Late-night hoops rewind: UNT 78, Langston 65

North Texas freshman forward Jeremy Combs (11) grabs a rebound over Langston sophomore guard Otar Pkhadadze. Combs finished with 25 points for UNT. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Final: UNT 78, Langston 65

Where UNT stands: UNT crept back over the .500 mark at 5-4

Now what?: UNT will face Creighton on Sunday at the Super Pit.

Star of the day: Jeremy Combs had a monster game with 25 points after moving back into the starting lineup. Combs began the season as a starter, but moved into a reserve role after three games while he adjusted to playing at the college level. He returned to the starting lineup against Langston and isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Jordan Williams also had a big game with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Colin Voss also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Say what?

“That was a big momentum builder. We played three tough games against good teams and got down on ourselves. We came out today and fought hard. We will be ready for Creighton on Sunday.”

– Jordan Williams, UNT guard on the importance of the Mean Green’s win over Langston that broke a three-game losing streak

Our take: UNT really, really needed a win after a brutal three-game road swing and did what it had to to pull out a win over Langston. The Mean Green didn’t exactly inspire a whole lot of confidence while struggling to pull away from an NAIA team on their home floor. This team has a long way to go before it needs to start worrying about style points, though.

UNT will take the win, especially with a game against Creighton coming up on Sunday.

Combs’ performance was encouraging. If UNT is going anywhere this year, it’s going to need the freshman to be an impact player. That’s just what he was against the Lions.

Seeing Voss go for 10 and 10 was also a good sign for UNT. The senior had been in a bit of a funk lately.

 

Chris Cosh, kosher? Some initial thoughts

UNT added Chris Cosh to its staff today. The longtime college assistant will be UNT’s new defensive coordinator.

Dan McCarney talked a little over the last few weeks about what he would look for in a coach to replace John Skladany, who retired at the end of the year.

McCarney talked about finding a coach with experience. He wanted an Xs and Os guy who can make adjustments on game day and put people in the right places to make plays.

Cosh certainly seems to fit that mold.

And he worked at South Florida, just like several other members of UNT’s staff, including McCarney.

Cosh has been a defensive coordinator for 16 years at a host of different schools, most of them playing at big-time schools in big-time conferences.

There is a school of thought out there that UNT needs to get younger and a whole lot more effective in terms of recruiting, especially when it comes to Texas high school players. There has been a call for more assistants with Texas ties.

I get that.

When it comes to a defensive coordinator, I just don’t think that is as big of a concern. If we were talking about a position coach, that would be one thing. Those are the guys on the road trying to sell players on playing for UNT.

Coach Cosh, which has a nice ring to it, will be in charge of putting those players in place to make plays when they get to UNT.

He should fit fine in that regard. I will be curious like everyone else what his philosophy will be. Will we still see the 4-3? Will UNT be more aggressive?

Those are questions that will be answered in the next few days, weeks or whenever myself or someone else gets a chance to chat with Cosh.

He certainly won’t be stepping into an easy situation. UNT is lost its two best defensive players to graduation in linebacker Derek Akunne and cornerback James Jones.

Cosh will also be stepping into a rather large void left by Skladany, a coach who developed a terrific relationship with McCarney over the course of 13 years. UNT’s players loved Skladany, who was pretty adept at football chess.

There is no telling how Cosh will work out, but he’s about what I expected and ridiculously qualified to be a defensive coordinator at a Conference USA school.

It seems like a great move for McCarney and UNT.

A couple of UNT recruiting notes

Euless Trinity defensive lineman Tipa Galeai will announce his college destination tomorrow night.

Galeai is one of the top players sill out there on UNT’s recruiting board and is projected as a defensive end. The Mean Green are likely out of the running, but one never knows.

UNT has also jumped into the race for Alex Honey, a wide receiver from Guyer who also has an offer from SMU.

UNT has its new defensive coordinator

Cosh

Chris Cosh has joined UNT’s coaching staff as its new defensive coordinator.

The school announced the hire Wednesday morning.

Cosh was recently the defensive line coach at Buffalo and is a veteran defensive coordinator with a background similar to that of John Skladany, the coach he will replace. Skladany retired after last season.

Cosh was the defensive coordinator at South Florida in 2012 and has served in that capacity in 16 of his 29 seasons as a coach. He has worked at Kansas State, Maryland, South Carolina, Michigan State and Illinois.

Cosh has worked under some of the top coaches in college football, including Nick Saban and Bill Snyder.

UNT has several coaches on its staff with ties to USF on its staff, including head coach Dan McCarney, who was an assistant coach at the school in 2007. UNT offensive coordinator Mike Canales and offensive line coach Mike Simmonds are also former USF assistants.

UNT-Langston running blog

UNT is taking on Langston in a rare morning game on DISD Day.

That would be Denton Independent School District for those of you scoring at home. Once a year, UNT invites elementary schools to bring their kids to a game. What you end up with is section upon section at the Super Pit filled with super enthusiastic, pompom waving, attendance figures boosting kids.

Part of the idea is that UNT gets a bunch of young fans hooked and they come back with their parents .

The Flintstones is playing on the video board. Scrappy is doing his thing.

The hope is the Mean Green will do their thing a little better than in last few weeks, when UNT has lost three straight and four of its last five.

Coach Tony Benford said yesterday that UNT would have all of its players available today. That apparently did not include Maurice Aniefiok, who is not dressed out. He crashed into the scorer’s table in a loss to SFA on Sunday.

We previewed the game in the paper today.

Langston is 5-2 and is receiving votes — in the NAIA national poll. The Lions have some talented players, including a few transfers.

UNT (4-4) should roll. It needs to with a game against Creighton coming up on Sunday.

Stay tuned. We will update the blog all day.

15:39 — UNT is up 7-3 in the early going here at the Super Pit. The Mean Green were up 7-0 before Langston hit a 3.

11:14 — Langston has gone on a run and is now up 14-12. The Lions have three 3s.

5:35 — I ducked out there for a minute to work on some football items. UNT is now up 25-19.

3:52 — UNT is up 27-21 late in the first half. Jeremy Combs has eight points for UNT.

Halftime — UNT is up 34-23 at halftime.Jordan Williams has nine points for UNT, while Jeremy Combs has eight. Combs started today in what looks like it might be long-term switch.

14:39 — Langston has pulled to within 40-36 and is headed to the line to try to cut it to a one-possession game. Jordan Williams has 11 points for UNT. Langston is on an 11-4 run.

10:14 — UNT is up 50-43 in what looks like it will be a close game the whole way.

7:27 — UNT is up 54-49 late against Langston in a game that is a little too close for comfort for the Mean Green. UNT has gone up seven multiple times only to see Langston come back and answer on the other end. Jordan Williams has 18 points for UNT.

6:42 — UNT is hanging on by a thread here at the Super Pit. The Mean Green have a 54-49 lead with Langston headed to the line with a chance to make this a one-possession game. Jordan Williams has 18 points for UNT.

5:18 — UNT is up 57-51 with Jordan Williams headed to the line for one more free throw after hitting the first.

3:53 — It looks like UNT will hang on here at the Super Pit. The Mean Green are up 64-53. Jordan Williams has 20 points for UNT. Jeremy Combs has 18 in one of his best games of the year.

2:11 — UNT is up 68-58 here in the closing minutes here at the Super Pit. Jeremy Combs has 22 for UNT.

Final — UNT 78-65. I will be back.

Breaking news — James Gray has signed with UNT

Gray

James Gray, a safety out of Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College, has signed with UNT.

Gray visited UNT and Southern Miss and was torn between the two. He decided to continue his career with the Mean Green late this weekend.

Gray said Sunday night that he would make the move official this morning during a signing ceremony at Fort Scott.

UNT has six mid-term junior college signees with the addition of Scott heading into the JUCO national signing period that begins today.

“I want to be a leader and carry that defense on my back,” Gray said via text message late Sunday night. “I want to represent all the JUCO guys in the nation and all the high school guys in Georgia.”

Gray (6-0, 200) with 60 tackles and four interceptions last season at Fort Scott. He was named an honorable mention JUCO All-American and was a first-team All-Jayhawk Conference pick.

Gray could help fill a need for UNT at safety.

The Mean Green lost both of their safeties in Lairamie Lee and Sheldon Wade to graduation.

UNT has one young player who appears to be ready to step into the lineup in Kishawn McClain.

The Mean Green targeted Gray to come in and compete for a starting spot.

At this point, a Gray-McClain pairing at safety appears to be the direction UNT is headed.

Signing Gray is a big win for UNT in recruiting against a key Conference USA rival in Southern Miss that beat the Mean Green last season.

UNT had another player visit campus over the weekend who is still trying to decide what he wants to do.

Stay tuned.

Chalk talk — Langston at UNT

North Texas junior guard Todd Eaglin is expected to return from a foot injury today when the Mean Green face Langston (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Langston at UNT

When: 11:30 a.m. today

Where: Super Pit

Radio: KNTU-FM 88.1

Records: UNT 4-4, Langston 5-2

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: T.J. Taylor, 6-3 Sr. — 9.7 points, 4.2 rebounds a game, 12 assists, shooting 52.4 percent from the field. Taylor missed UNT’s loss to SFA with an ankle injury, but should return today.

SF: Jordan Williams, 6-6 Sr. — 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds a game, 21 assists, 14 steals on the season. Williams has been steady all year and has scored 15 points in two of UNT’s last three games.

SG: Maurice Aniefiok, 6-5 Jr. — 8.1 points, 2.9 rebounds a game, shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range, 18 assists, nine steals on the season. Aniefiok crashed into the scorer’s table late in UNT’s loss to SFA and bruised his knee, but is expected to play today.

F: Armani Flannigan, 6-8, Sr. — 5.6 points, 3.4 rebounds a game, shooting just 55.6 percent from the free-throw line. Flannigan has scored just four points in UNT’s last three games combined and could be on the verge of being replaced in the starting lineup by Jeremy Combs.

F: Colin Voss, 6-7, Sr. — 6.1 points, 5.9 rebounds a game, shooting just 39.6 percent from the field. Voss scored just two points against SFA, prompting coach Tony Benford to say that UNT needs to get Voss going again.

Scouting Langston:

Langston ranks seventh nationally in field goal percentage defense at 38.1 percent and is receiving votes in the NAIA national poll. Benford said that Langston has some talented players. Guard Karon Abraham is averaging 15.3 points a game.

Who’s hot:

UNT has leaned on senior guard Jordan Williams all year long. He has scored in double figures in three straight games and has scored at least 11 points in all but one game this season. He  has multiple 3s in each of his last three games. The Mean Green are at their best when Williams is scoring. He has come through more often than not.

What you need to know:

This is a classic get-well game on the schedule for UNT. The Mean Green lost at Arkansas, Oklahoma State and SFA in their last three games and have lost four of their last five.

UNT desperately needs a win before it faces Creighton at home on Sunday. Langston is a  pretty good NAIA team, but is still an opponent the Mean Green should beat handily.

Taylor and backup point guard Todd Eaglin missed UNT’s loss to SFA with minor injuries. Aniefiok and DeAndre Harris both suffered minor injuries during the game. Everyone is supposed to be ready to play.

The key for UNT is to get back on track and make sure it is in top form heading into its home game against Creighton.

 

Night before signing day notes with some key news

We have reached the eve of the midterm signing period. After making a few phone calls, here are some key points on where UNT stands on the eve of the big day.

– One of the unanswered questions hanging out there is if UNT still plans on taking grayshirt candidates Johnavhon Graham and Shaq Jackson. Both played for DeSoto and committed to UNT a long time ago. I caught Graham tonight. He said that both are still waiting on official word from UNT on if they will be admitted. They are going to meet with UNT defensive line coach Kevin Patrick this week.

– UNT should have its defensive coordinator in place within the next few days. Dan McCarney has interviewed a few candidates for the job, including one who was in town today. UNT has run a tight ship on this one in terms of keeping who McCarney is interested in under wraps.

– UNT has five JUCO recruits who are set to sign tomorrow, a fact we went over in the paper today. There are multiple other JUCO and transfer prospects who could be poised to join the class and one who has already signed. I was sworn to secrecy by the player who signed and am not going to betray that trust. He wants to wait until his moment in the spotlight to announce that he is headed to UNT.

– I tried to get in touch with Sam Miller, the former Canton defensive end who is having to hang it up due to injury issues, but haven’t had any luck. Sometimes kids have injury issues. It’s part of the game. Losing Miller does hurt, though. He was a good prospect at a position of need.

– UNT had a prospect on campus today who could end up coming in at the midterm break. He is still deciding what he wants to do. I should be able to identify who was in tomorrow after the smoke clears and people are comfortable with where things stand.

Breaking — Sam Miller has decided to give up football

UNT football recruit Sam Miller has elected not to continue his career on the college level, a source close to the situation said Tuesday afternoon.

The Canton defensive end was one of the top-rated recruits on UNT’s board. I am trying to get in touch with Miller and will have more as soon as I do.

Miller has some injury issues that will prevent him from playing beyond high school.

It’s a tough break for UNT and for Miller, who was a top prospect. He had offers from Houston, Kansas State and Memphis in addition to UNT.

Here is the story from this summer when he committed.

Stay tuned.

Has UNT found its quarterback?, notes

Smith

There might not have been a more important challenge for UNT heading into the offseason than finding a solution to its quarterback problem.

UNT used three this season — Josh Greer, Dajon Williams and Andrew McNulty — has another one waiting in the wings the coaching staff likes in redshirt freshman Connor Means and a grayshirt coming in with Caleb Chumley.

UNT still went out and searched the country for a junior college addition.

That pretty much said it all in terms of where UNT stands.

That search turned up Butler (Kansas) College sophomore DaMarcus Smith, who said he will sign with UNT on Wednesday along with four other junior college players in one of the biggest mid-term haul of quick fix players UNT has taken in recent years. We wrote about the class in today’s paper.

So, can Smith fix it?

We won’t find out until next fall, but he certainly ranks among the more intriguing prospects UNT has signed in recent years.

One can go through his whole story in today’s paper, but the quick synopsis is this: Smith was among the nation’s top high school quarterback prospects back in 2011 out of  Seneca Academy in Louisville, committed to Louisville, backed out, committed to Central Florida, didn’t pass the NCAA clearinghouse, landed at Western Kentucky, got stuck behind one of the nation’s best pocket passers in Brandon Doughty and transferred to Butler. Smith had a great season and had a host of programs interested. UNT pounced and landed him.

It’s the type of story that has been written thousands of times when it comes to college football. Smith has talent. The question is if he will ever capitalize and be an impact player on the college level.

UNT is essentially Smith’s last shot.

There is a lot to like about him. He has decent size at 6-2, good athleticism and was productive at Butler. He threw for 2,746 yards and 31 touchdowns with just eight interceptions last season and is ranked No. 62 on 247 Sports’ list of the top junior college recruits in the Class of 2015.

Smith is arguably the top player on UNT’s board at this point, along with Oklahoma defensive back Ashton Preston.

UNT coach Dan McCarney said UNT needs to get better at quarterback heading into next season.

At this point, Smith ranks No. 1 on UNT’s options that could make that goal a reality.

Like I said yesterday, JUCO players — and particularly quarterbacks — are a boom or bust proposition. UNT signed one last season in Greer and stuck with him for just three games. Woody Wilson showed great promise a few years ago and led UNT to a win over SMU before vanishing.

UNT hasn’t had many huge success stories recently in terms of junior college quarterbacks, but James Jones was a great get at cornerback. He started two years. Offensive lineman Shawn McKinney was another key contributor out of the junior college ranks.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters was a top 100 junior college player who has been a hit the last couple of years for the Wildcats.

Will Smith be the answer for UNT?

The Mean Green are gambling that he will be.

And in a side note, one time UNT target Tyler Moore, an offensive lineman has committed to Minnesota. I talked to Moore over the summer for our UNT recruiting target series.