017
• On the Maxwell Award and Davey O'Brien Watch Lists
• Named a Player to Watch by the Touchdown Club of Columbus
• Selected to the C-USA Preseason All-Conference team
• Finished by completing 324-of-511 passes for 4,052 yards with 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 14 starts and was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year and was a first-team all-conference selection
• Named to the C-USA All-Freshman team
• Completed 155-of-261 passes for 1,572 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions, along with two rushing scores in 10 appearances, nine of which were starts
It is a very nice feeling having the reigning C-USA offensive player of the year returning for just his junior year. Fine will also have virtually all his weapons and offensive line returning as well as his coaching staff, which is unprecedented in North Texas football lore. I believe Mason will continue where he left off last year and will continue to improve and build on his already record-breaking numbers. The only question mark isc an the offensive line keep him up right and healthy? With the returning starters and having the second year with offensive line coach Chuck Langston you have to think his protection should improve. If Mason can equal or better his performance and stats from last season, and stay healthy, watch out – this could be a big year for the North Texas program.
#19 Quinn Shanbour QB 6-0 202 RS SR Oklahoma City, OK Heritage Hall HS
Mean Green Sports.com Facts
• Completed 4-of-6 passes for 34 yards and a touchdown and carried six times for 53 yards in 14 appearances
• Member of the team's leadership council
I know some that follow the team may not be as high on Quinn Shanbour as I am. He has been a good soldier behind the scenes, and proven to be an outstanding student and even better leader that the players respect and look up to. He is like having a coach on the field. Against Iowa last season he proved he can move the ball down the field in a clutch situation and lead the offense. Losing a starting quarterback like Mason Fine is a situation you never want to envision but you have to be prepared for it. The coaches have confidence in Quinn to come in and get the job done. HOT TAKE ALERT: If Quinn was at a few other C-USA schools - not naming any other team names - it is very likely he would be their starter at the beginning of the year.
The Wild Card
#13 Austin Aune QB 6-2 199 FR Argyle, TX Arkansas
Mean Green Sports.com Facts
• Spent the spring at Arkansas
• Spent six seasons in the New York Yankees organization, spending the last two seasons at High-A Tampa
• Selected in the second round, as the 89th overall pick in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft
• Originally a three-star prospect who signed with TCU
• Threw for 3,411 yards and 33 touchdowns and rushed for 538 yards and nine more touchdowns as a senior at Argyle HS
Austin Aune is very intriguing prospect. After a very good career at Argyle he had a ton of offers and signed with P5 TCU. He ultimately decided to pursue professional baseball with the Yankees which is no small feat. With the money they gave him it’s hard to blame the guy. Professional baseball didn’t pan out and he wanted to give football another shot. He has built a very good relationship with the North Texas staff and has a great chance if he can regain form to be the heir apparent after Mason Fine leaves. Several players have tried to make the switch to MLB to NCAA football, most notably Brandon Weeden with Oklahoma State. There have been several who have made the attempt and not panned out for several reasons so there is always a risk. Plus there are a lot of young guys with talent who are looking for snaps. Austin has a home near Denton and seems really motivated to be good at football, so it is an exciting proposition. He is also not requiring a scholarship which makes it a fairly low-risk situation for North Texas.
A Bright Stable of Young Arms
#10 Cade Pearson QB 6-3 207 RS FR Texarkana, TX Texas HS
#17 Kason Martin QB 6-3 206 FR Manvel, TX Manvel HS
#5 Jason Bean QB 6-3 180 FR Mansfield, TX Lake Ridge HS
#16 Cobe Craft QB 5-11 190 FR Keller, TX Fossil Ridge HS
#11 Kane Hardin QB 5-11 183 RS SO Irving, TX Texas Wesleyan
This young crew of prospects offer a ton of raw talent and potential. Cade Pearson is starting his second season with the team. He has shown a lot of improvement in his play so far in practice and performed admirably in the spring game. Cade will defiantly be in the conversation when staff looks for their heir apparent to replace Mason. Kason and Jason were both signees in this last class (2018). Both have features you can get excited about and had very good high school careers at solid programs. The thing that stands out about Jason is his wheels, this kid can fly. Not only does he have a Division 1 type arm, he has the athletic ability that he will get him on the field in some capacity. Believe me when I say this, he will first get a VERY long look at QB, as the staff is very high on him. Kason is a coach’s son just like Cobe Craft. Both will bring a ton of knowledge into the QB room. Kason can make any throw on the field and has a very solid frame for a young guy with room to grow. He will be another to watch closely in the future.
We all know that quarterback is arguably the most important position in all of sports. I believe North Texas is in the best spot they have been at this position since I have been covering the team. It also could become one of the best G5 QB rooms in the country if they continue to improve and develop. Littrell and his air raid offense has made North Texas a destination spot for top quarterback talent, versus a place where guys end up.
North Texas in a good place for the current and the future at the quarterback position and if you are a fan it should be a whole lot of fun to watch.
As we inch closer to the start of Fall camp, and the highly anticipated start of the 2018 Mean Green football season, I thought it would be a good time to look at the 2018 schedule of games, placing them in order of importance. I will be the first to say this list is arranged in the order of a fan's lens and will not follow the painfully boring coaching phrase, "the most important game is next game on the schedule".
1). SMU - It the home opener sure, but it also against a team North Texas Fans love to hate more than any other. Plus, we have not beaten them since 2014. Beating SMU to open the season would be music to a music schools ears.
2). @UT at San Antonio - OK I admit it; this game is late in the season and most do not see them as a Western division challenger this season. The bottom line is we hate these bastards and every chance we must beat them we must take advantage. They are our clear rival in the conference now and yes, we do recruit against them quite a bit. Also, we have not yet beaten them in San Antonio which would be fun.
3). @Arkansas - Typically a game on the road against an SEC team would be a let's get a check and avoid injuries. This one feels different. Arkansas has a new coach (former SMU HC Chad Morris) and is going from a power-based set to the spread. New coaching regimes are renown for some stumbles early as they evaluate personnel and playbooks. Most did not think we would have a chance against Georgia on the road back in 2013 but we were a TD down in the 3rd quarter before spitting the bit. Even a good showing here would provide some momentum heading into conference play.
4). Florida Atlantic - R-E-V-E-N-G-E. It's a home game and a chance for redemption after two drubbings last season. FAU is the cream of the C-USA field, and getting a win against Kiffy would be one of the most delightful home experiences we have had.
5). @UAB Blazers - UAB turned out to be one of our biggest wins in 2017, as they went on after that loss and won 6 C-USA games (including La. Tech, UTSA and MUTS) and got to a bowl. Pretty much everyone is back and the last time we played them on the road they demolished us. A win against UAB on the road this season would be a statement win.
6). La. Tech - Tech is one of those programs who sees 2017 UNT as sort of a flash in the pan. Beating them at home would be fun and would make it harder for them to pretend that they are better than us. Also, we recruit against Tech a lot. They have a good program and anytime we can beat them it is a good sign.
7). Southern Miss - Always a super tough game, and their fans feel like they were robbed last season due to a QB injury. I have a lot of respect for their program and it is a home game. I would put them up higher in the list if we recruited more against them (we don't).
8). @Old Dominion - This will be our 1st game in Norfolk and a chance to put the Monarchs in their place. Old Dominion is in the eastern division, so it won't be as important a game from a conference perspective. They just seem to have a high and might attitude ever since they joined C-USA, maybe not to the level of UTSA, but enough to irritate me.
9). @Rice - I would usually put this game higher on the list, but Rice appears to be a little down right now, so this should be a game we win. Whenever we have the golden opportunity of playing a game in talent laden Houston, we need to play well. We don't recruit against Rice as much as we do some other C-USA teams, but enough to matter.
10). @UTEP - much like Rice UTEP appears to be down after firing their coach so that puts them further down the list. Still, last time we played in El Paso they beat us like a drum, so we better not take them for granted. They would love to beat us because they could sell it to DFW area recruits.
11). @Liberty - My gut tells me this is a trap game but hopefully I am wrong. In terms of importance I just can't put it higher because it is a non-conference game against an opponent not many know about. I do think they are building a nice program with nice facilities there and just hope we are getting them in the early stages of the build.
12). Incarnate Word - This is a paycheck game for Incarnate Word which started playing football in 2009 as a DII program. If we don't have a comfortable lead at halftime it could be a long season.
North Texas Head Coach Seth Littrell and his staff received some good news this morning, landing a commitment from top quarterback prospect Will Kuehne (6-1, 190) out of Owasso High School in Oklahoma. Kuehne led the Rams to a 6A-I State Championship in 2017 defeating Tulsa Union by a score of 21-14. In the championship run season he threw for 2,788 yards, 24 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions.
Kuehne is rated as a 3-star pro-style QB prospect, but don’t let the description fool you. He rushed for 289 yards as a junior and had 10 scores. His running ability will be a feature of the Owasso offense in 2018. He is also an outstanding student, maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Owasso Head Coach Bill Blankenship had high praise for Kuehne. “He’s a great player. He’s not flashy, but gets the job done. He’s everything a coach would want to have. We built our offense around him, and he showed great leadership both on and off the field.”
When asked to describe Kuehne as a player, Blankenship compared him to Justin Fuente who played at Tulsa Union and was the Oklahoma Player of the Year in 1994. “He throws the ball around like Justin could, but the difference is Justin couldn’t run, he [Kuehne] has good wheels. He is a weapon to run the ball. He ran a 10.77 100-meters and helped our track team qualify for state.”
Kuehne had multiple offers including Maryland, Arkansas State as well as many Ivy league schools. He is the highest ranked QB prospect that North Texas has had committed since 2008. “If Will had played in the DFW metroplex or Houston, he would have more offers than he has now”, Blankenship stated. “Seth [Littrell] gets it in terms of what you have to do to recruit successfully in Oklahoma.” “There are about 40-60 DI guys here every year. It’s not as easy as Dallas or Houston, you have to drive a bit and find them.”
And yes, the bloodlines are strong. Kuehne is the son of Trip Kuehne who was a 3-time All American golfer at Oklahoma State and took Tiger Woods to the wire in the 1994 U.S. Amateur finals. His mom, Dusti Stuart, was a scholarship basketball player at OSU. His grandfather Ernie Kuehne (’66) was a scholarship track athlete at North Texas and has been a major donor to his alma mater. Ernie was inducted into the UNT Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2013.
Kuehne began his career at Liberty Christian and then transferred to Owasso prior to his junior year. That change allowed Kuehne to play at a higher level of competition but may have put him off the radar of some bigger programs.
The combination of playing under Seth Littrell and Graham Harrell was a key factor for Kuehne. Littrell’s current starting QB Mason Fine (Locust Grove, OK) will return in 2018 as a junior after a record setting season in 2017. Fine passed for 3,749 yards and 28 touchdowns and led the Mean Green to a C-USA Western Division Championship and New Orleans Bowl appearance.
Kuehne could be the next guy in line. He will enroll early in January 2019 and participate in Spring drills. Ideally, he could take a redshirt year and learn under Fine’s tutelage. As far as Owasso’s prospect in 2018, it could be a challenging year as they lost their top 10 offensive linemen and top receiver and face a murderer’s row early schedule.
According to Coach Blankenship, if anyone is up to the challenge it may be Will Kuehne. "If you think about what he accomplished beating a great team like Jenks, in his very first game for us, it tells you he is a pretty special player."
This show we recap a tough loss in the C-USA Championship game against Florida Atlantic but also look forward to a return trip to New Orleans to face the the Trojans from Troy. UNT alums @Evan, @Harry and @BeyondTheGreen give their hot sports thoughts on the bowl game opportunity and also get a recruiting update from @TheReal_jayD on the early signing period and a big group of weekend visitors UNT has coming in this weekend.
Audio Link: http://gomeangreenbarbershop.libsyn.com/podcast/gmgpod192-12617-10-14-pm