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.

UNT recruiting target series — DeSoto WR Akile Davis

DeSoto wide receiver Akile Davis breaks free for a touchdown during a game between DeSoto and Tulsa Union at Southlake Carroll's Dragon Stadium in Southlake last season. e (The Dallas Morning News/Garett Fisbeck)

DeSoto wide receiver Akile Davis and linebacker Chris Orr haven’t talked too seriously about playing together beyond high school, but when it comes to joking around, the idea of being teammates at North Texas comes up every once in a while.

UNT has been recruiting Orr, the younger brother of former Mean Green linebacker Zach Orr, over the last few months.

Mean Green recruiting coordinator Mike Grant told Davis about three weeks ago that UNT was ready to offer him as well in the hope that he would carry on the school’s tradition of featuring former DeSoto players.

UNT wide receiver Darius Terrell is also a DeSoto graduate.

“I know Darius, Zach and all of those guys,” Davis said. “They were excited about it when North Texas offered me. They are hoping North Texas will have another DeSoto guy coming.”

Davis is headed to Denton for the Mean Green’s spring game on Saturday afternoon. He attended a junior day at UNT in February.

“I’m excited about it,” Davis said. “I want to see the game type of environment and what that is like.”

Davis already has a positive opinion of UNT and feels like he could fit in well at the school and with the team.

“I like the offense they run,” Davis said. “They spread the ball around to a lot of different receivers. I also like the school. I want to study education and they have a good program.”

Davis caught 33 passes for 407 yards and five touchdowns last season, when he was a second-team All-District 7-5A selection.

Indiana has also offered Davis, while LSU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State have shown interest.

“I want to see who else will come in,” David said. “I want to make a decision late this summer or early in the season.”

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

Muhammed Ahmed named NJCAA All-American, a little perspective

Muhammed Ahmed, a forward from Gillette (Wyo.) College who committed to UNT earlier this month was named a third-team NJCAA All-American this week.

I haven’t gotten around to mentioning it until now because I think it deserves more than a mention.

On the surface, having a recruit named to the NJCAA All-American team might not sound like a big deal.

A look at this year’s team and the history of players who have been named JUCO All-Americans, even at UNT, shows that it is a very big deal.

There are guys all up and down this year’s team who are headed to big-time schools in major conferences.

For example, Williston State guard Trey Dickerson is on the third team with Ahmed and is headed to Iowa. Fellow third-teamer Willie Atwood of Connors State is visiting both Florida State and Iowa. Eastern Arizona’s Taylor Stafford is headed to Evansville.

Among the honorable mention picks, Harcum center Ivan Uceda is going to Miami and Kilgore guard Stefan Moody, a former Florida Atlantic guard, to Ole Miss.

Long-time UNT fans fondly remember Eric Tramiel, who was the MVP of the 2010 Sun Belt Conference tournament. He was a first-team NJCAA All-American from Paris JC. When we named the Johnny Jones All-Decade Team a few years ago, Jones immediately named Tramiel one of the five best players he coached at UNT, and that’s saying something considering what Jones built in his (one day will be) UNT Hall of Fame career.

The point is landing a player who was a third-team NJCAA All-American is about as close to a guarantee of getting a solid player one is ever going to find in college basketball recruiting.

UNT improved in the second year of the Tony Benford era after a tough start. I’m not saying that UNT doesn’t have a long way to go, but I am saying that a player like Ahmed could be a very important part of the building process.

MGB video: John Skladany talks about the progress of UNT’s defense

Here is a video I shot with UNT defensive coordinator John Skladany this week, when we discussed the progress of the Mean Green’s defense.

There are some highlights from drills on the front as well.

UNT seems to have come a long way this spring, thanks to the development of a few players who could fill key roles in the fall. Skladany talks about a few of those players.

UNT’s spring game is at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Apogee Stadium.

Thursday night tidbits

There were a couple of items of note to come out late today. To review:

– From our university reporter Jenna Duncan: Two key bond rating agencies have downgraded the University of North Texas System’s ratings outlook from stable to negative. The news comes in the wake of the ongoing review of some of the university’s financial practices. I doubt the issues end up hindering UNT long-term, but it is something to watch.

– A few sharp UNT fans have pointed this out, but it is worth mentioning here that Tony Mitchell pulled down six rebounds in the Pistons’ loss to the Cavaliers this week. I have said this ever since Mitchell left UNT and landed in the NBA: He is the kind of player who could improve in a hurry. Mitchell has missed a lot playing of time since he left high school for a variety of reasons. He hadn’t come close to reaching his ceiling when he left UNT. There were people who thought he wouldn’t stick in the league. It’s getting to the end of the season now. He’s stuck. Hopefully, he will get a lot of playing time in the last couple of games of the season.

– And don’t forget, UNT will have a key basketball recruiting target in beginning tomorrow. It’s something we covered in the last day or so:

UNT recruiting target series — Plano OL Beau Hott

Editor’s note -- Since we launched the Mean Green Blog several years ago, we have put an emphasis on covering recruiting when we get the chance. In the past, we have written several posts that we later turned into stories that appeared in the paper on recruits who have committed to UNT. What we haven’t done — until now — is write a lot about prospects UNT is pursuing. I will make an effort to get more material on the blog on prospects going forward. We have already written a about a few UNT targets. Today, we continue the series after talking with Plano offensive lineman Beau Hott.

North Texas head coach Dan McCarney made quite an impression on Plano offensive lineman Beau Hott during one of the Mean Green’s workouts this spring.

Hott, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound lineman, has been a regular at practice throughout the spring and has been in contact with special teams coach Tommy Perry for months. Hott knew that McCarney knew who he was.

What blew Hott away was just how much McCarney knew about his family.

Hott and his father had yet to put name tags on that recruits and their parents typically wear at practice recently when McCarney walked up to say hello.

McCarney knew Hott’s father’s name even though they were meeting for the first time.

“It really means a lot to me that he takes the time to talk with me at practice and that he knew my dad’s name before they had ever met,” Hott said. “He knew who I was and who my dad was even before we put our name tags on.”

The encounter was just the latest indication to Hott that he is a priority for UNT in the 2015 recruiting class.

UNT offered Hott a scholarship in February in the days following a junior day event at the school. Hott was a second-team all-district selection as a junior and an honorable mention pick as a sophomore in one of the most competitive districts in the state.

Arkansas State is recruiting Hott heavily. Louisiana Tech, SMU and UTSA are among the other schools that are showing interest.

“Beau could be a great center in college, but could also play a lot of other positions,” Plano coach Jaydon McCullough said. “He’s smart and has Ivy League level grades. So much is done now on the field in terms of adjustments with centers. He’s the kind of player who can handle it.”

Some recruiting websites list Hott as a center, but he said he could end up playing multiple positions in college depending on the way he develops.

Hott said he can see himself playing for the Mean Green after spending so much time with the team this spring.

“I have become really familiar with the offensive coaches,” Hott said. “Coach Perry is recruiting me, but I have also gotten to know [offensive line coach Mike] Simmonds pretty well and have met [offensive coordinator Mike] Canales. Coach McCarney has talked to me every time I have been at practice.”

Hott has already established a time window in which he would like to commit that will start after Plano’s spring practices and will end in the third week of the season. His preference is to make a decision in July or early August.

The more Hott has learned about UNT, the better he has felt about the situation. The impression McCarney made when he knew Hott’s father’s name made him feel even more comfortable with the idea of playing for the Mean Green.

“I like UNT a lot,” Hott said. “What coach McCarney is doing is awesome.”

Mean Green blog recruiting series
CB Nafees Lyon, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
DL Carl Thompson, Guyer

Thursday morning running blog

Update 7:16 — UNT is done. I am going back to bed. UNT’s players are headed to their 8 a.m. classes. Thanks for joining us on the old MGB.

Update 7:15 — Another good throw by Greer, who hit Carl Caldwell to set up a 40-yard field goal. UNT missed it.

Update 7:12 — Nice throw by Greer, who lofted the ball over a defensive back and hit Darius Terrell on the sideline. Daryl Mason just killed that drive with a sack. It’s been a tough day for UNT’s offensive line.

Update 7:11 — We are headed into the two-minute drill.

Update 7:10 — Jarrian Roberts sacked Andrew McNulty, who is working with the second team. McNulty and the second team go three-and-out.

Update 7:07 — Calvin Minor is seeing some time with the first-team defense and just picked up a sack. Josh Greer is up with the first team. UNT goes three-and-out. Carlos Harris did a good job of coming back toward Greer as he scrambled on third down.

Update 7:04 — UNT’s second-team offensive line is struggling a little bit. Just as I say that Jerrian Roberts comes up with a sack.

Update 7:02 — Nice play there from Chad Davis to tip a ball away from a receiver on the sideline.

Update 7:01 — Zac Whitfield just intercepted an Andrew McNulty pass and took it back for a touchdown. It looked like the ball was tipped.

Update 6:58 — Josh Greer just hit a deep ball down the sidelines where John Chelf grabbed it with a clear path to the end zone.

Update 6:55 — Here we go with a third-down ladder with the first team. Andrew McNulty is up first. Turner Smiley catches a deep ball down the middle. I am starting to think that Freddie Warner might start at safety this year. He is out there quite a bit.

Update 6:54 — Andrew McNulty is up with the second team. He threw a ball just a bit behind Turner Smiley down the middle. He dropped it. McNutly comes back to hit John Chelf down the middle.

Update 6:51 — We are back into a scrimmage situation with Josh Greer up. He hit Carlos Harris for 7 yards on first down. This is a series with set downs and distances. Zac Whitfield just dropped an interception. Great guy. Good player. Just really struggles to catch the ball. Greer comes back to throw a good ball to Harris again.

Update 6:50 — Connor Means tried to fit one into a tight window. AJ Smith broke it up.

Update 6:48 — Greer dropped a nice ball in to Erick Evans on the wheel route. Evans dropped it, but Greer couldn’t have placed it much better. He seems really accurate when he can just sit back there and chunk it.

Update 6:45 — Andrew McNulty is up and just hit Derrick Teegarden across the middle. Solid series there for McNulty with the second team.

Update 6:42 — We are into passing drills, wide receivers vs. defensive backs. Josh Greer is up first and zinged two good throws downfield. There is another good ball to Turner Smiley. That was a good series for Greer.

Update 6:39 — The sun is starting to come up from behind the stands. UNT is still working on special teams drills. Punt block is the big emphasis so far. Turner Smiley is getting a look returning punts.

Update 6:33 — UNT is now working on punt block drills. The Mean Green’s tackles and interior offensive linemen are working on the other end of the field.

Update 6:31 — Josh Greer is in with the second team. This is a limited contact set of first-down plays, by the way.

Update 6:30 — Erick Evans breaks one on a run to the outside. Lairamie Lee is out there with the first team defense and comes up to make a tackle.

Update 6:29 — And now for some scrimmage time. Andrew McNulty is up with the first team. Nice play by Zac Whitfield covering the wide receiver screen.

Update 6:27 — UNT is working on patters with its quarterbacks throwing to receivers with no defensive backs on the field.

Update 6:22 — There are always players teams can ill afford to lose. The starting quarterback is always No. 1. I wouldn’t put center Kaydon Kirby too far down the list. UNT has struggled with shotgun snaps when he isn’t in there. Just as I say that offensive line coach Mike Simmonds has some choice words about the snap.

Update 6:20 — UNT is working on inside drills. Lairamie Lee has been back out there on the field the last couple of days after being MIA for most of the spring.

Update 6:16 — One guy who we haven’t talked much about who seems to be moving up a bit on the depth chart this spring is Turner Smiley. He has played pretty well and made a few plays. He could be a guy who contributes this year. His dad played for McCarney at Iowa, which we covered back when he committed.

Update 6:11 — Believe it or not, I am not the only one in the stands this morning. Hebron offensive lineman and UNT recruiting target Stephen McHardy is on hand today, thanks to his mom, who is chilling (and I mean that in the temperature sense) along with me. Ms. McHardy gets the unofficial “Mom of the Day” award and a MGB shout-out for making the haul to Denton before dawn.

Update 6:04 — UNT’s special teams just blocked a punt. It will be interesting to see who emerges in some of those special teams roles in terms of coverage and going after kicks that Marcus Trice excelled in last season.

Update 6:03 — Darvin Kidsy and Carlos Harris are returning punts this morning. Those guys seem to be emerging as UNT’s top options back there. Tee Goree could figure in there when he arrives in the fall.

Update 6:00 — In a side note, I have been meaning to mention that Derek Thompson is heading to a regional combine to throw for NFL scouts in the next few days. I talked to DT this week. He is pretty excited about it. He should be. It’s pretty amazing to think about how far he came to get an opportunity like that.

Update 5:58 — UNT typically works quite a bit on special teams in this workout. It makes sense. This is a time when UNT has time for it. UNT is going through punting drills.

Update 5:57 — Dan McCarney and his coaches are trying to wake his players up. Mac is always full of energy. Even now.

It’s 5:48 a.m. and UNT’s players are rolling out on to the field at Apogee Stadium for practice.

We are along for the ride. This is an open practice. If we didn’t show that would all but insure that there would be an alien landing in period six and we would miss it.

This is one of the final workouts before Saturday’s spring game.

UNT usually works out before dawn in this last workout before the spring game. One of the side benefits is the fact that practicing early gives the players some extra recovery time before the spring finale.

There will be a lot on the line in that workout in terms of positional battles, including the quarterback duel between Andrew McNulty and Josh Greer.

Dan McCarney acknowledged in his spring press conference that Dajon Williams has a sprained ankle and is doubtful. I would be shocked if we see him play.

I don’t expect anything terribly interesting to happen this morning, but we should see some one-one-one passing drills. Check back for a few updates — if anyone is up, that is.

Paris JC center Nouhoum Bocoum to visit UNT this weekend

Nouhoum Bocoum (Paris JC)

UNT has quickly shifted gears following the departure of centers Kelvin Gaines and Keith Coleman and will welcome a well-traveled junior college post player in on an official visit this weekend.

Nouhoum Bocoum, a 6-foot-10 center from Paris JC, will arrive in Denton late tomorrow and on Friday will begin his official visit that will last through the weekend.

The third team All-Region XIV selection averaged 9.9 points and 6.2 rebounds a game last season while playing for former UNT assistant Chuck Taylor.

Bocoum has cut the list of schools he is considering to UNT, Eastern Michigan and Houston. He will visit Eastern Michigan and then Houston immediately after visiting UNT.

The late signing period begins April 16.

“After speaking to [UNT coach Tony] Benford and the staff, they know how good I can be,” Bocoum said. “I can see myself playing there the next two years.

“When me and coach Benford talked, he said he wants me to be a force down low, rebound and defend. He wants to have an inside-out attack on offense.”

UNT has a scholarship open following the departure of Coleman and appears to be targeting Bocoum.

UNT has been recruiting Bocoum for the last two months.

Bocoum said he is looking for a place where he can settle in for his final two years of college after a career that has taken him across the country. The native of New York played at Beacon Prep in Georgia and then played a season at Albany (Ga.) Tech before spending a year at Paris JC.

“I am wide open,” Bocoum said. “I haven’t even sat down with my dad. I will talk with coach Taylor and a few of my mentors back home and then decide.”

While Bocoum will wait to see each school that is recruiting him up close before signing, he will begin his visit with a good feel for UNT, its program and Benford.

“Coach Benford is a good guy,” Bocoum said. “I feel like I can trust him with my next two years. I want to help where ever I go the next two seasons and I feel like I could help UNT.”

Benford said following the departure of Coleman that he wants to play an up-tempo style in his third season at the school and plans to have at least one center on the roster who can fit into that type of system.

Bocoum believes he can be that type of player.

“I can fit in with anyone,” Bocoum said. “I expect to have a really big summer getting into shape and getting up and down the court better.

“We ran the floor sometimes at Paris. We played a lot of different ways. If we had to run, we ran. If we had to slow it down, we could do that as well.”

Paris won the Region XIV title last season and advanced to the NJCAA national tournament.

UNT finished 16-16 in its third season under Benford, who could be looking to add one more front court player to an incoming class that already includes 6-foot-6 Carter forward Jeremy Combs and Muhammed Ahmed, a 6-foot-7 forward from Gillette College in Wyoming. Greg Wesley, a 6-foot-7 forward who sat out last season while working to become academically eligible, is also expected to make an impact for the Mean Green next season.

Thoughts on the departure of Keith Coleman

Former North Texas forward Keith Coleman drops the ball in the basket during a game at the Super Pit. UNT is working toward featuring a smaller and more athletic team after the departure of Coleman and fellow 6-10 center Kelvin Gaines.

One of the more unusual careers in the recent history of UNT basketball came to an end today. Keith Coleman, a 6-10 center, is leaving the program after his junior season, coach Tony Benford confirmed.

Coleman never made the impact UNT had hoped for in his time with the Mean Green. He averaged 3.0 points and 3.4 rebounds last season, his best year at UNT.

Coleman was in a tough spot from the beginning.

The JC transfer arrived in Benford’s first season after John Odo, a highly regarded center who led the nation in rebounding among junior college players, backed out of a commitment to UNT to follow Johnny Jones to LSU.

Coleman essentially filled Odo’s spot and faced the weight of expectations from the beginning after Benford called him a “Big East quality center.” UNT doubled down after he had a tough first season at the school and declared him the most improved player on the team.

Neither Coleman nor Odo had a huge impact on their teams, although Odo was part of an LSU squad that made the postseason and won a game in the NIT this year.

The question now for UNT is where it goes from here.

UNT will be decidedly smaller after the departure of not only Coleman, but also Kelvin Gaines, another 6-10 center who elected to turn pro.

That’s OK as far as Benford is concerned as UNT enters its second season in Conference USA.

“If you look at this league, you need really good guards and versatile bigs,” Benford said. “This league is based on speed and quickness. If you are going to be at the top of the league, you have to have guys who can guard good guards and created their own shots. Your bigs have to be mobile and be able to rebound and defend.”

Benford pointed to Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech as examples.

He has a point.

La. Tech had 6-9 forward Michale Kyser, who averaged 7.0 points and 6.6 rebounds in addition to swatting 109 shots, but didn’t have a ton of bigs who contributed much outside of him.

Southern Miss featured 6-7 forward Daveon Boardingham, who averaged 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds. Michael Craig, a 6-5 forward, pulled down 7.5 rebounds a game in addition to scoring 11.1 points a game.

“At times we played small ball,” Benford said. “That is how we are trending, but you still have to have balance depending on who you are playing.”

UNT’s problem all along was that it frequently struggled in the paint and didn’t have that balance. UNT finished with an average of 2.9 fewer rebounds than its opponents in conference play. I have mentioned that stat quite a bit, but it as a telling one.

Colin Voss was solid for UNT all year long, averaging 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds a game, but it was Jordan Williams, a 6-6 wing who led UNT in rebounding at 6.3 a game. No one other than those two averaged more than 3.7 boards a game.

Southern Miss had five guys who averaged at least 3.7 boards a game.

Teams can go small and succeed in C-USA, but it takes the right kind of guys to do it. And it certainly helps to have one or two athletic big guys who can play in that kind of system.

Southern Miss had them. So did Louisiana Tech.

UNT didn’t.

As UNT trended toward a smaller, quicker lineup, Gaines and Coleman seemed like less and less of a fit.

UNT landed 6-foot-7 JUCO forward Muhammed Ahmed of Gillette College in Wyoming recently and will also add 6-foot-6 forward Jeremy Combs and 6-foot-7 forward Greg Wesley, who sat out last season. All three are supposed to be highly athletic.

Those are the types of players UNT is going to need to play in an up-tempo system as opposed to guys like Coleman and Gaines.

UNT has changed course to a certain extent since Benford took over the program and talked about building a team built on defense and dominating on the glass.

A team doesn’t need great size excel at either, but it certainly helps.

UNT will look at add a little size late. Paris JC forward Nouhoum Bocoum will be in for a visit this weekend. Benford said UNT will have one center type on the roster, maybe two.

UNT is rolling the dice on rolling out there next season with what will be a smaller, more athletic team following the departure of Coleman.

It’s the Southern Miss/Louisiana Tech model.

After what has transpired the last couple of weeks, it’s clear its the UNT model now as well.