Benford: Combs has successful ankle surgery

North Texas forward Jeremy Combs (1) gets tangled up with Middle Tennessee forward JaCorey Williams earlier this season at the Super Pit. Combs underwent ankle surgery on Monday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas forward Jeremy Combs (1) gets tangled up with Middle Tennessee forward JaCorey Williams earlier this season at the Super Pit. Combs underwent ankle surgery on Monday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas forward Jeremy Combs underwent surgery on his left ankle Monday morning.

UNT coach Tony Benford said the procedure to remove a plate was successful. Doctors inserted the plate in July to help stabilize Combs’ leg after he struggled to recover from a high ankle sprain.

Combs averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 14 appearances in an on-again, off-again season.

Combs sat out nearly all of the offseason after surgery and came back for the start of the year. It was pretty obvious right from the jump that Combs wasn’t himself. He didn’t have the explosion or the athleticism that made him a preseason all-conference selection.

UNT tried to give Combs some time off to heal, sitting him for four games in November. When that didn’t work, the Mean Green’s coaches and trainers elected to shut him down for the year to allow him to recover from the injury.

Combs last played in a loss to Southern Miss on Jan. 19.

Combs originally injured his ankle during the late stages of last season. He aggravated the injury in June and then had surgery to put the plate in his ankle to stabilize it.

UNT’s doctors and trainers brought Combs back slowly. He wore a protective boot for six weeks and was limited in practice right up until UNT’s season-opener against Sul Ross State on Nov. 11.

Combs never regained his form before UNT elected to shut him down for the year.

The question now is if UNT has seen the last of Combs, who could elect to stay at UNT for his senior season or explore his options. He has not redshirted.

Combs could transfer, sit out a year and then play his senior season after having a long break to recover.

If Combs graduates early, he could also elect to go to another school as a graduate transfer.

Combs declined to comment on his plans in late January.

UNT OL outlook for 2017: Mean Green look to improve up front

North Texas tackle Jordan Murray (71) helped protect quarterback Mason Fine during a season of transition for the Mean Green's offensive line. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

North Texas tackle Jordan Murray (71) helped protect quarterback Mason Fine during a season of transition for the Mean Green’s offensive line. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

Key returnees: Jordan Murray (junior), T.J. Henson (senior), Chris Miles (junior), Elex Woodworth (sophomore), Jalen Thomas (senior), Wylie Reinhardt (senior), Creighton Barr (junior)

Key losses: Sam Rice (graduation), Trey Keenan (graduation),

Newcomers: Jevin Pahinui (junior), Chandler Anthony (redshirt freshman), Dakoda Newman (freshman), Jacob Brammer (freshman), Brian Parish (freshman), Manase Mose (freshman)

Biggest unanswered question: UNT struggled at times along its offensive front in its first season in a spread system and will go through a series of changes heading into 2017. The Mean Green lost offensive line coach Brad Davis to Florida and saw two of its veteran starters graduate in Rice and Keenan. UNT has yet to officially announce Davis’ replacement, but former Lamar offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Chuck Langston is the leading candidate for the job and is expected to be officially introduced in the next few days. The question is if UNT can continue to improve in a season it is undergoing so much change.

Why 2017 production could be better: One of the big questions heading into Seth Littrell’s first season was if UNT’s offensive line could make the adjustment from playing in a run-first system to a spread passing attack. The Mean Green struggled at times and used four different lineups along its offensive front, but improved as the season went along. UNT’s players should be much more comfortable in the system heading into Littrell’s season season.

Why 2017 production could be worse: UNT will have to replace two of its veteran players in Rice and Keenan. Rice played guard and center last season, while Keenan played the entire year at right tackle. The Mean Green will have to find quality replacements if they expect to improve.

Overall outlook: UNT lost two of its key offensive linemen in Rice and Keenan, but should be better overall due to the experience the rest of the Mean Green’s linemen gained in Littrell’s first year.

The Sunday leftovers following a great weekend for UNT

It’s Sunday night and time for the leftovers, the time where we pick through the events of the weekend, reheat the good stuff — and some of the bad — while hopefully putting it all in perspective.

The good news is that this might be the most good-news packed edition of the leftovers in quite some time.

The key tidbit from the weekend was the North Texas women’s basketball team rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat rival Texas-San Antonio 58-55 in overtime.

UNT put out a highlights package that is at the top of this post. Candice Adams hit a 3 at the buzzer to send the game into overtime and the Mean Green pulled away from there.

The Mean Green are 11-14 overall and 8-6 in Conference USA play. UNT has matched its win total from last season and surpassed the five wins it posted in conference play last season.

The Mean Green continue to make progress under Jalie Mitchell.

The UNT men’s basketball team also beat UTSA this weekend. Here is a link to our story from UNT’s 83-73 win.

The great aspect of the win was that it came on the day UNT honored its 2007 NCAA tournament team. Most of the players from a breakout team that ushered in one of the great eras in program history came back for the weekend.

UNT (8-18, 2-12) is still three games back in the win column of Southern Miss, Charlotte and Florida Atlantic. The Mean Green will have to run down one of those teams to avoid being one of the two teams in C-USA to miss the league tournament.

In other news, UNT athletic director Wren Baker and several of the school’s top administrators are out of town for the next couple of days to travel the country and check out other schools’ facilities.

UNT is aiming to build an indoor practice facility for its football team that could also be used by other programs.

Baker and his staff are quietly moving the program forward in the early stages of his tenure.

Speaking of other programs, the UNT women’s track team came in ninth and the men 10th at the C-USA indoor championships this weekend. Breanna Eckels won the long jump, finished 11th in triple jump and 24th in the 60-meter dash and was named the conference’s freshman of the meet.

UNT has always been a better team in the outdoor season than it is in the indoor season. The Mean Green should move up when the league’s outdoor meet comes up later in the year.

And finally, the UNT softball team upset No. 23 Baylor today by a 3-2 score. Lacy Gregory delivered a single in extra innings to drive home the game-winning run.

The Mean Green went 3-2 over the weekend and are now 4-5 on the season.

Late-night hoops rewind: UNT 83, Texas-San Antonio 73

North Texas guard Ryan Woolridge shoots over Texas-San Antonio forward Nick Allen at the Super Pit on Saturday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

North Texas guard Ryan Woolridge shoots over Texas-San Antonio forward Nick Allen at the Super Pit on Saturday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

Final: North Texas 83, Texas-San Antonio 73

Where UNT stands: UNT improved to 8-18 overall and climbed back into a tie for last place in the Conference USA standings at 2-12 in league play with Florida International. The Mean Green were alone in last before winning for the second time in their last four games.

Now what?: The Mean Green will take on Louisiana Tech, which is in second place in C-USA at 12-3, on Thursday at the Super Pit.

Temara

Temara

Star of the day: Shane Temara continued to play well late in the season and scored a season-high 19 points in UNT’s win over UTSA. Temara hit three 3s and went 7-of-13 from the floor. He also grabbed nine rebounds and finished just one rebound short of a double-double. J-Mychal Reese also scored 19 points and hit all eight of his free throws. Ryan Woolridge added 13 points and played a key role defensively while posting eight steals. Derail Green also reached double figures while scoring 10 points.

Say what?:

“Those guys laid the foundation here with the year they won the championship and went to the tournament. We had a great get-together with them last night and wanted to make sure we got the win for them today. Each one of them spoke to our guys.”

– Tony Benford, UNT coach on the Mean Green wanting to win on a day the school honored its 2007 NCAA tournament team

Our take: UNT isn’t going to go away quietly in what has been an epic struggle of a season. The Mean Green had every reason to wave the white flag of surrender after falling in overtime to UTEP on Thursday, but came back with a spirited effort against rival UTSA.

UNT played one of its best games of the season offensively in its win over Roadrunners, placing four players in double figures. The Mean Green shot 53.8 percent (28-of-52) from the field.

Benford said UNT’s players are starting to settle into their roles in a remade lineup. The Mean Green have had to adjust several times this season while losing key players like Jeremy Combs, Deckie Johnson and Keith Frazier and adding Ryan Woolridge at the semester break.

The question now is if UNT can manage to run down and move past one of the teams with five wins in C-USA play — Southern Miss, Florida Atlantic or Charlotte.

Two teams are going to be left home when it comes time to for the conference tournament.

UNT and FIU are the prime suspects this point. The Mean Green are going to go on a pretty significant run late in the season to avoid missing the tournament.

The Mean Green still have a shot, which is all they can ask for at this point.

UNT-Texas-San Antonio running blog

North Texas will take on Texas-San Antonio here at the Super PIt this afternoon and once again, we are along for the ride.

UNT has lost 13 of its last 14 games and is in last place in the Conference USA standings. The Mean Green need wins in a hurry to make the conference tournament. Only 10 of the 12 teams in the league advance to the postseason.

What will make this day special is that UNT will honor its 2007 NCAA tournament team at halftime. Here is the story I wrote for today’s paper on the team.

That team is one of my all-time favorites from my time covering UNT. Seeing Calvin Watson, Kendrick Davis and coach Johnny Jones lead the Mean Green to the NCAA tournament was special.

They were all great guys. Together, they were a great team.

UNT would love to win with those guys in the house.

The Mean Green have been close to breaking through at times of late. UNT fell in overtime against UTEP in its last outing.

Ryan Woolridge fell one assist shy of a triple-double against UTEP. Fellow freshman A.J. Lawson has also been playing well.

Stay tuned.

15:38 — UNT is up 7-5 at the first media timeout of the first half. Shane Temara hit a layup to put the Mean Green up two after the teams traded 5-0 bursts to start the game. Derail Green hit a 3. He has been hot the last couple of games for UNT.

11:24 — UNT is down 9-8 at the second media timeout of the first half. UTSA is on a 4-0 run and is headed to the  line coming out of this timeout. Derail Green has three points on his early 3 to lead UNT.

7:38 — UNT is up 18-14 in the early going at the Super Pit.

3:12 — UNT is up 31-21 late in the first half. The Mean Green are 4-of-8 from 3-point range so far. Shane Temara has 11 points for UNT and is having one of his better games for the Mean Green.

1:12 — UTSA is on a 6-0 run and has cut UNT’s lead to 31-27. UTSA just called a timeout.

Halftime — UNT is up 33-28 at halftime in a bit of a surprise. Shane Temara has 11 points to lead the Mean Green. UNT was up 10 late in the first half before UTSA made a run at the end of the half.

13:55 — UNT is on an 8-0 run and has pushed its lead to 48-36 in the second half. Derail Green and Ja’Michael Brown have hit back-to-back 3s for the Mean Green. Shane Temara has 14 points for UNT.

13:32 — UNT is still up 48-36 and will have the ball coming out of the media timeout that came right after the timeout UTSA took. UNT is 7-for-13 from 3-point range.

11:54 — UNT is up 51-39 as we approach the midway point of the second half. J-Mychal Reese now has 11 points for the Mean Green. Shane Temara still leads UNT with 14 points.

7:19 — UNT is up 63-47 late in the second half and is cruising here at the Super Pit. Ryan Woolridge is now in double figures with 10 points. The Mean Green are shooting 51 percent from the field. Shane Temara has 17 points for UNT.

4:35 — UNT is up 65-52 late in the second half and just took a timeout after looking a little stagnant on offense on its last possession .

3:56 — UTSA is on a 9-0 run and has pulled within 65-56 and has George Wilborn III going to the line to try to complete a three-point play. UNT is still in control, but things could get tight here if the Mean Green don’t wake up a little.

2:15 — UNT is up 71-62. UTSA just took a timeout.

1:11 — UNT is up 75-64 after UTSA scored and took a timeout. The Mean Green appear  to have this about wrapped up.

Final — UNT 83, UTSA 73. UNT sweeps UTSA in men’s and women’s basketball today.

Chalk talk: Texas-San Antonio at UNT

North Texas guard J-Mychal Reese drives to the basket as Shane Temara (50) sets a screen in the Mean Green's loss to the Miners on Thursday. UNT will host Texas-San Antonio on Saturday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas guard J-Mychal Reese drives to the basket as Shane Temara (50) sets a screen in the Mean Green’s loss to the Miners on Thursday. UNT will host Texas-San Antonio on Saturday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

Texas-San Antonio at North Texas

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Super Pit

Streaming: ESPN3

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1

Records: UNT 7-18, 1-12 Conference USA; UTSA 11-15, 6-7 Conference USA

Last game: UTEP 77, UNT 71 (OT); Rice 80, UTSA 68

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: J-Mychal Reese, 6-2, Sr. — Reese endured an off shooting night in UNT’s loss to UTEP and scored just six points, while going 2-for-9 from the field. He has been one of the Mean Green’s most consistent players, despite an off night in his last outing and is averaging 10.2 points per game. He has 81 assists on the season.

G: Ryan Woolridge, 6-3, Fr. — Woolridge continued his standout play late in the season by scoring 15 points in UNT’s loss to UTEP. The freshman also grabbed 11 rebounds and has scored in double figures in three of UNT’s last four games. He is averaging 9.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

G: A.J. Lawson, 6-5, Fr. — Lawson scored 12 points in UNT’s loss to UTEP and has now scored in double figures in four straight games and eight of the last 10. He is averaging 11.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

F: Shane Temara, 6-9, Jr. — Temara has been up and down over UNT’s last five games. He is coming off a 15-point outing in the Mean Green’s loss to UTEP and has scored in double figures in three of UNT’s last five games. He has scored just six points in the two games sandwiched between. Temara is averaging 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

F: Derail Green, 6-7, Sr. — Green is coming off the best game of his short time at UNT. The senior scored a career-high 21 points after hitting seven of his 11 attempts from 3-point range. Green is averaging 7.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.

Scouting UTSA: The Roadrunners have lost two straight, but are still in good position to make the Conference USA tournament. UTSA ranks fifth in the conference with an average of 69.2 points allowed per game and is led by Jeff Beverly. The junior forward is averaging 16.5 points per game.

What you need to know: UNT is quickly seeing its chances of advancing to the C-USA tournament go down the tubes and will look to change its fortunes against rival UTSA.

That looks like a tall task, considering UNT has lost 13 of its last 14 games. UNT is 1-12 in C-USA play and needs to catch Florida Atlantic, which is 4-9 in league play.

The Mean Green suffered a demoralizing 77-71 overtime loss to UTEP in its last outing. UNT had a couple of chances to hit a key shot late and failed to convert.

UNT will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its 2007 trip to the NCAA tournament under former coach Johnny Jones at its game against the Roadrunners. Jones also led UNT to the 2010 NCAA tournament and has two of the four combined trips to the NCAA tournament for the UNT men’s and women’s programs combined.

The Mean Green will try to break through for a win on what will be a special occasion for the program.

 

UNT regents to discuss Littrell’s contract

Littrell

Littrell

The North Texas board of regents is scheduled to discuss head football coach Seth Littrell’s contract during a series of meetings next week.

UNT’s regents will meet on Thursday and Friday and will have two items on their agenda that relate to the school’s athletic department. The agenda also includes an item that would allow the school adjust the scope and budget for a new track venue that has been in the school’s plans for several months.

Littrell signed five-year contract before his debut season in 2016 that paid him an annual base salary of $725,000 with incentives that push his guaranteed compensation over $800,000. Here are the details from our original story on the deal.

There are no details included in the regents’ agenda on the changes in the UNT is considering to the agreement.

UNT enjoyed a highly successful debut season under Littrell, who led a team that finished 1-11 in the season before his arrival to a 5-8 finish that included  berth in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. UNT fell to the Black Knights 38-31 in overtime.

UNT’s track team currently calls Fouts Field home. The school’s football program abandoned the venue when it moved to Apogee Stadium in 2011.

UNT has since torn down half of the stadium. The school is scheduled to build its new track venue near the Mean Green Athletic Center and several other athletic facilities on the opposite side of Interstate 35.

Once UNT’s new track venue is built, the remainder of Fouts will be torn down to clear the way for university expansion.

Source: UNT to hire Marc Yellock as new DL coach

Yellock

Yellock

North Texas is set to hire Marc Yellock as its new defensive line coach, a source close to the situation told the Denton Record-Chronicle on Friday.

Yellock previously worked as the defensive line coach at East Carolina.

The hire is expected to become official in the coming days.

Yellock spent six seasons at ECU beginning in 2010. He also played at ECU before beginning his coaching career.

Yellock coached at the high school level before joining ECU’s staff as a video intern. He later served as a staff assistant. He worked as an assistant at Elon  before returning to ECU.

The addition of Yellock will move UNT another step closer to head coach Seth Littrell finalizing his staff following an offseason overhaul in which three of his assistants were snapped up by Power Five conference programs.

UNT has already announced the addition of special teams coordinator Marty Biagi and linebackers coach Jeff Koonz. Biagi comes to UNT from Notre Dame, while Koonz spent last season at Cincinnati.

UNT is expected to hire Chuck Langston, who previously worked at Lamar, as its new offensive line coach.

Those moves will fill the voids left when offensive line coach Brad Davis left for Florida and defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler for North Carolina. UNT also parted ways with special teams coordinator Tommy Perry at the end of the season.

Yellock has experience coaching in defenses with a three-man front. UNT moved to a defense with a three-man front last season under Ekeler and Troy Reffett, who served as co-coordinators.

Reffett has taken over as UNT’s sole defensive coordinator heading into the 2017 season, when the Mean Green will look to build on a breakout campaign. UNT finished 5-8 after falling to Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2016, a dramatic improvement over the 1-11 record the previous season.

UNT WR/TE outlook for 2017: Mean Green look to unproven players to fill void

Turner Smiley will be one of North Texas top wide receivers in 2017. He caught 33 passes for 389 yards in 2016. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

Turner Smiley will be one of North Texas top wide receivers in 2017. He caught 33 passes for 389 yards in 2016. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

Key returnees: WR Turner Smiley (senior), WR Tyler Wilson (sophomore), WR Rico Bussey Jr. (sophomore), TE Kelvin Smith (sophomore), WR O’Keeron Rutherford (junior),

Key losses: WR Thaddrous Thomspson (graduation), WR Terian Goree (transfer), WR Kenny Buyers (graduation), WR Willie Robinson (left program)

Newcomers: WR Jalen Guyton (JUCO transfer), WR Jason Pirtle (redshirt freshman), Deion Hair-Griffin (redshirt freshman), Jaleon Darden (freshman), Greg White (freshman)

Biggest unanswered question: UNT was hit hard by graduation and attrition after a successful debut season under Seth Littrell. The Mean Green lost three of their top four receivers. Thompson graduated after leading UNT in both receptions with 43 and receiving yards with 545. Kenny Buyers (32 catches, 324 yards) also graduated, while Goree left the program and landed at Stephen F. Austin after ranking second among UNT players with 36 catches for 328 yards in just 10 games. The departure of that trio leaves UNT with a host of questions. The Mean Green will have to hope some promising young players and transfers develop quickly and complement Turner Smiley. The senior caught 33 passes for 389 yards in 11 games as a junior in 2016 and is UNT’s leading returning receiver

Why 2017 production could be better: UNT will have had a full year to develop in Littrell’s spread passing attack. Guyton is a talented player who started his career at Notre Dame and could be an elite wide receiver at the Conference USA level. Smiley is a solid veteran, while Bussey and Wilson showed potential late in 2016. If a few freshman come through, UNT could have a solid group to work with.

Why 2017 production could be worse: UNT lost nearly every dependable and experienced wide receiver it had last season other than Smiley. The Mean Green are hoping Guyton, who caught 45 passes for 968 yards and 12 touchdowns at Trinity Valley College last season, will be an impact player, but transfers are always a risky proposition. Most of the rest of the players UNT will rely on are unproven.

Overall outlook: The wide receiver position is one of the biggest question marks for UNT heading into the 2017 season. There is a chance the Mean Green improve, but the Mean Green don’t have a lot of proven players to turn to next season. UNT will have to hope a host of newcomers and sophomores who played sparingly last season come on quickly.

Late night hoops rewind: UTEP 77, UNT 71 (OT)

North Texas forward Shane Temara dunks during a loss to UTEP at the Super Pit on Thursday. UNT took the Miners to overtime before falling 77-71. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas forward Shane Temara dunks during a loss to UTEP at the Super Pit on Thursday. UNT took the Miners to overtime before falling 77-71. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

Final: UTEP 77, North Texas 71 (OT)

Where UNT stands: UNT fell to 7-18 overall and remained in last place in Conference USA. The Mean Green are 1-12 in conference play after losing for the 13th time in their last 14 games.

Now what?: The Mean Green will host rival Texas-San Antonio on Saturday in the second game of a three-game homestand.

Green

Green

Star of the day: Derail Green posted one of his best games of his lone season with the Mean Green in their loss to UTEP. The graduate student scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds on a night he was in a groove from 3-point range. Green hit seven of his 11 attempts from beyond the arc and scored all of his points from 3-point range. Shane Temara and Ryan Woolridge both added 15 points, while A.J. Lawson added 12. Woolridge had a tremendous all-around night while adding 11 rebounds and nine assists. The freshman was one assist shy of a triple-double.

Say what?:

“It’s tough. We have to win games to get to the tournament. This was one I thought we could get if we executed and gave ourselves a chance. We played 40 minutes plus and gave it everything we had. It’s difficult to lose like we lost tonight.”

– Tony Benford, UNT coach

Our take: UNT gave one of the hottest teams in C-USA a run for its money, but ultimately fell to UTEP to slide a little closer to being eliminated from contention for a spot in the conference tournament.

UNT is in last place in the league standings and needs to jump two teams. The Mean Green need to catch Florida Atlantic and are three games back with five to play.

UNT had two looks at a go-head shot in the closing seconds of regulation. J-Mychal Reese missed a runner and Lawson missed a jumper.

UTEP capitalized with a 5-0 run to start the overtime period. Dominic Artis capped that run with a huge 3. UNT got back within two, but Lawson missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with 16 seconds left and Artis iced the game at the free-throw line.

UNT had been a lot better of late at the line, but went just 6-for-14 against the Miners.

The Mean Green keep fighting, but are quickly running out of chances to make a run at a spot in the conference tournament.