Report: Former UNT coach Mike Canales on the move

Canales

Canales

Former North Texas interim head coach Mike Canales is on the move, according to a report from 247Sports.

Canales was at UNT from 2010-2015 and twice served as the Mean Green’s interim coach. He spent last season at Utah State.

Canales has been searching for the opportunity to become a head coach for years, but hasn’t received his break yet.

He has been close with Tennessee coach Butch Jones for years.

Canales took over UNT’s program when the school finally fired Todd Dodge after one of the dark eras in program history that saw the former Southlake Carroll coach post a 6-37 record from 2007 through the first seven games of the 2010 season.

Canales took over a program that had won just one of its last 11 games under Dodge, statistically the worst coach in program history, and immediately led the Mean Green to a 2-3 finish.

He took over again after UNT fired Dan McCarney five games into the 2015 season and led UNT to a 1-6 record over the final seven games of the year. UNT’s lone win that season under Canales — a 30-23 victory over Texas-San Antonio — prevented the Mean Green from finishing without a win for the first time since 1913. UNT lost its only game in the program’s debut season.

Canales and UNT agreed it was time to part ways after he finished his second stint as the Mean Green’s interim coach. He’s one of the better guys to come through UNT in years. It’s good to see him moving back up the food chain as an assistant coach again.

UNT 2013 recruiting class review

North Texas linebacker Fred Scott tackles Louisiana Tech running back Boston Scott (6) at Apogee Stadium last season. Scott was one of UNT's most productive players from its 2013 signing class. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

North Texas linebacker Fred Scott tackles Louisiana Tech running back Boston Scott (6) at Apogee Stadium last season. Scott was one of UNT’s most productive players from its 2013 signing class. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

North Texas is heading into the home stretch of the recruiting season as it prepares to sign its 2017 class. Before we reach the finish line, it’s time to take a look back at 2013.

UNT was coming off a 4-8 season in Dan McCarney’s second year in Denton and was looking to build for the future. The Mean Green signed a few players who turned out to be key pieces of their Heart of Dallas Bowl team just a year later, including cornerback James Jones. UNT also signed a few players who turned out to be busts.

Here is a  look back:

Best player – Linebacker Fred Scott: The former Kennedale never quite developed into a star on the Conference USA level, but there might not have been a more consistent and critical player for the Mean Green over the last four years. Scott started his last three seasons at UNT, finished with 177 tackles and was a team captain as a senior when he he helped guide the Mean Green through a coaching transition in Seth Littrell’s first year. Scott was a model player on and off the field who was an All-Conference USA Academic Team selection as a senior.

Most surprising player – Wide receiver Turner Smiley: UNT has employed a run-first offense during Smiley’s four seasons with the Mean Green. Smiley also wasn’t particularly highly recruited, but he has contributed throughout his career. The Frisco Wakeland standout has 72 receptions for 839 yards and four touchdowns in his career.

Most disappointing player – Quarterback Dajon Williams: UNT spent years searching for its next great quarterback after the departure of Derek Thompson following its win over UNLV in the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Mean Green appeared to have their man in Williams early in the 2014 season when he led UNT to a 77-3 win over Nicholls State. Williams threw for 176 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 68 yards and another two touchdowns. The former Pflugerville Connally standout was never able to build on that success and quickly washed out of the program.

Player who still hasn’t broken out yet, but could – Linebacker Calvin Minor: UNT made major strides in its new 3-3-5 defense last season that gives players an opportunity to make game-changing plays. Minor has talent, has contributed throughout his career and could produce at a higher level as a senior.

My grade for the class – C: UNT picked up several players who contributed to a pair of bowl teams in 2013, including Jones, Scott and Smiley, but also had its share of busts. JUCO transfer Justin Manu never played a down for UNT after the school found out his eligibility clock had run out. Offensive linemen Cody Nelson and Dominic Walker never contributed.

Thursday afternoon recruiting update — Tavares Thomas to visit both UNT and MTSU

Thomas

Thomas

The battle for the services of Navarro College linebacker Tavares Thomas appears as if it will come down to a two-team race between North Texas and one of its Conference USA rivals.

Thomas told the Denton Record-Chronicle earlier today that he would decide between taking a scheduled official visit to Middle Tennessee this weekend or cancelling and visiting UNT.

Thomas said this afternoon that headed to MTSU now and is planning to visit UNT next weekend. He is trying to confirm with UNT’s coaches that his visit to Denton is on the books.

I went over Thomas’ background on the blog earlier today, but to review:

Thomas finished with 82 tackles and 11 sacks last season, when he was named to the All-SWJCFC-team. Here are his Hudl highlights.

UNT defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler is recruiting Thomas, who is intrigued by the possibility of playing his final two seasons in Texas. He played at Lamar Consolidated.

“I would like to stay in Texas so my mom could watch games,” Thomas said. “North Texas is my top school right now.”

MTSU has yet to offer, but could extend an offer when he visits this weekend. UTEP has also shown interest.

Thomas, who is listed at 6-0 and 215 pounds on Navarro’s website, said he was told by Ekeler that he could play multiple linebacker spots in UNT’s 3-3-5 defense. He appears to be fit best as an outside linebacker. UNT lost Fred Scott to graduation after last season.

UNT finished 5-8 and lost to Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. MTSU finished 8-5 and lost to Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl.

Thursday recruiting status report — UNT LB target making key decision in next hour

North Texas could find out in the next hour if it will add a key piece to its 2017 recruiting class.

Tavares Thomas, a linebacker from Navarro College, is schedule to take on official visit to Middle Tennessee this weekend.

The question now is if he will make the trip. UNT has entered the picture and has invited the All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference selection to come to Denton this weekend.

The key advantage for UNT is that it has offered Thomas a scholarship. UNT defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler is recruiting Thomas.

“North Texas offered about three days ago,” Thomas said. “It was very exciting to get my first Division I offer. I met with coach Ek and he said that the way I move and put my nose on people would make me a fit for his defense.”

Thomas finished with 82 tackles and 11 sacks last season, when he was named to the All-SWJCFC-team. Here are his Hudl highlights.

Thomas said Ekeler has told him that he could play either linebacker spot in UNT’s 4-2-5 defense.

UTEP has also shown interest in Thomas, who played for Lamar Consolidated.

“I would like to stay in Texas so my mom could watch games,” Thomas said. “North Texas is my top school right now. Middle has talked about offering if I visit.

“I have to decide if I want to go go Middle Tennessee or North Texas this weekend. I will make that decision in the next hour or so.”

Stay tuned.

Chalk talk: UNT at Southern Miss

North Texas senior guard J-Mychal Reese (52) forces his way to the basket as Middle Tennessee guard Xavier Habersham (4) and Tyrik Dixon (0) attempt to block his path last week. UNT will take on Southern Miss today on the road. (DRC/Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas senior guard J-Mychal Reese (52) forces his way to the basket as Middle Tennessee guard Xavier Habersham (4) and Tyrik Dixon (0) attempt to block his path last week. UNT will take on Southern Miss today on the road. (DRC/Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas at Southern Miss

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Reed Green Coliseum, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1

Records: UNT 6-11, 0-5 Conference USA; Southern Miss 5-12, 2-3 Conference USA

Last game: Rice 101, UNT 79; Charlotte 82, Southern Miss 66

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: J-Mychal Reese, 6-2, Sr. — Reese has scored in double figures in five of UNT’s last six games and is coming off an 18-point outing in the Mean Green’s loss to Rice. Reese has hit his last three 3-point attempts over the course of two games and is averaging 9.5 points per game.

G: Ja’Michael Brown, 6-5, So. — Brown scored six points in UNT’s loss to Rice. He missed all three of his 3-point attempts and is averaging 6.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. Brown is just one game removed from a 21-point outing in a loss to Middle Tennessee.

G: A.J. Lawson, 6-5, Fr. — Lawson has scored in double figures in each of UNT’s last two games and tallied 12 points in the Mean Green’s loss to Rice. He is averaging 9.6 points per game.

F: Jeremy Combs, 6-7, Jr. — Combs finished with nine points and four rebounds in UNT’s loss to Rice. He is averaging 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and has scored at least nine points in each of UNT’s last three games.

F: Derail Green, 6-7, Sr. — Green scored five points and grabbed three rebounds in UNT’s loss to Rice. He is averaging 6.2 points and 2.5 rebounds on the season.

Scouting Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles have lost consecutive games on the road at Old Dominion and Charlotte and will look to rebound at home against UNT. Southern Miss is 5-3 at home with wins over Texas-San Antonio and UTEP. The Golden  Eagles are a low-scoring team that is averaging 61.4 points per game. Quinton Campbell is averaging 11.8 points per game to lead Southern Miss. The 6-7 forward posted a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds in the Golden Eagles’ loss to Charlotte.

What you need to know: UNT has lost six straight and at 0-5 in C-USA play is in danger of missing the conference tournament. Only 12 of the 14 teams in the league will qualify. The Mean Green are tied with Florida International for last place in the conference standings.

The good news for UNT is that there is a chance both Deckie Johnson and Keith Frazier, a pair of guards the Mean Green were counting on, could return from injury soon, possibly for Thursday’s game.

UNT needs all the help it can get on the road, where the Mean Green are just 1-18 since the beginning of last season.

UNT has allowed at least 100 points twice already in conference play, including in its last game against Rice.

 

Littrell to coach UNT’s running backs

Littrell

Littrell

North Texas officially announced the addition of Marty Biagi as its special teams coordinator today.

Here is our story from a few days ago about Biagi, a former Notre Dame analyst.

The addition of BIagi left just one question unanswered as far as UNT’s staff goes. A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to the Denton Record-Chronicle on Wednesday evening that UNT head coach Seth Littrell will double as the Mean Green’s running backs coach.

Littrell was a standout running back at Oklahoma and coached running backs early in his career before developing into one of the nation’s elite offensive coordinators.

The Muskogee, Oklahoma, native rushed for 707 yards and 11 touchdowns at Oklahoma from 1997-2000. He was a team captain on the Sooners’ 2000 national championship team.

Littrell went on to serve as Texas Tech’s running backs coach from 2005-08. He also coached running backs, full backs and H-backs during his stints as an assistant coach at Arizona (2009-11) and Indiana (2012-13).

Littrell will fill the void left by the departure of Tommy Perry, who coached UNT’s running backs in addition to its special teams units last season.

 

Wednesday recruiting status report — Could UNT turn to JC ranks to fill LB hole?

One of the biggest questions for North Texas heading into national signing day and then spring practice is where the Mean Green will turn at linebacker.

UNT lost both of its starters in Fred Scott and Cortney Finney to graduation after last season.

There are two good young players returning who backed them up in Brandon Garner and E.J. Ejiya, but it appears as if the Mean Green are in the market for additional help.

UNT offered Navarro JC linebacker Tavares Thomas II yesterday.

That move is the subject of today’s recruiting status report as we count down the remaining days until national signing day.

Thomas finished with 82 tackles and 11 sacks last season, when he was named to the All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference team. Here are his Hudl highlights.

There isn’t much out there on Thomas as far as the recruiting websites go, but he appears to be a solid prospect who would address a position of need.

UNT brought in only one high school linebacker in its last two recruiting classes. Darrien McNair signed with the Mean Green in its 2015 class, but didn’t stick around. William Johnson signed with UNT out of Arizona Western before last season, but didn’t qualify.

UNT has one linebacker committed to sign in its 2017 class, but Kody Fulp is a high school product who could need some time to develop.

The Mean Green definately need some help after losing a pair of players who combined for 133 tackles last season in Scott and Finney, especially when one considers the misses UNT has experienced the last couple of years at linebacker.

Thomas appears to be on UNT’s radar as far as a player who could help fill that void.

Tuesday football notes — UNT among most improved teams in scoring offense, defense

Littrell

Littrell

There were a couple of interesting tidbits to come down on the North Texas football front today that I wanted to get to here on the blog.

First off, Coach Search, a website that follows the comings and goings in the coaching realm, crunched the numbers and came up with a list of the teams in college football that improved the most this season as far as scoring offense and scoring defense.

UNT tied for 12th nationally on the defensive side with an improvement of 8.7 points per game. SMU and Tulsa, two other teams in the region, finished just in front of UNT on the list.

The Mean Green came in at 11th on the offensive side with an improvement of 9.6 points per game. Old Dominion came in three spots ahead of UNT.

That’s a significant jump on both sides of the ball for UNT in its first season under Seth Littrell.

And in other news, TexasHighSchoolFootball.com caught up with Nick Gerber, a quarterback from Levelland who recently picked up an offer from UNT.

The Mean Green are the only team to offer Gerber thus far. Here is his 247 Sports profile.

UNT has one quarterback in its class already in Cade Pearson, a two-star prospect who passed on an offer from Wyoming to commit to UNT.

JUCO prospect Devlin Isadore has told me he will be with the Mean Green in time for spring practice, He expects to receive a scholarship in the fall.

And finally, Will Kuehne, a quarterback from Liberty Christian that UNT has offered, checked in at No. 27 on Lone Star Prospects list of the top 50 pro-style quarterbacks in the Class of 2019.

Augie DeBiase to Miami

North Texas recruited Augie DeBiase, a quarterback from Florida, for quite some time.

There was a school of thought that he would end up at UNT as a preferred walk-on.

He is headed to Miami instead. DeBiase announced his decision today.

I must confess that we rode that story pretty hard over the last year or so. He’s a great guy with a nice family and he was willing to share his journey through the recruiting process. Here is one story we wrote on DeBiase.

Monday recruiting status report — Yes, recruiting matters

We are getting closer and closer to national signing day on Feb. 1. Classes are falling into place across the country, and since football and football recruiting rank first and second as far as interest among our readers goes, I thought I would take this opportunity to offer up the first of what will hopefully be a couple of status reports heading into national signing day.

UNT picked up a commitment over the weekend from Jacob Brammer, an offensive lineman from Richmond Foster.

He’s a good prospect who had offers from Rice and New Mexico.

The addition of Brammer adds to a solid sore of players UNT has commitments from and leaves the Mean Green sitting 10th out of 14 teams in 247Sports rankings of the classes in Conference USA.

And that brings us back to the topic we always end up discussing at this time of year when it comes to UNT football.

UNT’s program has struggled for years to move up the recruiting rankings as measured by the recruiting industry. Whether that matters is always up for debate.

My position is well known on this, but just to reiterate — Yes. Recruiting as measured by the traditional ranking services matters.

Seth Littrell and his staff have done a terrific job since they showed up before last season and led UNT to a bowl. No one saw that coming. The staff as also done a solid job bringing in some recruits that contributed significantly who were clearly under rated.

Mason Fine was terrific for UNT in his freshman season, despite being lightly recruited. Tyler Wilson looks like a future star at wide receiver.

UNT is doing a good job of evaluating talent.

What I have always contended is that the overall measure of recruiting classes is a good indication of how well a team will perform down the line. History supports that theory.

UNT won four straight Sun Belt titles from 2001-04, largely because The Great Darrell Dickey (check his record with four bowl appearances, it’s true) landed a series of highly rated players right after taking over the program. Linebacker Taylor Casey, defensive tackle Brandon Kennedy, safety Jonas Buckles and tight end Randy Gardener were all state top 100 recruits. Offensive lineman Nick Zuniga and running back Michael Hickman were both area top 100 recruits. That’s a fact. It’s listed in UNT’s old media guides.

And that doesn’t even take into account Scott Hall and linebacker Cody Spencer, were also highly recruited. I believe both were top 100 state recruits and both are now UNT Hall of Famers. I just can’t find a listing to back that up that they were state top 100 players.

Jamario Thomas, who played a key role in UNT’s Sun Belt run, was also a state top 100 player.

UNT’s 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl team was loaded with highly recruited players, most of whom followed Todd Dodge to Denton. Zach Orr was a highly regarded three-star player. Marcus Trice was a four-star player when he signed with Oklahoma before transferring to UNT. Cyril Lemon was also highly recruited.

Granted, UNT struck gold with Brelan Chancellor, who was lightly recruited. You just can’t expect to hit on a host of lightly recruited players.

Even this season’s Heart of Dallas Bowl team lends credence to the fact that recruiting rankings matter. James Gray, Ashton Preston, Joshua Wheeler, Eric Jenkins, Terian Goree, Brandon Garner and Willy Ivery were all three-star players.

You know what those guys all have in common other than being three-star prospects back in the day? They were all key players this year.

The list at the top of this post of of 247 Sports’ composite talent rankings. The site takes every team’s roster and takes into account their recruiting rankings to come up with a talent composite.

The list backs up the point of the overall rankings being a generally accurate measure of how a team will fare.

Take the league and split it in half. Five of the top seven teams in the rankings played in a bowl, while four of seven finished over .500. Marshall fell of the face of the earth and Florida Atlantic didn’t live up to expectations. Both finished 3-9. Texas-San Antonio lost its bowl game and finished 6-7.

Only two teams in the bottom six made a bowl and only one finished with a winning record. Old Dominion went 10-3 and beat Eastern Michigan in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, while UNT finished 5-8 after falling to Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

And don’t forget, UNT only reached at bowl because of its score on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate report.

People are fond of saying that outside of the top few hundred players in the country, the rankings are not all that accurate. They point to how many offers a player has or say that there is no way for every player to be evaluated.

In certain instances that is true.

What can’t be denied is that talent wins. And there is no better measure of talent than the rankings for an overall view.

It’s proven over and over again every year.

It’s also why it is really important to watch the way UNT closes this year and where its class ends up ranking.