Saturday scrimmage notes, tidbits

UNT went through its first scrimmage of spring practice today. The Mean Green ran 72 plays.

We’ll go over some general impressions, but first a few news items of note:

– Longtime UNT graduate assistant coach Victor Gill has joined the staff at Texas as a graduate assistant coach. Gill is one of the good stories of recent years in UNT football. Gill, a former Argyle standout, was supposed to join UNT as a grayshirt back in 2006, but landed a late scholarship.

“We decided to bring him in now,” former UNT coach Darrell Dickey told me back then. “At some point there is no question that he will contribute to the program.”

Uh, yeah.

Gill went on to be a standout offensive lineman for UNT, worked for the program for years as a graduate assistant and is about to marry Jessica Hulsebosch, one of the all-time greats when it comes to the UNT volleyball program.

UNT put out this video on the couple a few weeks back. I never got around to posting it on the blog.

UNT should send out the scholarship offers now. If those two have kids, they will be really, really good at something.

That is kind of a detour as far as spring practice goes, but those two are two of the good people to come through UNT, who I wanted to at least acknowledge on their way out.

– The other big news item of the day is on the status of JUCO quarterback DaMarcus Smith. He is ineligible to participate in spring, but was at practice today. The question was posed on the sideline as to what he can do during spring practice. He can watch, but he can’t have a playbook to study.

– There were a host of UNT recruits who have already signed and will arrive in the fall at practice, including Jordan Murray, Chett Munden, Ashton Preston, D’Aundrey Bradley and Elex Woodworth. I mentioned the other day that Guyer product Kevin Dillman was introduced last week and the term “tight end” was mentioned very loudly. Dan McCarney has players introduce themselves and say where they are from and what position they play. That puts a little perspective on what went down with Dillman. I was too far away to catch the entire introduction last week.

– There were also a host of high school seniors at practice, I would guess at least two dozen. Pilot Point coach Rob Best brought a big chunk of his team by.

And in other news …

– Former UNT standouts Zach Orr and Brelan Chancellor were on hand.

As far as the quarterback race goes …

– Andrew McNulty was up first all day and threw a perfect strike to tight end Marcus Smith in the back of the end zone, which might have been his best throw of the day.

– Connor Means continues to move well and looks like he can run with the ball. He had a touchdown run today.

– Dajon Williams also showed some mobility.

– Kenny Buyers picked off a Josh Greer pass and returned it for a touchdown.

The bottom line is that UNT’s quarterbacks didn’t set the world on fire, but didn’t do a bad job, either. And that appeared to bring UNT right back to where it was when it went into its first scrimmage. McNulty is UNT’s starter with Greer, Williams and Means, who looks like he could be an option down the line, battling for the backup job.

As far as practice observations go …

– UNT continued to use an SMU helmet as a motivational prop during drills.

– UNT continued to struggle with low snaps.

– Running back Andrew Tucker broke free for a long touchdown run.

– Wide receiver O’Keeron Rutherford had a nice day.

– Wide receiver Daniel Kahn made a nice grab in team drills.

– Defensive end Chad Polk posted a sack in team drills.

– Austin Orr made an impressive stop and seemed to have a good day.

– Willy Ivery posted a long touchdown run.

Saturday morning tidbits (UNT tennis picks up big win)

The UNT football team will scrimmage for the first time this spring here in an hour or so, but before we get to that, here are a couple of quick notes …

– First off, the UNT tennis team picked up a big win yesterday, knocking off No. 75 Kansas 4-3. Kamilla Galieva won her match at No. 6 singles to seal the deal. Anastasiya Shestakova and Franziska Sprinkmeyer also won their singles matches. UNT’s other point came from winning the doubles section of the match. UNT appears to be finding its groove as we close in on the Conference USA tournament.



– The Dallas Morning News also came out with its all-area team today. UNT signee Rickey Brice was a third-team pick. Brice averaged 25.7 points and 15.3 rebounds a game for Arlington Pantego Christian. The question will be how long he will need to adapt from a small private school to playing at the Division I level. It’s been pretty quiet on the UNT hoops front since the Mean Green were bounced by Rice in the opening round of the Conference USA tournament. UNT has a few holes to fill and some scholarships available heading into the late signing period.

UNT scrimmage preview

UNT will have its first scrimmage of spring practice tomorrow that will begin at 9:30 a.m. over at the Mean Green Village. The plan is for the workout to take place at the Darrell R. Dickey Football Practice Facility, the grass fields adjacent to the Mean Green Athletic Center.

Spring practice is always full of story lines. So what are the intriguing areas and issues to watch?

Here are five:

1. Does UNT have a quarterback?

There was a crazy notion after the 2013 season that UNT wouldn’t miss a beat after seeing the second-leading passer in school history in Derek Thompson graduate.

Yeah. Ok.

A year later UNT has gone through three starters and ranked 104th among Football Bowl Subdivision teams in passing efficiency at 112.4 last season.

Andrew McNulty returns after starting the last six games of the 2014 season. Dajon Williams and Josh Greer are also back after starting three and Connor Means is also in the mix after coming off a redshirt year.

DaMarcus Smith, a highly regarded JUCO transfer, isn’t eligible for spring practice.

We went over the whole situation in the paper.

McNulty is entrenched as UNT’s starter at this point, but will have to perform well to hang on to the job. That challenge begins today.

2. What about UNT’s offensive line?

UNT should be fine up front, even after losing four starters to graduation. Kaydon Kirby is an anchor at center, SMU transfer Sam Rice should be ready to go and there are plenty of other players with at least some experience.

How will UNT lineup and how will that group perform together? Saturday’s workout could help answer some of those questions.

3. How will UNT line up and perform at linebacker?

UNT lost first-team All-Conference USA selection Derek Akunne after last season, moved Jamal Marshall to cornerback and will have a transfer in Blake Bean to work into the mix. Bean played at Buffalo, where UNT’s new defensive coordinator Chris Cosh coached. Is Bean the answer at middle linebacker? UNT also added a host of JUCO linebackers at midterm, including highly regarded Trinity Valley product Cortney Finney and his teammate Dakota Smith. We could find out more about how those pieces will fit together tomorrow.

4. Will UNT’s defense look different under Cosh?

And speaking of Cosh, UNT’s new defensive coordinator will be out there tomorrow, well, coordinating. We know that not a whole lot will change in terms of UNT’s base alignment. UNT will still be a 4-3 team, but will anything else change? Will UNT use press coverage more? Tomorrow’s workout could provide some insight.

5. Who will jump out this spring?

There are always players who emerge during spring practice. A few people tend to get excited about walk-ons who won’t contribute or players so far down the pecking order that it will take a couple of years for them to get a chance. Look past those players and there are typically a few who are legitimately worth talking about. Running back Erick Evans was just such a player last season and ended up contributing. He rushed for 204 yards and three touchdowns. We will begin to see if there are any players in a similar mold this year beginning tomorrow.

Follow-up thoughts on UNT’s pro day

I posted some partial results from UNT’s pro day earlier this afternoon.

A couple of UNT linemen didn’t set the world on fire in the bench press. But let’s not over react here.

Cyril Lemon and Antonio Johnson are good football players and will get their opportunity with an NFL team. They are too good not to get a chance.

UNT is a pretty strong and well conditioned team across the board. It’s not like UNT is a finesse team that throws the ball all over the place. The Mean Green run it and run it some more.

Opposing coaches have commented on how physical a team UNT is.

That says more than any weight room numbers ever could.

In a side note, I did run across one interesting set of numbers by accident I wanted to add tonight just to illustrate a point.

UNT added a dedicated strength and conditioning coach for football a few years ago, which was a terrific move by the athletic department. The only aspect of the whole change that seemed a little off was the perception that UNT wasn’t a tough and conditioned team before that.

I bring it up because I went back to make sure that 2004 was in fact the year that linebacker Cody Spencer became the last UNT player drafted. While looking it up, I ran across Spencer’s combine numbers.

Spencer put up 26 bench reps, a 34 1/2 inch vertical leap and a 4.65 40-yard dash.

UNT didn’t just start lifting and training the last couple of years. There were some absolute beasts who played for UNT during the Miracle Bowl Run, which is why that run took place.

Derek Akunne put up nearly identical numbers today, except Spencer managed seven more reps on the bench.

MGB video: Cyril Lemon talks about his pro day (with highlights)

North Texas guard Cyril Lemon was among a handful of seniors who went through the school’s annual pro day on Thursday. Here’s a video interview with Lemon that includes a few highlights of his workout.

UNT pro day tidbits, including some performances

Nearly a dozen pro football scouts attended the North Texas football team's pro day on Thursday at Apogee Stadium.

Nearly a dozen pro football scouts attended the North Texas football team’s pro day on Thursday at Apogee Stadium.

Nearly a dozen pro football scouts, including representatives from the Cowboys, Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets came to UNT’s pro day this morning to get a look at the Mean Green’s top draft prospects.

It depends on the year in terms of what I am able to run down as far as unofficial results. Unfortunately, the scouts who came by this year went inside to a room set aside for them this year to exchange information on 40-yard dash times since it was cold out.

Here is what I came up with …

OL Cyril Lemon — 14 bench reps, 30 inch vertical leap, 8-4 broad jump

LB Derek Akunne — 19 bench reps, 35 1/2 vertical leap, 4.6 40-yard dash

OL Antonio Johsnon — five bench reps, 22 inch vertical leap, 8-2 broad jump

DB Sheldon Wade — 12 bench reps, 37 1/2 inch vertical leap, 10-6 broad jump

DB James Jones — three bench reps, 30 1/2 vertical leap, 9-6 broad jump

RB Reggie Peagram — 14 bench reps, 26 1/2 vertical leap, 8-2 broad jump

DE Daryl Mason — 11 bench reps, 27 1/2 vertical leap, 9-6 broad jump, 4.7 40-yard dash

The player who probably helped himself the most today was Akunne, who put up a good 40-yard dash time for a linebacker.

Only three outside linebackers ran in the 4.5s at the combine. All but two of the outside linebackers at the combine put up more than 19 bench reps, but three players finished with 20, so Akunne wasn’t way out of the range in comparison to the players in the combine.

UNT’s top prospect is probably offensive lineman Cyril Lemon. He looked good in position drills and moved well.

His broad and vertical jumps were in line with the players at the combine. I would love to know what his times were in the three-cone drill and shuttle runs that measure quickness in space. Lemon did have a tough go of it on the bench press, though, where he posted 14 reps.

A total of 10 guards competed in the bench at the combine and all of them posted at least 20 reps. Lemon said he has had better days on the bench.

Lemon is a terrific player and a great guy. You just hate it for him that he didn’t shine all the way around on pro day. He’s already a little on the short side and played at a school outside the Power 5 conferences. Nailing his pro day across the board would have really helped his cause. You just hope he did enough to work his way into the draft.

Johnson also probably hurt himself a little by posting only five bench reps. The lowest total among the 23 tackles at the combine was 16.

There is no doubt that UNT will have several players find there way into NFL camps. Craig Robertson, Patrick Cobbs and Zach Orr all made it in the NFL as free agents. Orr came to pro day to watch his former teammates.

UNT is hoping that not all of its players have to go that route this year. The Mean Green haven’t had a player drafted since linebacker Cody Spencer back in 2004. It would really help UNT to break that drought.

Wednesday night notes

North Texas softball coach Tracey Kee talks to her team during an 8-5 loss to No. 13 Baylor on Wednesday at Apogee Stadium. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas softball coach Tracey Kee talks to her team during an 8-5 loss to No. 13 Baylor on Wednesday at Apogee Stadium. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

UNT hosted a couple of events events on Wednesday.

The Mean Green softball team took on No. 13 Baylor, a team UNT beat 1-0 earlier in the season, and lost 8-5 in the rematch.

UNT fell behind early before Kat Strunk whacked a three-run home run to tie the game up at 3-3. Baylor came back with five runs and then held off the Mean Green in the seventh inning.

It was a tough loss, but it’s important to remember UNT had won seven straight heading into the day.

UNT will host Western Kentucky this weekend in a vital Conference USA series. The Mean Green are 6-3 in conference play and 14-15 overall.

The UNT tennis team was also at home and beat UAB 5-2. The Mean Green are 5-10 on the season, but have played a tough schedule and are 1-1 in conference play.

UNT tends to play well late in the season and are looking to get on a roll late heading into the C-USA tournament.

MGB video: Dan McCarney talks about where UNT stands in spring

North Texas coach Dan McCarney took a minute or two to talk with me yesterday after the first workout in pads about where the Mean Green are at in the opening stages of spring practice.

We hit on a few topics, including the quarterback race, some of the players who have caught his eye early on and the Mean Green’s approach this spring.

Tuesday night coach search update

UNT has reached the point in its search for a new women’s basketball coach that it has identified the candidates it would like to speak with and found out what coaches out there are interested in the job.

UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said that has been a great amount of interest in the job. He’s getting 15 to 20 calls/e-mails a day from coaches who are interested and another 15 to 20 from people pushing candidates.

Villarreal would not identify the number of candidates UNT has decided it wants to talk with. It could be just one. It could be three, or even more than that.

At this point, UNT is trying to work around the schedules of the party or parties involved to get people to campus.

Once UNT gets that coach and or coaches to campus, it will be a matter of settling on the right fit for the job.

We have pointed to some of the issues UNT has endured in women’s basketball over the last few years. The Mean Green have gone through four coaches during nine losing seasons. The way the roster sets up makes for a long rebuild. Both of the Mean Green’s top players from a 5-24 team gone in BreAnna Dawkins and Briesha Wynn.

At the same time, it’s also important to note that there is a lot to like about the job. UNT has a good home venue in the Super Pit, a new basketball practice facility and a great location in one of the top talent bases for girls basketball in the country.

There is also the benefit of taking over when a program has reached a low point. This isn’t like a few years ago when UNT was looking for a men’s basketball coach after Johnny Jones left for LSU after six straight seasons with at least 18 wins, five 20-win seasons and two NCAA bids.

Winning 10 games next season would look like huge progress.

Don’t think there isn’t something to be said for that.

Tuesday practice wrap (four in the mix at QB)

UNT went through its first workout in pads this spring today. We had a live blog rolling, although I did duck out a couple of times so make sure I was able to grab a quote in advance of tomorrow’s UNT-Baylor softball rematch (see tomorrow’s notebook in the paper for more).

What I was able to do after practice is run down a bit of a status report on the UNT quarterback situation, which I will go into depth a little more in the paper later this week.

The key points …

– Andrew McNulty is the No. 1 quarterback. Head coach Dan McCarney and offensive coordinator Mike Canales both said that is the case.

– Right now, Josh Greer is working with the second team. Connor Means and Dajon Williams are also in the mix. And that’s it. There are four players in the race. Canales said that he is changing the depth chart every day based on performance. Dajon will rise after today’s workout because he performed well.

“If they turn the ball over, I’ll move them down,” Canales said. “There are no excuses.”

– Canales likes Means’ potential. The redshirt freshman has the size and arm strength UNT’s coaches are looking for in a quarterback. Means is going to get a shot to win the job this spring. Even if he doesn’t win it this time around, it looks like he will have his chance somewhere down the line.

– UNT is going to look to cut the quarterback field down to a couple of guys heading into the fall, largely because Canales and McCarney want to be sure they get a good look at DaMarcus Smith. UNT spent a midterm scholarship on Smith and likes his potential. Canales said it’s disappointing that Smith is ineligible to participate in spring ball and that it will hurt his chances, but UNT still has to find out what Smith can do.

– UNT is moving to more of a fast-paced offense that will be simplified from last season. The idea is to give UNT’s quarterbacks less to think about and allow them to go and play the game. That should help Williams, who UNT has always liked from the standpoint of his raw athletic ability.

– Canales also credited his quarterbacks’ work ethic in the offseason and the guidance of new strength coach Lewis Caralla for helping them all improve physically. McNulty has improved in terms of his arm strength. I met Caralla’s wife and young son today. The little guy is an highly energetic dude who was on the move all afternoon. Must run in the family.

And while this is not directly related to the quarterback race, Kevin Dillman, the former Guyer standout who signed with UNT in its last recruiting class, was at practice.

McCarney introduced Dillman to the team. I was too far up in the stands to hear all that was said, but it ended with Dillman talking about being at tight end.

A chorus of cheers went up.

For those of you hoping for this to change course, I don’t see it. McCarney is on record saying that Dillman is a tight end all the way. Dillman’s high school coach and noted quarterback guru John Walsh is on record saying Dillman is a tight end on the college level. And Dillman is on the record saying he is playing tight end on the college level.

It seems, at this point, there is a pretty good chance he’s going to be a tight end on the college level.