McCarney press conference notes (with Dajon Williams, Kenny Buyers video)

UNT head coach Dan McCarney held his weekly press conference this afternoon. The Mean Green were off last week and will return to action in a key game at Indiana. UNT is 2-2 with its two wins coming against 0-4 SMU and 0-5 Nicholls State.

UNT sees this game as a chance to prove itself and post what would be an attention-grabbing win over a Big 10 opponent. Indiana upset Missouri earlier this year.

The Hoosiers feature Tevinn Coleman, who leads the nation with an average of 172.8 rushing yards a game.

The good news for UNT is that it could have two veteran defensive linemen back this week. Senior defensive end Daryl Mason has yet to play this year due to an undisclosed injury. Dutton Watson, a key defensive tackle who intercepted a tipped pass in a win over SMU, is also expected to return.

In other news and notes …

– McCarney acknowledged that the fate of UNT’s season will hinge on its performance away from Apogee Stadium. UNT is 14-6 at Apogee Stadium under McCarney, but is just 6-15 on the road. McCarney attributed that discrepancy largely to the number of major conference opponents and ranked teams UNT has played on the road during his tenure, including Alabama, LSU, Kansas State and Georgia.

– Both McCarney and new starting quarterback Dajon Williams said he grew and gained experience during an open week after his first start against Nicholls. Williams accounted for five touchdowns against the Colonels.

– Wide receiver Darvin Kidsy will be UNT’s special teams captain this week after a standout performance returning punts in the Mean Green’s win over Nicholls. Kidsy had a 75-yard touchdown return and 132 punt return yards overall.

Quotable

“We had an excellent open week and got a lot done. You want to have a combination of rest and rehab, but we also have so much room to improve as a football team. We want to keep that going and did a nice job of that. Academics is extremely important here. When we changed the culture of this program it started with a commitment to performing in the class room first. An off week gives our guys a chance to get caught up if they were behind or get ahead. We did a good job of that in the open week.”

– Dan McCarney, UNT head coach

“I feel a lot better than I did last week, but every week you have to prepare for a different team. I got a lot out of the open week, especially going against the ones. It helped motivate us. We pushed harder and moved the ball. If feel if I can move the ball against them, I can move it against anybody because we have one of the best defenses around.”

– Dajon Williams, UNT quarterback

UNT about to enter a huge week in its season

UNT was off this week, which gave the Mean Green some time before embarking on a huge week in their season.

UNT will head to Indiana for a nonconference game on Saturday that won’t amount to anything in terms of the Conference USA race. Where it will make an impact is in UNT’s chase for six wins, the development of Dajon Williams and just how long the excitement created by his elevation to the starting lineup lasts.

Nothing will change for UNT’s hardcore fan base no matter what happens on Saturday, but there will be a huge impact in terms of casual interest if the Mean Green (2-2) can pull off what would be a monumental upset.

And, yes, it would be a monumental upset. UNT opened as a 13.5-point underdog.

Williams looked terrific in his first start against Nicholls State in UNT’s last game. And that’s exactly why there are still questions about the redshirt freshman. He looked great against a terrible FCS team. How will he look against a Big 10 team in Indiana that absolutely has to beat UNT?

How will Williams look against Conference USA teams that have time to prepare for him?

We are about to find out.

More often than not, teams and players are not as good as they look when they are at their best or as bad as they look when they are at their worst.

The truth lies somewhere between.

The same is true in terms of UNT. The Mean Green has beaten Nicholls and SMU, two of the worst teams in the FCS and FBS, respectively, while losing to Texas and Louisiana Tech.

UNT didn’t have Williams in the starting lineup for either of its losses.

Would that have made a difference?

The early indications are it would have.

There is still a lot UNT has to learn about its team, and particularly Williams.

A game at Indiana could provide a host of answers on both fronts.

UNT splits on Sunday to cap C-USA opening weekend in soccer, volleyball

UNT went 1-for-2 on Sunday to wrap up the first weekend of the Conference USA season in the fall duo of soccer and volleyball.

John Hedlund’s soccer crew moved to a perfect 2-0 in C-USA play after blasting Southern Miss 4-0. Rachel Holden and Amber Haggerty — two of the usual suspects — scored. Kaylah Hunter and Kelci Hunter also scored Karla Pinda and Leah Cox each had two assists.

UNT put some highlights up on YouTube. I put the video on the top of this blog.

UNT’s volleyball team didn’t fare as well today, getting whacked 3-0 down at UTSA. The Mean Green did squeak out a 3-2 win at UTEP, so not all is lost. The Mean Green came out of the weekend 1-1.

Breaking news — UNT target Tony Lewis to Santa Clara

There are ups and downs, hits and misses in recruiting. It’s part of the deal.

But I did want to point out that Tony Lewis, a big forward we talked to a while back, has committed to Santa Clara.

UNT is chasing several post players and will turn its attention to them. Lewis is ranked No. 29 on TexasHoops.com’s list of the top players in the state for 2015.

UNT is on the board already with Ja’Michael Brown, a point guard out of San Antonio.

Former UNT assistant named Kansas interim head coach

Charlie Weis is out as Kansas head coach and has been replaced on an interim basis by former UNT assistant Clint Bowen.

Kansas put out a release this morning.

Bowen was on UNT’s staff for just one season in Dan McCarney’s first season as the Mean Green’s head coach in 2011.

Bowen was a lifelong Kansas player and assistant coach — he even married a former Miss Kansas — before spending a year at Western Kentucky.

UNT snagged Bowen for McCarney’s first staff. He stayed a year before the Kansas staff changed over and he returned home.

He will now have a chance to lead Kansas program, likely for the rest of the season.

 

Emmanuel Moore talks UNT decision

One of the more prolific receivers in the Dallas area so far this season has committed to UNT, and plans on sticking with that decision as his stock continues to rise.

Emmanuel Moore, a 6-foot-1 receiver from Justin Northwest, said Saturday morning that he has been committed to UNT since this summer.

Moore was a first-team All-District 4-5A selection as a junior in a loaded district that included Southlake Carroll and has continued to build on that performance during his senior year.

Moore has 32 catches for 475 yards and eight touchdowns so far this season and is coming off a monster night in a 52-42 loss to Keller Fossil Ridge on Thursday. He caught five touchdown passes and had 11 total catches for 220 yards.

He also had a 71-yard kickoff return.

UNT offensive coordinator Mike Canales recruited Moore as an outside receiver. UNT was the only team that offered Moore a scholarship, but Central Oklahoma showed interest.

“North Texas is the only team that showed that they really wanted me and offered me  a scholarship,” Moore said. “I talked to my coach about it. He told me that me that if I verbally committed I would have a spot.”

Moore attended a camp at UNT for junior prospects over the summer.

Check back for more on Moore on the blog and in the paper in the next couple of days.

 

Saturday morning notes and tidbits (good night for UNT)

UNT had a good Friday Night across the board. To review:

– The UNT soccer team squeaked by Louisiana Tech in its Conference USA opener by a 1-0 score. Jackie Kerestine became UNT’s all-time leader in shutouts with 23 after posting three saves. Anna Flobeck scored the only goal of the game.

– The UNT volleyball team also picked up a win in its C-USA opener, sneaking by UTEP by the skin of its teeth, winning the fifth set 16-14. One of UNT’s goals heading into the year was to improve on the road. A win over UTEP was a step in the right direction.

– And in a tragic note that isn’t directly UNT related, a bus carrying the NCTC softball was involved in an accident with a semi last night. Adam, one of our high school writers, chased that story last night. Three people were reportedly killed, but none of them were from Denton. UNT senior outfielder Kat Strunk played at NCTC. Last season was her first at UNT.

UNT soccer, volleyball teams open C-USA play, et cetera

The UNT football team is off this weekend, giving us a gloriously free Saturday, but the beat does go on as far as Mean Green sports go.

This is actually a pretty important weekend for UNT in general, as the beginning of the Conference USA season is upon us in soccer and volleyball.

The UNT soccer team faces Louisiana Tech tonight at home in its league opener. The Mean Green have had a pretty good nonconference season with wins over Vanderbilt and Oregon State in the books.

In case you missed it, I wrote a story on Karla Pineda and her ability to bend corner kicks that has come in handy for the Mean Green this year.

The UNT volleyball team is at UTEP tonight for its conference opener. The Mean Green have also started off pretty well in volleyball. UNT posted the best start in school history at 9-1 before losing all three of its matches at a tournament in Kansas last weekend.

UNT knew coming into the season that it would need a few freshman middle blockers to come through. Holly Milam has filled that void for the Mean Green and has been among UNT’s more productive players.

As far as football goes, there are a host of C-USA games that UNT fans will be interested in going on this weekend. Middle Tennessee and Old Dominion play tonight at ODU, which is a surprising 3-1 and 1-0 in league play.

Florida International will travel to UAB on Saturday, when UTSA will play at Florida Atlantic. Rice is at Southern Miss.

UNT will face all six teams later in the season.

Quick hoops recruiting tidbit — Whitewright star makes call

I caught up with Whitewright forward Mason Riggins this summer to talk about his college plans after he visited UNT.

Riggins announced where he’s headed tonight. The 30th-ranked player in the state, according to TexasHoops.com is …

UNT has already picked up its first commitment for 2015 in JaMichael Brown, a highly regarded point guard out of San Antonio.

No getting around it — Taylor’s injury is going to hurt

North Texas guard T.J. Taylor will be out four to six weeks after knee surgery. Taylor is expected to return for the regular season opener, but the practice time he will miss is another obstacle for UNT, which must rebuild its backcourt. (DRC file photo)

UNT received word from team doctors today that represented a classic case of good news-bad news.

First, the good news.

Senior guard T.J. Taylor’s knee surgery went well. He was experiencing some soreness and swelling. Doctors went in and cleaned the knee up.

Taylor will be out four to six weeks. UNT will open practice on Oct. 6 before its exhibition game on Nov. 10 against Oklahoma City. UNT opens the season on Oct. 14 with a home game against Arkansas-Monticello.

UNT believes Taylor will be ready to go when the season starts.

Now, the bad news.

Taylor is going to miss a ton of time in the preseason in a year UNT is going to have to rebuild its backcourt rotation and has a ton of questions to answer.

Here are the guys UNT has back

Jordan Williams, senior — 12.0 points, 6.3 rebounds a game

Williams led UNT in both scoring and rebounding and will be the Mean Green’s top returning player and one of the better guards in C-USA.

Maurice Aniefiok, junior, 6.7 points a game

One of the more talented players on UNT’s roster in terms of raw ability. Aniefiok is a good perimeter shooter who shot a team-best 37.1 percent from 3-point range last year.

T.J. Taylor, senior, 7.0 points a game

Taylor has all the talent in the world, but has never really put it together to become an elite player and is now on the shelf with a knee issue.

Williams is one of the more productive players UNT has rolled out there over the last several years. Head coach Tony Benford believes he will be among the best guards in C-USA this year.

The scary part for UNT is those guys are it in terms of experienced guards returning. No matter how one slices it and dices it, the Mean Green lost a ton of guards who contributed last year, including:

Alzee Williams — UNT’s second leading scorer as a senior at 11.1 points a game.

Chris Jones — UNT’s third leading scorer at 7.5 points a game and leader in assists with 127.

Vertrail Vaughns — The one-and-done fifth-year senior transfer averaged 7.3 points a game.

Brandan Walton — Hit team-high 42 3-pointers and averaged 7.2 points a game.

UNT was already going to depend on a host of newcomers to quickly develop, but will now have to lean even more on the following:

Todd Eaglin — Tyler JC point guard who ranked third among junior college players nationally with an average of 7.6 assists a game

DeAndre Harris — Tyler JC guard who sat out last season after averaging 13.5 points a game as a freshman

Carrington Ward — On his third college after averaging 16.0 points a game last season at San Jac

Greg White-Pittman — Louisiana Class 5A MVP who parted ways with Tulane before signing with UNT

J-Mychal Reese — UNT is hoping to get the Texas A&M transfer eligible this year, despite the fact he played six games last season with the Aggies before being dismissed

The bottom line is UNT has two good players coming back in Williams and Aniefiok and some good prospects arriving, but the overall situation was already ripe with questions and now includes another.

Knee surgery isn’t easy to come back from, even a minor one, in a short period of time. There is no way to know for sure if Taylor will be ready to start the season, and even if he is, he will have missed a ton of practice time.

The chances that he will be in good basketball shape are gone.

UNT also has no idea at this point if Reese will be eligible this year. He played last season at A&M. Even if he gets a waiver from the NCAA, he might not be eligible until the semester break.

That would leave Eaglin as UNT’s only true point guard. White-Pittman, a combo guard, might be the next closest thing to a second point guard UNT has.

Depending on newcomers is a dicey proposition at best. History shows us that. Taylor was expected to be an impact player last season, but averaged just 7.0 points a game in his first year with UNT.

Vertrail Vaughns (7.3 PPG), Colin Voss (7.3 PPG) and Maurice Aniefiok (6.7 PPG) were all solid, but weren’t huge difference makers in their first season  with the Mean Green either.

Armani Flannigan struggled and averaged 2.4 points a game. Keith Coleman also struggled in his first year at UNT.

UNT will have to hope that it has a few guards come through this year because it was already going to lack experience. The situation seems a little even more perilous now with Taylor entering the season off knee surgery.