UNT practice notes (video: Reggie Pegram talks about comeback)

UNT went through one of its final workouts before its Saturday night mock game this morning at the Darrell R. Dickey Football Practice Facility.

I talked to Reggie Pegram about his return from a knee injury last season (that will be our upcoming video). Pegram said he feels like he is back to full strength after tearing his ACL last season in a win over Southern Miss.

Pegram is a good power back, who will bolster UNT’s running game. The Purdue transfer rushed for 338 yards and six touchdowns in eight games last season.

In other news and notes of the day …

– Dan McCarney said that he has not settled on a quarterback and talked a little about where UNT stands. The battle is still down to Andrew McNulty and Josh Greer.

“We are going to continue to evaluate,” McCarney said. “If it takes part of next week, fine. I don’t have a deadline and neither does [offensive coordinator] Mike Canales. It’s the same two that it has been all along. They have had really good camps. and have really improved. There is no magical time. I don’t feel like I have to announce it at the press conference Monday. We will announce it at the right time, when we have peace of mind, it’s been as fair as it can be and we can say ‘Let’s go.’ If this decision was easy, we would have made it a long time ago.”

The difficulty of the decision raises a host of questions, including if UNT could play both McNulty and Greer. McCarney wasn’t ready to eliminate that possibility.

“There is a possibility we play both whether it’s by design or whether we go with the flow of the game, who is struggling and who could give us a lift,” McCarney said. “We will get this finalized real soon. I just can’t tell you if it will be by the press conference.”

– UNT will get plenty of plays in during its mock game on Saturday to get an idea of where it stands at quarterback. The Mean Green will get in more than 100 plays.

“Tomorrow is a really important evaluation,” McCarney said. “What we are looking for is taking care of assignments, giving great effort and avoiding penalties.”

UNT to open soccer season tomorrow, et cetera

UNT will open the soccer season tomorrow night with a game against Texas Southern.

I will have an advance on the season in tomorrow’s paper.

And in other news, Carlos Harris posted a photo of UNT’s new helmet on his Twitter account. It looks nice. I’m not a big uniform guy, but the players seem to like it.

Today was also Champions Day for the UNT football team:

Former Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, who has been known to show up at UNT was on hand and spoke at the event that is one of the traditional lead-ups to UNT’s season-opener.

And finally, the Morning News ran my blog format preview of UNT’s season today.

Thursday afternoon notes

UNT fans are sitting and waiting for Dan McCarney to name a starting quarterback.

I fully expect to hear something following UNT’s mock game on Saturday or at McCarney’s weekly press conference on Monday.

That was the way UNT handled it last year when Derek Thompson won the job.

Until then, we will just have to sit and wait.

In a side note, this website came out with a list of the top arenas in college basketball. The Super Pit received a good review and ranking. 

We continue to get calls asking when our football magazine comes out this year. It will be in the paper the 28th, two days before UNT opens at Texas.

We are holed up in the office, finishing it off and trying to squeeze some nap time in on the side.

Wednesday afternoon notes (Football notes, et cetera)

There were a few news items and notes of interest that have come down in the last day or so. Let’s take a lap around the world of UNT athletics …

We had a story in today’s paper about some of the young players UNT is counting on this season defensively. The topic is one that has been hotly discussed since the end of last season.

The interesting tidbit in there is that Sheldon Wade is in position to start at safety at this point. UNT went out and signed Matthew Dash out of the JC ranks to help fill the void by the departure of Marcus Trice. Wade and Dash will both play.

We wrote about Dash’s journey to UNT a while back.

No matter who UNT rolls out back there, the Mean Green is going to have a tough time filling the void left by Trice.

And while this isn’t directly UNT related, the NCAA released a report today that only 20 schools in the Football Bowl Suvbdivision turned a profit on their athletic programs last year.

If you dig into the report, there are a ton of figures that illustrate the wide gap is in terms of the financial stature between the top few programs in college football and the rest of the schools out there. The average loss among schools in the major five conferences was $2.3 million, but was $17.6 million at all other FBS schools.

Finally, here’s a pretty good indication of why UNT went hard after Cedar Hill defensive lineman Xavier Washington. He will play as a freshman at Northwestern.

UNT practice notes with Jarrian Roberts video

The search for new playmakers on the defensive side of the ball was one of the key story lines for UNT heading into fall practice.

Head coach Dan McCarney and two of the Mean Green’s key veteran defensive players — linebacker Derek Akunne and defensive end Jarrian Roberts — both said after practice on Tuesday that UNT is seeing some players emerge in the late stages of two-a-days.

Freshman defensive end Tillman Johnson, sophomore linebacker Sed Ellis and sophomore cornerback Chad Davis were among the players McCarney and Akunne named.

I will have more on what McCarney and his players had to say about the emergence of those young players in the paper tomorrow.

In other news of the day …

– McCarney talked a little about Kilgore College defensive tackle Michael Igwe today. Igwe is a walk-on who went through his first workout in pads this morning. He’s 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds. He has caught the attention of UNT fans for a good reason — UNT lacks size up front after the graduation of tackle Richard Abbe. It sounds like there is a long way to go for Igwe to work his way into a playing role. I wouldn’t expect to see him on the field any time soon.

– We reported a while back that Aderius Epps, a former Cedar Hill offensive lineman who began his career at Kansas State, planned to transfer to UNT. McCarney said today that he has yet to talk to Epps, but has been told that he wants to join the Mean Green. Epps walked right through the lobby of the Mean Green Athletic Center after practice. I am assuming that conversation will take place today. I’m not saying that his transfer to UNT is a done deal. McCarney sure didn’t, but all signs point that direction.

Welp, this is UNT’s helmet for the season (better file)

I posted a low resolution copy of the UNT helmet the Associated Press moved the other day and noted that there is a good chance that the Mean Green would wear that design this season.

It was one of the more popular blog posts of the last few days, which — A. makes me sad and B. prompted me to ask for some additional information on this important topic.

Here’s the deal.

UNT officials noted the popularity of the special helmets the Mean Green wore at times last season and decided to go with a similar design this year.

The “North Texas” on the side of UNT’s helmets has been retired.

UNT fans can now …

Credit my partner in crime Ben Baby for creating this pretty awesome highlight of Dan McCarney after taking on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Mac is great about participating in charitable events.

I suspect there will be dancing in the streets at the news that the North Texas helmets are no more.

Key questions for Texas game– Can UNT’s defensive line hold?

Defensive end Daryl Mason is one of the key players on a UNT defensive front that will be about 50 pounds smaller per man than its counterparts on Texas offensive line in the teams' season-opener. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

We are getting closer and closer to UNT’s opener at Texas in a couple of weeks. While we sit and wait for UNT to officially announce its starting quarterback, let’s look at one of the key matchups when it comes to the Mean Green’s opener.

There might not be a bigger challenge for UNT than having its defensive line hold up.

Let’s look at the lineups:

This is what Texas’ lineup could look like on its offensive line:

Center – Dominic Espinosa, 6-2, 308

Guard — Sedrick Flowers,  6-3, 320

Guard Taylor Doyle, 6-5, 300

Tackle — Kent Perkins, 6-5, 330

Tackle — Kennedy Estelle, 6-6, 285

Texas doesn’t have an elite level offensive lineman, but it has a ton of guys with size. Texas will average over 300 pounds a man any way it lines up and would check in at just short of 309 in this alignment.

And those players will be clearing the way Malcom Brown and Jonathan Gray, two players on the Doak Walker Award watch list who check in at 222 and 210 pounds, respectively.

UNT has yet to release its depth chart, but let’s look at a safe guess.

Defensive end — Malik Dilonga, 6-4, 252

Defensive tackle — Austin Orr, 6-4, 272

Defensive tackle — Alexander Lincoln, 6-2, 267

Defensive end — Daryl Mason, 6-3, 253

UNT’s starters could well check in at an average of 261 pounds.

That’s a deficit of 48 pounds a player.

To be fair, defensive linemen are generally smaller and quicker. The size difference is still pretty significant.

Texas will want to protect oft-injured David Ash and has two star running backs. I don’t think it’s any secret what Texas will do against the Mean Green. The Longhorns will line up and try to run it down the Mean Green’s throats.

UNT was terrific last season defensively, but two of the guys who were the best against the run graduated in big defensive tackle Richard Abbe and middle linebacker Zach Orr.

John Skladany will have a good plan for the Mean Green’s game in Austin. Last season showed why Dan McCarney consistently refers to Skladany as one of the best defensive coordinators in the business. The question is if UNT can figure out a way to hold up in a game it will be significantly smaller in a season it will play an undersized line.

McCarney is big on rotating players to keep them fresh. That will help. It just won’t make that size differential any different.

Sunday night notes (UNT men’s basketball team fares well academically, recruiting notes, et cetera)

If it seems like I have been MIA on the blog the last few days, well, it’s because I have been. We are neck deep in our football magazine at the moment. The 120-pager will be out later this month. One item that I have been meaning to get to is pointing out that UNT’s men’s basketball team fared very well academically over the summer.

It’s been tough at times on the court over the last couple of years. I want to be sure to point out when things go well. They did in the classroom over the summer, just like they did at times last year when UNT beat Texas A&M and won a conference tournament game.

And on the recruiting front …

If there is one UNT commit out there to watch in terms of another school trying to come in and steal him away, it might be Oklahoma cornerback Ashton Preston.

Preston is a big-time prospect with a ton of UNT connections that helped the Mean Green land him several weeks ago.

There have been other programs sniffing around and now SMU has offered. Considering Preston is close with UNT linebacker Calvin Minor, I don’t see him flipping to SMU, but he is a player to watch in terms of who offers in the next few months.

There was also some movement on the basketball recruiting front …

UNT didn’t make the cut for Jordan Jackson, one of the better high school players in the state who announced on Twitter that he had cut the list of schools he is considering to six.

And just for fun, here are UNT’s quarterbacks taking the ALS ice bucket challenge

A look at UNT’s quarterback options

I fully expect there a plume of smoke to rise from the Mean Green Athletic Center some time in the next couple of days.

Will UNT’s coaches choose Josh Greer as their starting quarterback or go with Andrew McNulty?

It’s hard to say where things stand because practice is closed and UNT’s coaches have declined to give any kind of indication of where they are leaning, at least not blatantly.

My gut feeling is that UNT is going to go with Greer. No inside information. Just a feeling.

So what does UNT get with Greer?

Greer

For one, it would give the Mean Green a prototypical 6-foot-5 guy who has shown that he can be accurate with the ball and also has good running ability for a guy his size.

UNT offensive coordinator Mike Canales liked Greer all the way back when he was in high school. Greer was at Dan McCarney’s first spring practice at UNT. For some reason, UNT didn’t end up landing Greer, who ended up at UAB, left and then spent one productive season at Navarro.

Greer threw for 1,205 yards in just six games in JC and led Navarro to the SWJCFC title.

Greer can play. He just hasn’t played a ton on the college level. Plus he’s only been at UNT a couple of months after enrolling in January.

My suspicion is that he is more of what Canales wants in a quarterback. He’s Chico’s guy. Canales recruited him — twice. Once out of high school and once out of junior college.

What about McNulty?

McNulty

The edge McNulty has is experience in UNT’s system. The Iowa native is heading into his fourth season at UNT, has started once and served as the Mean Green’s primary backup for years now.

McNulty is 6-foot-1, so he’s smaller than Greer, but he does have some ability as a runner. UNT rolled him out there in 2011 against Houston and watched him score the first touchdown in Apogee Stadium history.

The question now is whether that little fact makes him a footnote in UNT history.

UNT scrimmage notes with McCarney video

UNT held its second big scrimmage of fall practice today over at the Darrell R. Dickey Football Practice Facility. The workout was closed to the media, but Dan McCarney and players were available after practice.

The big news is that there is no news, at least not when it comes to the big question UNT must address — the Mean Green’s quarterback situation.

McCarney said after practice that Andrew McNulty and Josh Greer are the players still under consideration. Both rotated during a workout that included a Conference USA officiating crew.

UNT addressed a host of situations during the workout. McCarney was pleased with the way both McNulty and Greer responded, saying that both made plays.

And in other tidbits from today’s workout …

– McCarney does not address injuries unless they are season-ending. UNT has some guys who are banged up at this point, but McCarney said that UNT has avoided any major problems so far.

– Shawn McKinney and Ryan Rentfo both feel like they have made major progress since last season as they compete to become UNT’s fifth starting offensive lineman. I will have more on their battle in tomorrow’s paper.

– UNT was called for 28 penalties in its first scrimmage of the fall. McCarney said that UNT has improved today, but still has work to do.

– McCarney was happy with the way his players fought through being tired at this point of camp.

– UNT’s staff planned to spent four of five hours after the scrimmage watching tape to get a better feel for who will be the 70 players on the bus when the Mean Green heads to Texas for its season-opener.

And in a quick tidbit on the recruiting front, Myles Cheatum was in town to talk with UNT’s coaches. We talked to Myles Cheatum for our on-going UNT recruiting target series.