Wednesday afternoon notes (Hoops recruiting running updates, could UNT face Joeckel?)

Update 1:35 — Muhammed Ahmed’s letter of intent has arrived. The forward was a third-team NJCAA All-American this season, when he averaged 17.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, a performance that earned him first-team All-Region IX honors. Ahmed was highly recruited and a key get for UNT, which needed to restock its front line after the departures of Keith Coleman and Kelvin Gaines. Ahmed is 6-foot-7 and can play inside and out. He should be a good fit for the up-tempo system UNT wants to move to next season.

The late signing period in basketball starts today.

UNT should receive official word on highly regarded JUCO forward Muhammed Ahmed and Tyler JC point guard Todd Eaglin at some point this afternoon.

Both have been committed to UNT for a few weeks. UNT is expecting their paper work to come through without any problems.

UNT is still out there recruiting and trying to add a few late pieces.

I exchanged messages with Paris JC center Nouhoum Bocoum, who visited UNT this spring. Bocoum was planning to visit Eastern Michigan and Houston after UNT, which we covered a few days ago.

Bocoum indicated that he has yet to decide where he will continue his college career. Blinn JC shooting guard Macari Brooks is still out there. I have not been able to get in touch with Brooks or Blinn coach Scott Schumacher to see where things stand. Brooks posted on Twitter that he planned to visit UNT at one point. We talked a little about Brooks a few days ago.

It looks like Eaglin and Ahmed could be it for today. I will update the blog if anything changes.

And on the football front, it doesn’t look like it is out of the realm of possibility that UNT could face a former Texas A&M quarterback next season. Matt Joeckel is leaving Texas A&M will use the fifth-year senior loophole to transfer and play this season. What makes it interesting/UNT related is …

UNT faces SMU in the second game of the season in the fall.

This is all pure speculation at this point, but it would be interesting. Joeckel is a good player. Could he transfer to SMU after spring practice, win the job and play against UNT?

Maybe.

What I wonder is if A&M would allow Joeckel to transfer to SMU. The Aggies play the Mustangs this year.

Teams often restrict players from transferring to schools they will play in the subsequent season.

UNT recruiting target series — Keenan Kelly

Keenan Kelly never would have guessed that his first FBS scholarship offer would come from a school so far from home.

The Cedar Grove, Ga., standout defensive lineman/linebacker had been hearing from Georgia and Georgia Tech, which was to be expected considering both schools are in his backyard. What took Kelly by surprise was the news his high school coaches delivered recently. He had caught the eye of Kevin Patrick, the new defensive line coach at North Texas.

“Coach Patrick saw my video and liked it,” Kelly said. “I was surprised to hear from a school in Texas. I talked to coach Patrick for the first time a couple of weeks ago.”

Patrick has been working to build a relationship with Kelly ever since. The two spoke on the phone on Tuesday night, the first day of the spring evaluation period. Kelly has not met Patrick in person yet, but is already planning a visit to UNT this summer.

“North Texas is the first school to offer,” Kelly said. “That means a lot to me.”

Kelly, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound standout could soon be hearing from several schools other than UNT and the in-state powers. One of Kelly’s coaches said that Boise State has called in the last few days.

Kelly finished with eight sacks last season and could project as a middle linebacker, outside linebacker or defensive end, depending on how he develops physically.

“North Texas is recruiting me as an outside linebacker,” Kelly said. “I played middle linebacker and defensive end last season, but I can make the transition. Outside linebacker is more of my natural position.”

Kelly finished with eight sacks last season and estimated that he had about 80 tackles on the year.

While Kelly is still in the early stages of the recruiting process, he said he already has a feeling for when he would like to commit.

“I want to make a decision during the summer, before school starts,” Kelly said.

Patrick is putting UNT in position to be a key player in Kelly’s recruiting process by jumping in a race the coaches at Cedar Grove have told Kelly should soon pick up.

“It will pick up,” Kelly said. “My coach said he has seen that a lot of times. The word will get out.”

Mean Green blog recruiting series
CB Nafees Lyon, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
DL Carl Thompson, Guyer
OL Beau Hott, Plano
WR Akile Davis, DeSoto
ATH Jonathan Giles, Fort Bend Elkins

Tuesday afternoon football notes

We are into the off-season now, but there are a couple of tidbits on the football front worth talking about.

First off, I was able to confirm with UNT officials yesterday what a few people close to the program — and UNT’s Guyer contingent — had been indicating over the last few days. San Diego State transfer defensive lineman Dan Kottman is no longer with the program — at least not at this point.

We covered the story when he enrolled at UNT pretty extensively due to the fact he was a pretty good player and a former Guyer standout.

Kottman had some medical issues when he arrived. UNT didn’t put him on scholarship immediately. He hoped to earn one once he showed that he was healthy.

And in other news, this is the first day of the spring evaluation period for football recruiting.

Recruiting coordinator Mike Grant and the rest of UNT’s coaches will be out on the road over the next several weeks seeing prospects across the state and the country.

UNT has landed most of its key recruits late over the last several years. Most top prospects (the guys UNT wants) have held out for Big 12/SEC offers in the past. I have talked to a few UNT targets over the last several days. Several of them told me they will hold out until the end of the summer to see who comes in. One never knows, though. We could start to see some activity.

Here is a link to the latest installment of our targets series on Fort Bend Elkins athlete Jonathan Giles, which also includes links to previous installments.

UNT recruiting target series — Jonathan Giles

Jonathan Giles knows a whole lot about the football program at the University of Houston. It goes with the territory for the son of a Houston letterman.

Thanks to a trip to Denton with his father, Giles knows a little bit about UNT as well.

Giles, a quarterback from Fort Bend Elkins, is the son of former Houston running back Lonzo Giles, who these days is the video coordinator for the Texas Southern athletics department. Lonzo Giles played running back for Houston in the 1970s. The pair made the trip to Denton when TSU played the Mean Green.

That trip made an impression that stuck with Jonathan Giles.

“The school was nice and so was the stadium,” Giles said. “I was very impressed.”

Giles has kept UNT in mind as a place to potentially continue his career ever since. He was offered a scholarship by UNT about two months ago.

Houston is also recruiting Giles, but has yet to join UNT, Colorado and Fresno State on the list of schools who have offered the 6-foot, 175-pound athlete a scholarship.

Giles said he is wide open when it comes to schools he will consider at this point, but UNT is high on his list of potential destinations.

“I like how North Texas is coming up,” Giles said. “You didn’t used to hear about North Texas. Now you hear about them all the time. I also like the facilities.”

UNT recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Mike Grant is recruiting Giles as a slot receiver. Giles moved to quarterback for his high school team as a sophomore and threw for more than 2,000 yards as a junior, but projects as a slot receiver or cornerback on the college level.

“Most of the schools are recruiting me as an athlete who can play receiver or cornerback,” Giles said. “I see myself as a wide receiver. That is what I played in middle school and little league.”

Giles is considering playing there for UNT as well as he heads into the final few months before he plans to make an early decision on where to continue his career on the college level.

“I want to make a decision before the start of the season,” Giles said. “That way I can concentrate on my senior year.”

Mean Green blog recruiting series
CB Nafees Lyon, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
DL Carl Thompson, Guyer
OL Beau Hott, Plano
WR Akile Davis, DeSoto

Monday morning notes (JUCO guard to visit UNT)

The late singing period in basketball begins this week, when UNT will have yet another visitor to campus.

Macari Brooks, a highly regarded shooting guard from Blinn College, will visit Denton. Brooks posted on his Twitter account this morning that he can’t wait for his visit to the school to begin.

We wrote about Brooks not too long ago on the blog.

UNT has churned its roster quite a bit in the off-season. Kelvin Gaines decided to pursue a professional career, while Keith Coleman is also no longer on the roster.

I will go through who is staying and who is gone later (It’s a long story).

Right now, what’s more important to look at are the potential late additions. UNT had Paris JC post Nouhoum Bocoum in over the weekend. We caught up with Bocoum not too long ago. Bocoum said at that time that he was planning on visiting Eastern Michigan and Houston this week after visiting UNT.

UNT wants to move to a up-tempo style in Tony Benford’s third season, but is going to be seriously undersized in the middle if it doesn’t replace Gaines and Coleman. Bocoum could be the guy to fill that void. UNT did pick up a commitment from 6-foot-7 forward Muhammed Ahmed but could still use a center-type player.

While the focus has been on UNT’s efforts to bolster its front court, it also has some holes at the guard spots following the departure of Brandan Walton, Vertrail Vaughns and — most importantly — Alzee Williams. Those three guards combined to score almost a third of UNT’s point last year. Williams was UNT’s second-leading scorer.

Brooks could be the guy to help fill that void. The 6-foot-2 guard is a high-level player who signed with DePaul out of high school, when he was also recruited by Marquette, where Benford and several members of his staff worked before arriving in Denton.

Brooks averaged 19.9 points a game for Blinn last season.

The question now is if UNT can land Bocoum or Brooks or both and how the Mean Green would work its roster to get both on the team.

And in a side note, I hung out with the great Rick Gosselin from The Dallas Morning News at UNT’s spring game. Here’s his column on the rise of UNT’s football program:

Sunday night notes

Here are a few items of note on a Sunday night:

– The UNT softball team had a good weekend, sweeping Marshall. The Mean Green won the third game today by an 8-2 final. UNT is sitting in second place in the C-USA standings at 12-5. Tulsa is 12-2.

– UNT men’s basketball recruit Nouhoum Bocoum was in town over the weekend. I passed the Paris JC center while walking to the locker room after the spring game. He told me he is headed to Eastern Michigan and then Houston this week. Stay tuned. UNT is looking to land a post player late.

– We have talked a lot about spring practice over the last few weeks and will continue to sort through the fall-out. Check back a little farther on the blog for a Dan McCarney state of the union video.

– And it looks all but certain now that UNT will have a golfer on the PGA tour next year. Carlos Ortiz won the El Bosque Mexico Championship on the Web.com Tour. It’s Ortiz’s second win on the tour this year and pushes him to No. 1 on the money list at $304,458. The players who finish in the top 25 receive PGA Tour cards.

MGB video: McCarney talks spring game, Is this UNT’s deepest batch of backs ever?

The video at the top of this blog is of Dan McCarney and I chatting a little about the spring game and how spring practice went in general for the Mean Green. McCarney has some interesting things to say, as always.

And while we are at it, I’m going to break one of my unwritten rules and allow myself to be drug into a ridiculous debate after being called out for not agreeing with a reader’s opinion on a topic that really doesn’t matter in the large scheme of things.

The topic? Is this the deepest batch of running backs UNT has ever had going into the 2014 season?

First off, I really like UNT’s running backs. Antoinne Jimmerson is a dynamic player and should really shine. Erick Evans has been a great find and UNT will only be deeper when Reggie Pegram comes back from knee injury he suffered last season.

UNT is deep and talented, but there is no way this is deep as the Mean Green has been. It’s not even close.

Let’s look at what UNT has this season:
Antoinne Jimmerson, 446 rushing yards in 2013 as a backup, 990 yards in two-year career, no starts
Reggie Pegram, 338 rushing yards at UNT in 2013, 116 yards in two seasons at Purdue, no starts at UNT, coming off a major knee injury
Rex Rollins, 92 rushing yards at UNT in 2013, spent time working as a defensive back, no starts at UNT, missed the spring due to injury
Mark Lewis, 63 rushing yards as a backup on 18 carries in 2013, no starts at UNT
Erick Evans, never played a down at UNT, walked on and has suddenly shot up to second string behind Jimmerson in the spring
Andrew Tucker, converted safety, no carries at UNT
Jamaine Wilhite, never played

Again, I like the group. Let’s compare it to what UNT had heading into 2004:

Patrick Cobbs, 2003 national rushing champion with 1,680 yards, 2,840 career rushing yards heading into the season
Jamario Thomas, freshman ranked No. 21 among high school running backs nationally, would go on to win the national rushing title as a freshman
James Mitchell, career backup who came into the season off a 46-yard year in 2003, went on to rush for 274 yards in his career, including 166 against Arkansas State in the 2004 season when Cobbs and Thomas were out
Kevin Moore, backup who rushed for 408 yards in his career and entered the 2004 season off a 267-yard season in 2003
Thomas Pratt, ranked No. 52 on the Dallas Morning News Area Top 100. Left the program when he realized he would never play because of all the talent in front of him.

What do we have? UNT’s running backs head into the 2014 season with 1,599 career rushing yards and no starts. Two of the guys who are expected to contribute — Pegram and Rollins — missed all of spring practice and there is some doubt to how healthy Pegram will be at the beginning of next season after suffering a major knee injury late last year. Rollins has minimal practice time at running back after spending time working out at defensive back. Lewis played a little last season, while Evans, Tucker and Wilhite have never played for UNT.

In 2004, UNT had a returning national rushing champion in Cobbs, who had more yards in 2003 than the Mean Green’s entire running back roster for 2014 combined in their entire careers. UNT also had arguably the most highly regarded player to sign with the Mean Green in the ratings era in Thomas arriving and two backups who had played in Mitchell and Moore. It also had Pratt heading into the season.

One could make the argument that we won’t know for sure until the end of the season how it all plays out, but the bar is set pretty high up there.

In 2004, UNT lost a national rushing champion in Cobbs to injury. Meh, UNT rolled out Thomas. He won another rushing title. When Thomas got hurt late in the year, meh, UNT rolled out Mitchell and watched him go for 166 against Arkansas State. Kevin Moore also rushed for 141 yards that season.

UNT became the only team in college football history to have two returning national rushing champions in 2005 because of the remarkable depth it had in 2004.

UNT has four guys who have played heading into next season, none of whom have started, two of them coming off injuries.

UNT has the potential to be deep and productive at running back, but saying it’s the Mean Green’s deepest group ever based on what one sees in spring practice is a huge stretch at this point. That is what they call wishing and hoping. There is a big difference between that and looking at what history tells us about what UNT has now and the performances of the past that set the bar for the program.

Spring game thoughts (video coming)

UNT quarterback Josh Greer throws a pass during the Green-White spring game on Saturday at Apogee Stadium. Greer, who is competing with Andrew McNulty for the starting job, thew for 152 yards. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

UNT went through its annual spring game today over at Apogee Stadium, where the White edged the Green 35-31 in front of 5,235.

As with any spring game, there were good signs and things that UNT probably wished would have gone differently (better).

The big battle of the spring was at quarterback. Coach Dan McCarney and offensive coordinator Mike Canales both said UNT came out of the spring without a starter.

Part of what McCarney had to say will be a talker:

“We have a really good example of how we can win last year with Derek Thompson, who not a lot of people said positive things about. All he did was lead us to a bowl championship. This time last year he didn’t look like Fran Tarkenton or Brett Favre. I want all these guys to keep the edge, never be satisfied and find a way to go have a really good season.”

Interpretation: UNT has a couple of guys who looked solid in the spring in Josh Greer and Andrew McNulty, but neither set the world on fire. UNT is hoping one can be what Thompson was last year, a good manager of the offense who can make some plays throwing the ball, and — more importantly — not lose games. Thompson was perfect at that, and McCarney’s right. Thompson didn’t get as much credit as he deserved.

Hoping for a gunslinger? Don’t count on it.

I wrote mostly about Greer in tomorrow’s paper. My personal take is that Greer has a higher ceiling, but McNulty has the edge in experience. The fact that Greer has only been around since December and is right there with McNulty speaks of how far Greer has come in a short time.

What surprised me a little was that both McCarney and Canales said it was important to get Dajon Williams back from an ankle injury and into the race. Both talked about how much talent he has.

I had the feeling the door was closed on Williams for 2014, especially after he missed some time late in the spring with a sprained ankle. There are only a few weeks of practice in the fall before UNT opens at Texas in late August. I have a hard time seeing UNT giving meaningful snaps to three players again. Could it be a matter of keeping Williams motivated? Could UNT change course at this point?

It’s something to watch, that’s for sure.

Another factor to consider is that Connor Means looked good with the White team (second, fourth teamers). That could be a positive sign for the future.

Now for the bad news …

UNT’s offense didn’t exactly light it up against a defense made up of backups from a team that lost six of the seven members of its front seven. I’m not going to read too much into it, but the Mean Green is going to be a work in progress without Thompson … and Brelan Chancellor … and Brandin Byrd … and you get my point.

McCarney said this is the first time in his coaching carer the backups battled the starters and never let them back in the game. Granted, the backups started out up 21-0, but that is pretty telling comment. It’t not like McCarney is new to this.

And back to the good news …

Part of the reason UNT didn’t have a great day offensively is that the Mean Green appears to have some good young defensive players.

McCarney said linebacker Sed Ellis is the real deal. He looked the part while returning a fumble 57 yards for a touchdown.

Ellis just needs to put on weight, which is something he should have a chance to do over the summer.

Defensive end Jarrian Roberts, defensive tackle Sid Moore and linebacker Calvin Minor also showed a ton of potential, as they have throughout the spring.

And since I know people would love to see them, here are the stats that were passed out by UNT after the game:

Green
Rushing
Antoinne Jimmerson 9 carries, 96 yards, 2 TDs, long 54
Mark Lewis 8 carries, 34 yards, 1 TD, long 24
Carlos Harris 1 carry, 7 yards
Josh Greer 3 carries, minus 14 yards
Andrew McNulty four carries, minus 25 yards

Passing
Andrew McNulty 15-for-24, 0 Ints, 217 yards, 1 TD
Josh Greer 10-for-16, 0 Ints, 152 yards, 0 TD

Receiving
Carlos Harris 9 catches, 86 yards, 1 TD
Darius Terrell 3 catches, 74 yards
Darvin Kidsy 5 catches, 60 yards
Jarrod Lynn 1 catch, 58 yards
Andrew Tucker 2 catches, 57 yards
Antoinne Jimmerson 2 catches, 12 yards
Roderick Lancaster 1 catch, 11 yards
Clayton Adams 1 catch, 8 yards
Mark Lewis 1 catch, 3 yards

White
Rushing
Erick Evans 5 carries, 51 yards
Jamaine Wilhite 8 carries, 38 yards
Andrew Tucker 10 carries, 29 yards
Josh Cousins 1 carry, 2 yards
Connor Means 7 carries, minus 1 yard

Passing
Connor Means 9-for-15, 0 Ints, 125 yards, 1 TD
Josh Cousins 1-for-2, 0 Ints, 8 yards, 0 TDs

Receiving
Turner Smiley 4 catches, 42 yards
John Chelf 3 catches, 37 yards
Jones 1 catch, 33 yards
Willie Hubbard 1 catch, 13 yards
Mike Marshall 1 catch, 8 yards

Spring game running blog

5:06 — Antoinne Jimmerson just scored on an 11-yard run and then caught the shuffle pass for the two-point conversion. The White is up 35-31.

11:32 — Antoinne Jimmerson just scored on a 13-yard run. The Green has pulled to within 35-23. I don’t think they are going to run the clock now. Greer was on the field for that drive and went 5-for-5.

End of third quarter — The White will take a 35-16 lead in the final quarter. The Green is driving behind Josh Greer. He has hit on four straight passes.

4:28 — That was ugly. Andrew McNulty went to throw the ball, pulled it back and had it pop straight up in to the air. The defense recovered.

5:39 — Today’s official attendance comes in a 5,235.

9:22 — Andrew McNulty led the Green on a 75-yard touchdown drive on the opening series of the second half. Mark Lewis capped the drive with a 24-yard run. The Green pulls to within 28-16.

Halftime — The White leads 28-9 at halftime of the spring game. UNT’s defense has generally controlled the game so far. Josh Greer had a nice long ball and drove UNT down the field before the drive stalled out.

1:20 –Josh Greer led a long drive off the Green’s goal line that ended in an Eric Keena field goal. It’s 28-9 White. Greer connected on a 58-yard pass on the first play of the drive.

6:19 — Andrew McNulty goes 5-for-5 on a 90-yard drive and hits Carlos Harris for a 6-yard touchdown. McNulty really helped his cause on that drive. He hit Darius Terrell for a 23-yard gain down the sideline on the first play of the drive.

End of the first quarter — The White is up 28-0. In a bit of a twist, the star of the game so far, at least offensively, has been Connor Means, the only healthy quarterback not in contention for the starting job.

5:05 — UNT’s defense is controlling this game so far. Antoinne Jimmerson broke off a 46-yard run, but the drive stalled out. Chad Polk sacked Josh Greer to help kill the drive.

8:35 — Conner Means hit Turner Smiley for a 17-yard touchdown from Connor Means. By the way, Mason Y’Barbo is out for today’s game due to injury.

10:56 — Connor Means is in with the second team and missed on his first throw.

UNT is about ready to kick off its spring game here at Apogee Stadium.

Andrew McNulty is up first. He missed on his first throw and was sacked twice by Jarrian Roberts.

Spring game preview (thoughts and links)

UNT’s annual spring game is coming up in a few hours. I’m here at the Hall of Fame Luncheon, which is going to be well-attended again this year.

As far as the main event goes, here are a few notes and thoughts on what to watch:

– The key battle of the day will be between Andrew McNulty and Josh Greer for the starting quarterback job. We wrote about where things stand in today’s paper. A number of people have asked about what my gut feeling is. To be honest, I just don’t know. Every time one guy seems to take the lead, he fails to push away. Greer might have the higher ceiling. McNulty has far more experience. I don’t think UNT’s coaches are sure who will win the job, either.

– One of the big concerns heading into spring practice was the state of UNT’s front seven. That hasn’t changed heading into the spring game and won’t change before UNT kicks off against Texas. Derek Akunne is rock solid at linebacker. Alexander Lincoln is among a few players who has experience on UNT’s defensive front returning. Will that front seven hold up next year? Today’s game could provide a glimpse.

– Who will be that fifth offensive lineman? UNT knows what it has in Mason Y’Barbo, Cyril Lemon and Antonio Johnson, who will be seniors in the fall. Center Kaydon Kirby has come on quickly to be a solid player and will start again at center. The question is who will be that fifth guy. Tackle Ryan Rentfro and guard Shawn McKinney are battling for that fifth spot. Today’s game could help put one of those two guys over the top.

– UNT lost a lot of key playmakers off last season’s team on both sides of the ball from running back Brandin Byrd and wide receiver Brelan Chancellor to safety Marcus Trice. Who will fill those guys’ spots? We already know who some of those players are from wide receiver Carlos Harris to Akunne. We could have a better idea who some of the other guys who will fill those roles are after today.