Tuesday practice notes (Wells done for year, et cetera)

McCarney

McCarney

UNT’s football practice was once again closed today, but coaches and players were available after for the last day of media interviews for a week.

The one big tidbit is Sam Wells has been lost for the year with a knee injury he suffered today. Wells was working on UNT’s scout team as a defensive back. Dan McCarney described him as a valuable and respected player.

McCarney only talks about injuries if they are season-ending and asks that media members do the same. There are some other guys on the roster dealing with issues, but Wells is the only player who has gone down for the year.

UNT is still working on installing new schemes in its offense and defense.

Don’t be surprised if we don’t see UNT venture away from its base defense more than we have in the past under Chis Cosh. The Mean Green used some three-man front looks in the spring that I expect to see again this fall.

Saturday’s scrimmage also marked the unofficial end of fall camp. UNT is essentially in its bye week now.

McCarney said he really likes where his team is at right now.

“We don’t have any more or less practices,” McCarney said. “What we have had is more time. So far I’ve really liked it. The commitment from the players and coaches was as good as it has been since we have been here. The first three weeks that we finished Saturday were really good. We still have some practices to evaluate, but we are getting closer and closer to knowing which 70 we are going to take to SMU.”

 

Tuesday afternoon notes (SMU releases depth chart, picks contest update)

There were a few items of interest to come down today. Thus it’s time for a quick lap around the bases as far as what is going on in the land of the Mean Green.

First off, there is nothing UNT fans like more than keeping track of what is going on down at SMU, the Mean Green’s rival in Dallas. I bring it up because the Mustangs have released their depth chart for their season-opening game against Baylor.

Matt Davis is slated to start at quarterback for the Mustangs.

There are a few former UNT recruiting targets on there.

In Conference USA news, Western Kentucky has lost key backup running back Anthony “Ace” Wales to injury. UNT plays WKU in the sixth week of the season.

UNT will have its last interview session today before going dark for about a week. I will have some material from practice later today.

And while we are at it, entries for our annual “Get Your Rear on the Record” picks contest are trickling in.

The early return seems to indicate UNT fans are an optimistic bunch this year. Five blog readers have already picked the Mean Green to finish over .500, something that has happened only four times in 20 seasons since UNT resumed playing on the FBS level — once two years ago under Dan McCarney and in three straight seasons under Darrell Dickey during the “Miracle Bowl Run” of 2001-04.

Be sure to send your picks in to bvito@dentonrc.com.

2015 records picks:

8-4 — Ben Gooding, James McAnallen

7-6 — Gonzalo Maturino, Greg W., Darren Foyt (EagleD)

6-6 — Aldo Avina, Ryan Munthe, Travis Scott, Kevin Cozort, Von Eaglin, Jeff Pergola, John Davidson, Harry Miers

5-7 — LongJim, Brett Vito, J. Eckstein, John Lowe (Eagle83), William Manley

4-8 — Thor, John Love (Eagle83), Lee Moses, Evan Nemec, John lee Moses, Bryan Graves

3-9 — Got5onit, Ed Whittemore

Thoughts on the eve of the (unofficial) end of camp

North Texas will essentially wrap up the camp portion of its fall drills on Tuesday. (DRC file photo)

North Texas will essentially wrap up the camp portion of its fall drills on Tuesday. (DRC file photo)

Tomorrow marks the unofficial end of UNT’s fall training camp. At least that is how we look at it.

The Mean Green still have a couple of weeks before opening the season at SMU on Sept. 12. Essentially this week is UNT’s bye week.

UNT head coach Dan McCarney has said he will be careful with the Mean Green’s key players in a season the only bye of the year comes in the first week of the season. I would be surprised if UNT’s players don’t get a little time to recover from a tough fall camp.

What have we learned up to this point? I would be going out on a huge limb by making too many proclamations when practice has been closed all fall, but here are some thoughts:

1. The QB job is McNulty’s to lose now.

McCarney has mentioned more than once that returning starter Andrew McNulty and backup Josh Greer look a whole lot better than they did at any time last season. That’s good news considering how much the Mean Green struggled at the position last season.

JUCO transfer DaMarcus Smith has moved up. He’s sitting third on the depth chart now, but it looks like a foregone conclusion that McNulty will open the year as UNT’s starter.

2. UNT has upgraded its batch of offensive playmakers.

Even though UNT has closed practice, there is little doubt that the Mean Green will have more playmakers on offense this year.

UNT brought back both of its key pass-catching threats in wide receiver Carlos Harris and tight end Marcus Smith, not to mention running back Antoinne Jimmerson. Running back Jeffrey Wilson is healthy after an injury-plagued year.

UNT also has wide receivers Tee Goree and O’Keeron Rutherford coming off redshirt years. Throw in freshmen D’Aundrey Bradley and JUCO transfer Thaddeous Thompson, a pair of players who have impressed in practice, and UNT appears to be in much better shape than last year.

3. UNT likes its 2015 recruiting class — a lot.

UNT ranked in the middle of the Conference USA pack in recruiting last year. McCarney has maintained all along that the Mean Green’s class in a whole lot better than that. From what we have been told, McCarney may be right.

McCarney has been singing the praises of not only Thompson and Bradley, but a host of other players as well. Ashton Preston and Nate Brooks are seeing time at cornerback. Elex Woodworth and Jordan Murray are making a push to crack the two-deep on the offensive line.

And those are just the latest players to emerge. Linebacker Cortney Finney and safety James Gray had already established themselves as starters heading into fall practice. JUCO transfer defensive end Jareid Combs is starting to come on.

And don’t forget, UNT has a couple of young players with potential in tight end Kevin Dillman and linebacker Darrien McNair.

Monday morning notes, records pick update

North Texas forward Rachel Holden tries to get  by a Kansas defender in a 2-1 loss on Sunday at the Mean Green Soccer Complex. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Kristen Watson)

North Texas forward Rachel Holden tries to get by a Kansas defender in a 2-1 loss on Sunday at the Mean Green Soccer Complex. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Kristen Watson)

UNT just finished off an eventful weekend, one I wanted to run over real quick here on the blog.

The UNT soccer team had a rare chance to host a Big 12 team when Kansas came in on Sunday. The Mean Green overcame a slow start and a 1-0 deficit to tie the game up at 1-1, but gave up a late goal and lost 2-1. 

UNT was off to a 3-0 start and could have crept closer to cracking the Top 25 with a win.

The UNT volleyball team was also in action over the weekend and finished 1-2. The Mean Green just snuck past Winthrop in five games, but then lost to North Dakota State in five and finished the weekend by being swept by Missouri.

On the Conference USA front, there was a bit of a stunner in volleyball over the weekend, when Western Kentucky beat No. 5 Wisconsin.

Former UNT golfer Carlos Ortiz finished in a tie for 24th in the Barclays. He’s having a great year

And finally, we are starting to see some picks for our annual records contest — Get Your Rear on the Record trickle in. E-mail them to me at bvito@dentonrc.com.

8-4 — Ben Gooding

7-6 — Gonzalo Maturino

6-6 — Aldo Avina, Ryan Munthe

5-7 — LongJim, Brett Vito,  J. Eckstein

4-8 — Thor, John Love (Eagle83), Lee Moses

3-9 — Got5onit

 

UNT preseason projections roundup

North Texas players celebrate during a game last season. Most preseason projections have the Mean Green slated to finish near the bottom of Conference USA's West Division. (DRC file photo)

North Texas players celebrate during a game last season. Most preseason projections have the Mean Green slated to finish near the bottom of Conference USA’s West Division. (DRC file photo)

There are a host of projections that have come out over the last few weeks for teams across the country, including UNT.

Here is a rundown of what some of them have to say about where the Mean Green will end up this season:

Sports Illustrated projects UNT to finish sixth in Conference USA’s West Division. Louisiana Tech is the pick the win the division, while the magazine tabs Western Kentucky as the league’s top team.

USA Today picked UNT to finish third in Conference USA’s West Division behind Louisiana Tech and Rice, rising again after a down year. “North Texas has bobbed between competitiveness and irrelevance under Dan McCarney, though those familiar with the Mean Green’s recent past will view this as improvement.”

Athlon’s has UNT projected to finish fifth out of six teams in Conference USA’s West Division, ahead of only UTSA. The magazine has Louisiana Tech picked to win the league.

It’s time for a MGB tradition — Get Your Rear on the Record

North Texas coach Dan McCarney, center, and the Mean Green will look to improve on a 4-8 finish this season. (DRC file photo)

North Texas coach Dan McCarney, center, and the Mean Green will look to improve on a 4-8 finish this season. (DRC file photo)

UNT head coach Dan McCarney mentioned when I was talking to him this week that the country comes alive when it’s time for the start of college football season.

There are certain signs that the season is almost upon us — the weather cools off and the excitement builds.

And, perhaps most importantly, we make our annual call here on the blog to “Get Your Rear on the Record.”

The annual exercise should be familiar to most UNT fans. Each season, we ask UNT fans and blog readers to send in their picks for the Mean Green’s record to bvito@dentonrc.com. We record them and list them all on the blog for everyone to see. The exercise gives us the pulse of the Mean Green Nation.

Better yet, I dig them up at the end of the season to see who made the right call.

The defending champion this year is Andrew Morris, who correctly picked UNT to fall into a 4-8 abyss after finishing 9-4 and winning the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2013. Andrew took a look at the roster and correctly projected:

1. Yes, UNT would miss Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP Derek Thompson at quarterback, 2. It would not be easy to fill the voids left by a host of standout players like Zach Orr and Marcus Trice and that, 3. Being a team everyone else in Conference USA was looking to knock off would make a difference.

Our defending “Ridiculous Homers of the Year” are John Lowe (Eagle83) and Darren Foyt (EagleD), who both picked UNT to finish 11-3 last season, and missed it by a smidge. Ok, seven wins.

We don’t have a defending “Fan with Little Faith” this time around, for obvious reasons.

And that brings us to this year.

I am already on the record as having picked UNT to finish 5-7 this year. The Dallas Morning News ran interactive previews of the college teams they cover that included season records picks.

What I haven’t written about is how I reached that total.

UNT could be better this year — a lot better. UNT appears to have really helped itself with its incoming recruiting class. There are a host of junior college additions who will upgrade the Mean Green’s talent level, including safety James Gray, linebacker Cortney Finney and defensive end Jareid Combs.

There are a host of players on UNT’s roster who will have improved over last year, including quarterback Andrew McNulty.

There are a few key factors that prevent me from picking UNT to win six games and become bowl eligible, starting off with the Mean Green’s schedule.

This has been discussed extensively over the last few months, but the slate is brutal. The Mean Green have two Body Bag/Opportunity games this year at Tennessee and Iowa, play 12 straight weeks without a bye, have only five home games and drew the top three teams in Conference USA East Division in Western Kentucky, Marshall and Middle Tennessee in crossover games.

UNT could be dramatically better this year and still not win six games.

The Mean Green also have an uncertain quarterback situation to a certain extent. Andrew McNulty will open the season as UNT’s starter — there is no doubt about that. But he was also the third starter up last season after UNT ran through Josh Greer and Dajon Williams.

McCarney named improving at quarterback a top priority heading into the offseason. And UNT still has the same starting quarterback.

UNT is confident in McNulty, but one has to wonder how long the leash is.

I also hesitate to assume that UNT will be able to seamlessly replace all-conference caliber players who graduate. UNT lost two in Derek Akunne and James Jones on defense and also lost four of its five starters on a good offensive line.

There is a lot to like about UNT heading into the season, and other factors that are a worry.

What are your thoughts?

Be sure to Get Your Rear on the Record in the next few days.

Saturday scrimmage notes (updated with Kirby video interview)

UNT held its last major scrimmage of fall practice this morning.

The major story line is that UNT’s offense controlled the workout that lasted 101 plays.

Head coach Dan McCarney and UNT’s players said there are a number of young wide receivers and transfers who are carving out roles with the Mean Green’s offense.

JUCO transfer Thaddeous Thompson, Tee Goree and D’Aundrey Bradley were all named as players who did well today.

And in other news …

– I mentioned late last week that UNT did some experimenting with its lineup on the offensive line. McCarney said that UNT is pretty settled with its starting five. Where UNT has seen some movement is with freshmen Elex Woodworth and Jordan Murray making a push to crack the two-deep as backups.

– McCarney said ever since national signing day last winter that he thought the Mean Green’s recruiting class was going to be a solid one that would produce several impact players. The closer it gets to the season, the more McCarney feels like he was right in his original evaluation. Safety James Gray, linebacker Cortney Finney and defensive end Jareid Combs look like they will help this year.

– For the first time in a while McCarney mentioned DaMarcus Smith in the quarterback rundown. Andrew McNulty is still the top guy and I don’t think there is any question at this point UNT views Josh Greer as the second guy on the depth chart. Smith has crept up to third team. McCarney mentioned today that McNulty, Greer and Smith all made plays.

MGB video: Blake Bean talks about Saturday’s scrimmage

I will have an advance of Saturday’s scrimmage in tomorrow’s paper based in part on a conversation with new middle linebacker Blake Bean. I caught some video with him and posted it on the top of this entry.

Be sure to see what Bean has to say. It’s pretty interesting.

Until then, here are a few key tidbits:

– Former Cedar Hill standout D’Aundrey Bradley could end up playing this season at wide receiver instead of redshirting. His performance tomorrow could play a key role in the decision.

– Fellow freshmen Nate Brooks and Ashton Preston could also play this year at cornerback.

– And in other key news, UNT’s athletic proposals, including spending $5.5 million to upgrade the Super Pit, doing the early architectural work on a new track venue and increasing the student athletic fee by a $1 a semester credit hour were all passed by the board of regents.

UNT scrimmage primer, Marcus Smith video

UNT will hold one of its final scrimmages before its season-opener at SMU tomorrow.

The video at the top of this post is of tight end Marcus Smith. He talks a little about where UNT is at as a team. the role of the Mean Green’s tight ends and how the Mean Green’s quarterbacks have looked in fall practice.

All of UNT’s practices and scrimmages are closed in the fall, but here are a few items of note to track heading into the workout:

1. What does UNT’s offensive line lineup look like?

One of the few pull-back-the-curtain moments of fall practice was UNT head coach Dan McCarney mentioning that highly regarded freshman Chris Miles is working at both guard and tackle. It appeared heading into practice that Miles was a stone-cold lock to start at tackle.

UNT’s offensive line has been solid for years, but switching around at this point has to at least raise a bit of a concern in a year UNT has just one returning starter up front in center Kaydon Kirby.

Michael Banogu started the last two games of the 2014 season at one tackle spot, but is far from a proven commodity. UNT has other options, but don’t forget that the Mean Green kicked standout guard Cyril Lemon out to tackle and out of his best position at guard last season to try to fill a tackle spot. If UNT had another tackle if felt comfortable with being a full-time starter, it never would have gone down that road.

Lemon wasn’t nearly as effective out there and played both positions.

If UNT moves Miles inside, there are not a whole lot of other familiar names to slide in at tackle and pair with Banogu. Several of the same players UNT passed on as options for a full-time tackle remain. What’s the plan at this point?

2. What about the cornerback spots?

Zac Whitfield could be back with the Mean Green this fall. The former Sherman standout graduated with a year of eligibility remaining. That appeared to be it for Whitfield, who all of the sudden has switched course and could return.

That raises the question — Does UNT feel comfortable with what it has at the cornerback spot opposite Kenny Buyers?

UNT has two older players in that spot in converted linebacker Jamal Marshall and career backup Chad Davis.

Whitfield might not be out there for the scrimmage tomorrow. He might not be back at all. The question his potential return raises is if it’s just a matter of Whitfield wanting to play one more year or if UNT really NEEDS Whitfield to play one more year after the departure of James Jones.

3. Are there any late news items about to come down?

One of the benefits of closing camp for UNT is that it can keep pretty much everything about what goes on quiet.

But when one thinks about it, there has been about zero in the way of real hot camp news.

McCarney has said that there have been no season-ending type injuries. There hasn’t been much word on depth chart movement, either.

There is a whole lot more that has gone down behind the scenes in closed workouts. There is a chance some of that info will be approved for public consumption in the next few days, possibly tomorrow after the scrimmage.

Thursday night notes, tidbits

We have gotten to the point in Dan McCarney’s tenure where some of the landmarks of the calendar year have become familiar. Today was one of those days.

It was Champions Day at UNT.

Every year McCarney brings in a high-profile speaker to talk to his players in the days leading up to the season-opener. This year’s guest was former Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace.

Wallace was one of the great players during McCarney’s time with the Cyclones.

And in other news, the UNT board of regents will consider the school’s proposal to increase its student athletic fee $1 per credit hour tomorrow.

A couple of quick points here:

1. If you read the fine print in the board briefing (page 571) or the original legislation — and kudos to you that did — “the fee may be increased by up to 10% of the amount of the fee last approved by a student vote.”

UNT is looking at pushing the fee up 10 percent, and that’s all it can do without student approval.

2. The athletic department has increased its revenue by $4 million since the original fee went into place four years ago, according to the proposal.

3. Upping the fee would “generate approximately $400,000 in additional revenue” and will be used to cover the cost of operating UNT’s program. Once the increase is in place, it would “replace funding historically provided through the Student Service Fee.”

The UNT athletic department has dipped into that fee in the past, but would be more self-sustaining with the extra funds in place.