What is UNT getting in Deion Hair’Griffin? His coach’s take

UNT picked up its second commitment for its 2016 recruiting class recently when Arlington Heights slot receiver/athlete Deion Hair’Griffin decided to play for the Mean Green.

We covered the story briefly on the blog and then went into greater detail in the paper today.

The one person I tried to get a hold of but didn’t reach until this morning was Arlington Heights coach Phil Young. The long-time high school coach spent three seasons as an assistant coach at UNT under Dennis Parker.

” He’s a great player and along with that he is a great young man,” Young said of Hair’Griffin. “He will want to be a leader, but will serve in whatever role you need him to.”

Hair’Griffin served as a playmaker from the quarterback position for Arlington Heights last season. The remarkable statistic Young mentioned that we didn’t in the paper was that Hair’Griffin threw 25 touchdown passes without an interception as a junior.

Hair’Griffin is familiar with the wide receiver spot he will play in college, despite spending the last few seasons throwing passes instead of catching them.

“He was a slot in pee wee and youth ball,” Young said. “What’s so impressive is his speed. No one has run him down in the two years. Once he clears he is gone.

“He’s a one move and go kinda of guy.”

Young doesn’t anticipate changing positions in college to be a problem for Hair’Griffin, not after coming through a high school program that preaches the value of being versatile.

“We tell our kids to marry a program not a position,” Young said. “That way whatever position you play, you will be happy to be there. That’s his outlook.”

Young said Hair’Griffin’s recruiting process came down to a three-team race between UNT, SMU and Northwestern. Hair’Griffin is a good student, which attracted the attention of several private schools.

“He loved the coaches at North Texas, ” Young said. “It’s close to home.”

Wednesday afternoon hoops tidbits — Former UNT assistant to OSU, et cetera

Another one of UNT’s former basketball assistant coaches has landed a new job. Ashley Davis, who worked at UNT under Mike Petersen, is joining the staff at Oklahoma State.

Wesley Brooks, another assistant coach on that staff, is now at Utah.

And while we are on the topic of basketball …

New UNT women’s basketball coach Jalie Mitchell offered Dekaney point guard Jaelyn Richard-Harris a few days ago. She was an all-state, all-region and all-district selection as a junior.

Ranking the North Texas Mean Green’s roster: Numbers 11-15

North Texas wide receiver Darvin Kidsy is brought down by Florida International safety Niko Gonzalez (33) after breaking loose on a kick return last season at Apogee Stadium. Kidsy will be among UNT’s top returning players this season. (David Minton/Denton Record-Chronicle)

North Texas wide receiver Darvin Kidsy is brought down by Florida International safety Niko Gonzalez (33) after breaking loose on a kick return last season at Apogee Stadium. Kidsy will be among UNT’s top returning players this season. (David Minton/Denton Record-Chronicle)

Our countdown of the top players on North Texas’ roster moves closer to the top 10 today with Nos. 11-15, a group that includes several key players with starting experience who could be in position to make the next step in their development.

Kaydon Kirby is UNT’s lone returning starter on its offensive line and moves into a leadership role this season, while Kishawn McClain is in position to become a full-time starter at safety. He filled as a starter last season when Sheldon Wade was injured. Offensive lineman Sam Rice, wide receiver Darvin Kidsy and linebacker Fred Scott will also be key players for the Mean Green..

11.) Kaydon Kirby, OL. Kirby has been an overlooked member of a standout offensive line the last two seasons and will be vital for the Mean Green in 2015. He will be the Mean Green’s lone returning starter following the departure of four key players, including three four-year starters. Two of those starters – guard Cyril Lemon and tackle Antonio Johnson – were signed by the New Orleans Saints.

12.) Darvin Kidsy, WR/RS. Kidsy ranked second among UNT players with 680 all-purpose yards after serving as one of the Mean Green’s primary receivers and top punt returner. He also returned kickoffs. Kidsy caught 15 passes for 148 yards and should be a key contributor on offense and special teams again this year.

13.) Kishawn McClain, S. McClain started three games at safety as a freshman when UNT was without Wade. The former Rosenberg Terry standout showed signs of potential in that stint as a starter and finished with 39 tackles while earning a spot on the All-Freshman Team in Conference USA.

14.) Fred Scott, LB. Scott posted 54 tackles in 2014. Only cornerback Kenny Buyers finished with more among UNT’s returning players with 55. Scott started at middle linebacker last season, but is moving to the strong side where he will have to hold off highly regarded JUCO transfer Cortney Finney for the starting job.

15.) Sam Rice, OL. Rice committed to UNT out of Coppell before backing out and signing with SMU. He started six games for SMU in 2013 before leaving the school and transferring to UNT. Rice sat out last season and has quickly worked his way into position to start for UNT this fall while also emerging as a leader on an offensive line with just one starter returning.

Series review

Nos. 16-20 — Young players, including offensive lineman Chris Miles, defensive end Tillman Johnson, are in position to break out.

Nos. 25-21 – Elite recruits, including quarterback DaMarcus Smith, defensive end Jareid Combs have potential to make an impact

Tuesday night tidbits (thoughts on home field advantage, recruiting tidbits)

A study by Paul Bessire and John Ewing of PredictionMachine.com showed North Texas has the biggest home field advantage in college football. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

A study by Paul Bessire and John Ewing of PredictionMachine.com showed North Texas has the biggest home field advantage in college football. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

One of the interesting items to come out today was a study by Paul Bessire and John Ewing of PredictionMachine.com measuring the home field advantages of teams in college football.

If you are a fan of the GBAG Nation on 105.3 The Fan like I am, you have heard Bessire on periodically over the years.

He uses a computer program to simulate games and come up with the most probable outcome.

His study shows that UNT has the biggest home field advantage in college football.

It only makes sense if one things about it.

UNT is 16-7 at Apogee Stadium under Dan McCarney the last four years, but is just 5-20 on the road in the same span.

The Mean Green’s confidence at home is a big factor. UNT beat Indiana at Apogee in 2011 and went 5-1 at home in 2013 with wins over Rice and Ball State.

Another point to take into account is UNT schedule. UNT has faced cupcakes like Idaho, Texas Southern and Nicholls State at home, but always plays at least one Body Bag/Opportunity game on the road a year. UNT has faced Alabama, LSU, Kansas State, Georgia and Texas on the road in the same span.

Has UNT been a whole lot better at home than on the road. Yep.

There are a ton of factors for that being the case.

UNT takes pride in protecting its house like a lot of teams, and does as about as good a job as anyone. Its schedule is another key factor.

And finally, on the recruiting front …

Texas Tech has jumped into the race for Chaffey JC wide receiver Marquis Wimberly, who we talked to as part of our on-going UNT recruiting target series a few days ago.

UNT adds FW Arlington Heights athlete Deion Hair’Griffin

Deion Hair’Griffin, a quarterback from Fort Worth Arlington Heights, has committed to North Texas.

UNT plans to move the 5-10, 165-pound speedster to slot receiver once he arrives on campus.

“North Texas is a good academic school, which is the first thing,” Hair’Griffin said of his reasons for committing to UNT. “When I went on campus and saw what it had to offer it felt like home. It’s a good size and it’s only an hour from home.”

Hair’Griffin was also offered a scholarship by SMU, Army and Louisiana-Monroe. Here is a link to his Hudl highlights.

Hair’Griffin was the District 7-5A MVP and was also an honorable mention all-state selection. He scored 38 touchdowns on the season — 23 passing and 15 rushing — while throwing for about 1,500 yards. He added about 1,000 rushing yards.

UNT now has two players committed for its 2016 class. Hair’Griffin joins San Antonio Southwest running back Tyrone Middleton in the Mean Green’s class.

See tomorrow’s paper for more.

Ranking the North Texas Mean Green’s roster: Numbers 16-20

North Texas wide receiver Turner Smiley tries to shake off a tackle by Louisiana Tech junior defensive back Dillon Williams last season at Apogee Stadium. Smiley was among UNT’s top young skill position players last season and is expected to take on a larger role this fall. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton).

North Texas wide receiver Turner Smiley tries to shake off a tackle by Louisiana Tech junior defensive back Dillon Williams last season at Apogee Stadium. Smiley was among UNT’s top young skill position players last season and is expected to take on a larger role this fall. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton).

North Texas saw several young players flash their potential last season, either in limited roles or in practice during redshirt campaigns. A few of those players fall into our on-going countdown of the Mean Green’s top players that today reaches Nos. 16-21.

16.) Turner Smiley, WR. Smiley was productive as a freshman in a season the Mean Green struggled at quarterback. He ranked fourth among UNT players last season with 195 yards on 14 catches. Smiley could be ready to move into a larger role this season, especially if UNT’s quarterback play improves.

17.) Tillman Johnson, DE. Johnson burst onto the scene last season when he finished with five sacks in a season cut to eight games by injury. UNT coach Dan McCarney has raved about Johnson since he signed with the Mean Green after backing out of a commitment to Texas State. He could be in for a big season as a sophomore.

18.) Sir Calvin Wallace, DL. Wallace didn’t put up huge numbers last season, recording 20 tackles, including three for losses while recovering two fumbles. His contributions and importance are greater than those numbers indicate, though. At 6-2 and 296 pounds, Wallace is the anchor in the middle of UNT’s defense and started nine games last season. His combination of size and experience stands out among UNT’s interior linemen.

19.) Michael Banogu, OL. Banogu started the final two games of last season at left tackle after Antonio Johnson was lost for the year to injury and is in position to start again this fall. He is one of the few players UNT has returning on its offensive line with starting experience. One of the biggest questions UNT faces heading into the season is how it will rebuild its offensive line after the departure of four senior starters. Banogu is a key part of UNT’s rebuilding plan.

20.) Chris Miles, OL. Miles was one of the most highly recruited UNT signees in the Class of 2014. The former Flower Mound standout sat out last season and emerged in spring practice as near lock to start this fall on UNT’s offensive line. Miles is among UNT’s best young players. The question isn’t so much if Miles will play this season, it’s where he will fit in on UNT’s offensive line. The odds favor him starting at right tackle.

Series review

Nos. 25-21 — Elite recruits, including quarterback DaMarcus Smith, defensive end Jareid Combs have potential to make an impact

UNT recruiting target series — Douglas Tucker

Douglas Tucker‘s junior season didn’t turn out like he hoped it would.

The Parish Episcopal defensive tackle was already a major college prospect entering the year and was in position to improve his stock.

That opportunity slipped away when Tucker’s season was cut short.

“I broke my left foot early in the season and missed most of the year,” Tucker said. “It was terrible, but I am back at it now. It hurt my recruiting stock a little bit. That makes this season important for me.”

UNT was already in the hunt to land Tucker, who at 6-foot-5 and 290-pounds has the size to play at the major college level right away. The Mean Green offered Tucker a scholarship before last season.

UNT defensive line coach Kevin Patrick is recruiting Tucker and has been in contact with him ever since the Mean Green made the offer.

“Coach Patrick is really cool and funny,” Tucker said. “He’s is like my high school coach in a way.”

UTSA, UMass, San Diego State, Nevada, Texas State and New Mexico have also offered Tucker a scholarship. A few other programs in Power 5 conferences have also been keeping track of Tucker and could offer if he has a solid season.

Tucker participated in a number of satellite camps this summer, including those run by Baylor, Houston and a joint camp that featured coaches from Oklahoma and BYU.

“I am looking for a good education and a communications program,” Tucker said. “I also want to go to a great program with great coaches and teammates.”

An opportunity to play early on and join a team that is in position to succeed immediately is also important to Tucker.

Tucker and his family would like to find that opportunity as close to home as possible.

“Staying close to home would be nice,” Tucker said. “My mom would like me to stay close.”

While Tucker has a few parameters of what he is looking for in a college, he has yet to narrow his focus.

“I’m still open,” Tucker said. “I don’t really have a timeline.”

UNT recruiting target series:
WR Kofi Boateng, Arlington Lamar
CB Ivan King, Snow College
CB Nygel King, Klein Oak ——————- Committed to Houston
ATH DeShun Qualls, Jersey Village
ATH Patrick Taylor Jr., Jersey Village
OL Jace Webb, Hollis, Oklahoma, High
WR Marquis Wimberly, Chaffey College

Ranking the North Texas Mean Green’s roster: Numbers 25-21

North Texas linebacker Cortney Finney tackles tight end Marcus Smith during the Mean Green’s spring game on April 18 at Apogee Stadium. Finney finished with 10.5 tackles in a performance that marked his continued rise among the ranks of newcomers who could make an impact for the Mean Green this fall. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas linebacker Cortney Finney tackles tight end Marcus Smith during the Mean Green’s spring game on April 18 at Apogee Stadium. Finney finished with 10.5 tackles in a performance that marked his continued rise among the ranks of newcomers who could make an impact for the Mean Green this fall. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

The college football season is just weeks away. Over the next few days, we will help set the stage by ranking UNT’s top 25 players.

The Mean Green lost several of their elite players after last season, including offensive lineman Cyril Lemon and linebacker Derek Akunne. UNT still has plenty of top players returning, a couple of transfers who could be impact players and intriguing redshirt freshmen.

The Mean Green are hoping the pieces will all fit and help the program rebound after a 4-8 finish last season.

Here is the first installment in our countdown — numbers 25-21:

21.) Blake Bean, LB. Bean emerged as UNT’s starting middle linebacker after spring practice. He transferred to UNT from Buffalo after playing the first two years of his college career at Butler County College in Kansas. Bean sat out last season and will have one last chance to develop into an impact player on the FBS level in his senior season at UNT.

22.) Cortney Finney, LB. Finney was all over the field during UNT’s spring game. He finished with 10.5 tackles and is on track to start when UNT opens its season at SMU. Finney was the NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year last season at Trinity Valley Community College. He has yet to prove that he can play at the FBS level, but his performance in the spring was encouraging.

23.) Tee Goree, WR. Goree is arguably the best high school player to sign with UNT in several years. The former Carthage standout passed on scholarship offers from Power 5 conference programs to sign with the Mean Green and play with his former high school teammate and fellow wide receiver O’Keeron Rutherford. Goree redshirted and should be ready to make an impact this season. He caught a touchdown pass in UNT’s spring game.

24.) Jareid Combs, DE. Combs was an honorable mention All-American at Iowa Central Community College last season when he ranked second nationally with 17 sacks. He arrived at UNT over the summer and will have an opportunity to start right away for the Mean Green.

25.) DaMarcus Smith, QB. UNT’s coaches felt like they needed another option at quarterback after running through three starters last season. DaMarcus Smith arrived from Butler County College in Kansas at the semester break, but was academically ineligible. He has since made up ground academically and will be ready to go in the fall. Smith will have the opportunity to compete with returning starter Andrew McNulty in the fall and could end up winning the job. Since he hasn’t played a snap — not even in practice — it’s hard to say just how good Smith is. UNT is really hoping he will be a difference-maker.

The Sunday leftovers

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

We published our look at the state of UNT’s softball program today.

UNT has dealt with the departure of several key players. Some of them raised questions about the atmosphere within the program under Tracey Kee and her staff. Other current and former players said they are/have enjoyed their experiences playing for UNT.

Kee and her assistant coach Natalie Kozlowski were fired at East Carolina in 2012 following an investigation into the program. UNT hired both. Kee just finished her second season at UNT, Kozlowski her first.

UNT will only have a handful of players returning next season following graduation/attrition.

It will be interesting to see where UNT goes from here.

On the basketball front, Illinois point guard DeShawn Wilson Jr. began his official visit to UNT today.

Wilson is a smaller guard at 5-foot-9, but is talented and has a number of scholarship offers. DePaul and Long Beach State have both put scholarships on the table.

UNT could use a good young point guard and Wilson has ties to Mean Green coach Tony Benford we went over earlier.

Stay tuned.

UNT men’s basketball team to host DeShawn Wilson Jr. beginning today

Zion-Benton point guard DeShawn Wilson is visiting UNT this weekend. The Mean Green have already offered Wilson a scholarship.

Zion-Benton point guard DeShawn Wilson is visiting UNT this weekend. The Mean Green have already offered Wilson a scholarship.

DeShawn Wilson Jr., one of the top point guards in Illinois, will begin his official visit to UNT today.

We spoke to the 5-foot-9 senior about his plans heading into the summer, including his scheduled visit to UNT, in early June.

The Zion-Benton standout confirmed that he will arrive at UNT today.

Just to review, Wilson has a family connection with UNT through head coach Tony Benford.

Benford recruited Duane Wilson during his time as an assistant at Marquette. Duane Wilson Sr. coaches Playground Elite, the AAU team DeShawn Wilson plays for in the summer.

“I know how coach Benford operates,” DeShawn Wilson said earlier this summer.

“I will get to see what the school, the gym and the guys are like when I go on my visit. I want to see how we will jell together.”

Wilson has family in the Dallas area, which is another reason UNT is in the hunt at this point, along with DePaul and Long Beach State. Both of those schools have offered Wilson a scholarship. St. Louis is also showing interest in Wilson, who averaged 17 points and six assists a game last season.

“I am a good outside shooter and am quick,” Wilson said. “I am trying to improve my range. I get a lot of points on pull-up and free throws.”

Wilson said academics will also play a key role in his decision. He is considering majoring in sports management or business.

Wilson is expected to make a decision in the next month.

“I want to make my decision after the first live [recruiting] period that ends on July 23,” Wilson said. “I want to get it over with and focus on winning a state championship.”

J-Mychal Reese, UNT’s projected starter at point guard, will be a junior this season. Backup Todd Eaglin will be a senior. UNT is in the market for a younger point guard to develop and is trying to land Wilson to fill that role.