Sunday night tidbits (recruit headed to C-USA rival, Charlie Strong video)

It’s Sunday night. As always, there were a few items of note to come down over the weekend. To review …

– We have been following along in recruiting, and one pretty good prospect UNT was after committed to another C-USA school. T.J. King, a defensive end who had offers from UNT, Kansas and Iowa State, among others, committed to Louisiana Tech. The guys over at BleedTechBlue have the story. We are never going to know how high King was on UNT’s board. And let’s not forget UNT has picked up a commitment from arguably an even more impressive prospect in Canton defensive end Sam Miller. You win some, you lose some.

– UNT is getting closer and closer to its opener against Texas that will capture the attention of fans across the state, largely because it will be Charlie Strong’s first game running the show down in Austin. The fact that UNT is coming off just the third bowl win in program history will add to interest in the game. With that in mind, here is a video interview with Strong about how he is trying to change the program.

UNT hoops recruiting target makes all-star game at all-star camp

Rodriguez

UNT recruiting target Mike Rodriguez, a point guard out of Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College, made the all-star game at the All American JUCO Showcase in Augusta, Ga., this weekend.

UNT has been recruiting the 5-foot-10 sophomore who averaged 16.7 points and 4.3 assists a game last season for the last few months. Rodriguez told us earlier this month that UNT was in prime position to sign him heading into the camp.

UNT assistant coach David Anwar has put in a lot of work recruiting Rodriguez and developed a solid relationship with him.

The fact that UNT was the only team that had offered Rodriguez a scholarship heading into the camp also doesn’t hurt matters.

Rodriguez wanted to wait until after this week’s camp to see if any other teams would offer before further assessing his options.

This is one of those classic good news, bad news scenarios.

The good news — Rodriguez played well this week and appears as if he would be a solid addition to UNT’s roster.

The bad news — There were a lot of other teams that were interested in Rodriguez heading into the camp. The way he played might prompt some of those teams to offer him a scholarship.

Check back for more. I should be able to get in touch with Rodriguez in the next day or so.

Late-night recruiting tidbits (A couple of UNT linemen see offer lists change)

The big news on the UNT football recruiting front today is that Allen offensive lineman Cody Wheeler committed to play for the Mean Green this morning. I talked to Wheeler and posted a blog on his decision earlier today. I will have a story in tomorrow’s paper that delves into his background a little more.

Here are a couple of other Twitter tidbits …

Marshall offensive lineman Chett Munden, who we talked to for our on-going UNT recruiting target series, picked up his second scholarship offer from Louisiana-Monroe.

Fort Bend Bush offensive lineman Josh Jones cut the list of teams he is still considering to five with UNT missing the cut. Wake Forest, Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma State and Purdue are still in the hunt.

Incoming talent blog (and an explanation of why it’s appearing here)

Editor’s note — Not that this will make anyone feel any better in UNT land, but here is a blog that equates to what the DMN ran on incoming freshmen this year at college programs in the region. I can assure you, UNT being left out was a matter of communication. The DMN didn’t omit UNT because of a hidden agenda. I didn’t purposely not submit a story. I run my own blog because it allows me freedom to post more often, push the envelope a little bit and promote the DRC, our little wing of the DMN empire.

North Texas has several holes to fill following the departure of a large senior class full of key contributors that made the Mean Green’s breakout season that included a win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl possible.

UNT lost first-team All-Conference USA selections in linebacker Zach Orr and safety Marcus Trice, not to mention the league’s Special Teams Player of the Year in Brelan Chancellor.

Some of those holes will be filled by key backups who will move into the starting lineup, but there will be plenty of opportunities for some of UNT’s top incoming freshmen. Here are three to keep an eye on:

1. Tee Goree
The Carthage wide receiver was UNT’s most highly regarded signee and will have the opportunity to step in and contribute right away. The Mean Green lost its top two wide receivers in seniors Brelan Chancellor and Darnell Smith, who combined for 123 catches and 1,583 receiving yards last season. UNT head coach Dan McCarney said during spring practice that the Mean Green is counting on its freshmen wide receivers to contribute. Goree is at the top of the list after earning Class 3A all-state honors last season.

2. Tillman Johnson
UNT lost six of its starters in its front seven on defense to graduation. Tillman Johnson, a defensive end from Austin McNeil, is among the Mean Green’s incoming freshmen who could find their way into UNT’s rotation along its defensive front as a freshman. Johnson, who is listed at 243 pounds, has the size and athletic ability to play right away. UNT made Johnson a priority in recruiting and flipped him from Texas State in the weeks leading up to national signing day.

3. Kishawn McClain
UNT has one safety returning in Lairamie Lee, who is a sure starter, but must find a replacement for Trice. Freddie Warner, who has battled injuries throughout his career, and Austin Peay transfer Sheldon Wade came out of spring practice listed as UNT’s top options at the position. McClain, one of the most athletic players in UNT’s class, will enter the battle in the fall and could have a chance to play right away. He was a two-way player at Rosenberg Terry, where he played quarterback and safety. He could blossom once he gets to UNT and focuses on developing in the Mean Green’s defensive backfield.

UNT picks up commitment from OL (updated)

UNT picked up a commitment from offensive lineman Cody Wheeler this morning, adding to the list of players who decided to play for the Mean Green after attending the school’s early summer events for top-priority juniors.

Wheeler visited UNT in early June.

He was recruited by UNT offensive line coach Mike Simmonds and special teams coordinator and running backs coach Tommy Perry.

“When I came to North Texas, it felt like home,” Wheeler said. “I love the coaching staff and it’s close to home. My parents can come and see me play. Coach Simmonds is similar to my offensive line coach Mike Carter at Allen. Coach Carter is like a second father to me.”

Wheeler was also offered a scholarship by New Mexico, Sam Houston State, Yale and Lafayette.

He is 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds. UNT recruited Wheeler as a guard, but has left open the possibility he could move to tackle at UNT. He will play center for Allen this year.

UNT’s coaches told Wheeler that he could have an opportunity to play early in his career due to the number of upperclassmen the Mean Green has on its offensive front.

Preseason All-Conference USA selections Cyril Lemon and Mason Y’Barbo are both seniors.

The fact that UNT is close to Allen, where Wheeler developed into a standout late in his high school career also played a role in his decision.

Wheeler is the sixth player to commit to become a part of the Mean Green’s 2015 signing class.

For more on Wheeler, see tomorrow’s edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

UNT hoops recruiting target in action on Saturday

Rodriguez

Mike Rodriguez, a point guard out of Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College, will play in the All American JUCO Showcase in Augusta, Ga., beginning today.

UNT has been recruiting the 5-foot-10 sophomore point guard who averaged 16.7 points and 4.3 assists a game last season for quite some time. Rodriguez told us earlier this month that he was leaning toward signing with UNT heading into the camp.

Whether or not UNT can hang on down the stretch and sign Rodriguez could depend on how he plays at the camp and what other schools come calling. And there will be a ton of schools there.

The rosters and schedule for the camp came out today. Rodriguez is a member of team No. 3, which will play team No. 4 this morning.

Former UNT great quoted in story on NFL painkillers lawsuit

Cobbs

The Associated Press just released a story on former players joining a lawsuit against the NFLthat claims teams kept handing out painkillers and other drugs with few safeguards as recently as 2012.

The story includes a quote from former UNT great Patrick Cobbs. The UNT Hall of Famer joined the New England Patriots in 2006 as an undrafted free agent and then caught on as running back with the Miami Dolphins through 2010. Cobbs said he started taking painkillers to deal with hip and rib injuries in 2007-08.

“It seemed like the norm then,” Cobbs said. “Now, you know what that’s done to you and it seems so wrong.”

Cobbs recently joined the coaching staff at Denton Ryan.

Cobbs is the second-leading rusher in UNT history with 4,050 yards and won the national rushing title in 2003, when he rushed for 1,680 yards.

The 2003 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year sprained his knee in a loss to Florida Atlantic in the second game of the 2004 season, missed the next two games and then elected to take a medical redshirt. He returned to UNT’s backfield in 2005, rushed for 1,154 yards and broke the school’s career rushing record.

Cobbs career mark of 4,050 career rushing yards was subsequently passed by current Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar in 2011. Dunbar rushed for 4,224 yards in four seasons at UNT.

Cobbs had reconstructive knee surgery during his time with the Dolphins.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report

Friday afternoon notes (UNT players who will be at media day)

Akunne

Lemon

Conference USA sent out its annual notes today about who is going to be at media day in terms of players.

If you want a big indication that the season is getting pretty darn close, that’s a big one.

So who is going to be around to represent UNT?

Head coach Dan McCarney will be there, as always, and is bringing along linebacker Derek Akunne and offensive lineman Cyril Lemon.

Both have been terrific players for UNT for years. Lemon is also a favorite of the coaching staff.

Lemon and Akunne will be two of the guys UNT leans on this year in a lot of capacities. I would be surprised if Akunne doesn’t end up being a team captain this season.

The headliner of the whole affair will be Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, who was named to the Walter Camp Player of the Year watch list today. The senior quarterback is considered a Heisman candidate and will guide a team that many believe has a chance to go undefeated this year.

I will have some thoughts on media day as we get closer to the event, but what will be particularly interesting to see this year is how UNT is perceived and how much attention the team gets. McCarney mentioned that he could sense that people didn’t really take the Mean Green seriously last year.

That obviously will change this year, especially after UNT was picked to win the league’s West Division.

Follow-up notes, thoughts on beer sales at Apogee

UNT announced earlier today that it will begin selling beer on the concourse level at Apogee Stadium during football games this fall. I spent most of the day chasing down sources and banging out a story for tomorrow’s paper along with our higher educator reporter Jenna Duncan.

While we were doing so, we came across a couple of other points that are worth mentioning:

– UNT will sell beer at Mean Green football games, but won’t sell beer during high school games at the venue. That seemed like a pretty reasonable assumption, but it is worth pointing out.

– UNT doesn’t know exactly what the financial impact of selling beer will be at games, but the money will go back into the school’s athletic department. The assumption among UNT officials — and it’s a really safe one — is that the financial windfall will be pretty significant.

– UNT has not settled on how it will go about selling beer at games. The school has looked into different ways to go with cans, cups, et cetera.

As far as some thoughts go…

It’s a great move for UNT. People like to drink at games. That’s just the reality of it. I have no doubt that there will be more butts in the seats as a result — and isn’t that really what matters?

The revenue will also help UNT, which as a mid-major program can use every nickel it can get its hands on.

UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said he would have liked to have started selling beer when Apogee Stadium opened. I have no doubt that is the case, but the journalist/cynic in me wonders if UNT isn’t better off having already sold a ton of club seats before opening up beer sales throughout the stadium since beer sales up there seemed to be one of the key selling points for the club level in the first place.

There will no doubt be some who are concerned about the environment at games, but I don’t think there will be an overly negative impact.

One of the big topics of debate over the years at UNT games has been people drinking in the parking lot and not coming in. Selling beer will help in that regard. I wouldn’t expect the hill where students hang out to empty out, though. The bottom line is that there are always going to be students who are more interested in the social aspect of hanging out on the hill than the game.

And like a couple of us were talking about in the office, the parking lot will always have the lure of cheep beer from Walmart and the Texas/Texas A&M/Oklahoma/Texas Tech game on TV as opposed to the higher-priced variety of beer in the stadium/the UNT game.

Dan McCarney and his team are doing a wiz-bang job of helping rectifying that problem. The Heart of Dallas Bowl win really helped boost UNT’s profile. McCarney and UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal meeting with freshmen has also really helped. There is pretty much no chance now that a young impressionable 18-year-old can sneak into college algebra without having the UNT fight song drilled into his head while being bear hugged by Scrappy.

Throw in a little beer and UNT may have a winning formula on its hands — and a Budweiser/Coors can.

UNT to sell beer at Apogee

UNT will begin selling beer at Apogee Stadium this fall, the school announced on Thursday.

Metzler’s Catering will handle the sale of beer at the venue. UNT applied for a license to sell alcoholic beverages throughout Apogee Stadium before it opened in 2011.

UNT will begin selling beer on the concourse level for its home-opener against SMU on Sept. 6.

UNT officials have yet to determine the size and containers in which beer will be sold in the stadium.

The school previously only sold beer in the club level of Apogee Stadium. UNT sold beer on a deck at Fouts Field, where access was also limited.

“We carefully studied all issues related to making beer available in Apogee Stadium, and from every angle, it makes sense,” UNT President Neal Smatresk said in a statement. “At UNLV, my experience was that selling beer helped to more carefully regulate alcohol consumption and encouraged more fans to watch the game in the stadium. It also cumulatively improved revenues and had no negative impact on the overall experience of all fans.”

UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said the school is hoping selling beer will help boost attendance and enhance the entertainment experience at UNT football games.

All revenue generated from the sale of beer will go to the UNT athletic department.