DRC source: Former ASU WR interested in UNT

Former Guyer wide receiver Ellis Jefferson is leaving Arizona State as a graduate transfer. A source close to the situation said Wednesday night that he is interested in finishing his career at North Texas. (DRC file photo)

Former Guyer wide receiver Ellis Jefferson is leaving Arizona State as a graduate transfer. A source close to the situation said Wednesday night that he is interested in finishing his career at North Texas. (DRC file photo)

Jefferson

Jefferson

Ellis Jefferson, a former Denton Guyer standout, announced today that he is leaving Arizona State and will play his senior season as a graduate transfer.

There isn’t anyone as wired in when it comes to Guyer as Adam Boedeker, one of our high school writers at the DRC.

Adam checked in with some sources close to Jefferson. Sure enough, it appears as if Jefferson has interest in UNT.

The question now is if UNT has interest in Jefferson.

It’s never a good idea to read to much into situations in college athletics, but this just makes too much sense. UNT lost three of its top four wide receivers after last season. Jefferson is from Denton. Oh, and his brother will likely be one of Guyer’s top running backs next season.

Jefferson finished with two catches for 21 yards in 2016. He caught 23 passes for 304 yards in his first two seasons at ASU.

Jefferson could move right in and give UNT another weapon.

There is still a long way to go before we see where Jefferson lands, but UNT sure does make a lot of sense.

Chuck Langston top candidate for UNT OL job

Langston

Langston

North Texas is closing in on hiring a new offensive line coach.

A source with knowledge of the search told the Denton Record-Chronicle on Wednesday that Chuck Langston, a former Oklahoma player who previously served as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Lamar, is the top candidate for the job.

Langston spent four seasons at Lamar.  He was the Cardinals offensive line coach throughout his time at the school and served as its offensive coordinator the last two years.

Lamar allowed fewer than .5 sacks per game in 2015, when the Cardinals featured one of the top offensive lines on the FCS level. Lamar’s line also helped Kade Harrington.become just the seventh player in the history of Division I football to rush for 2,000 yards in only 10 games.

Langston was a three-year starter at Oklahoma. UNT coach Seth Littrell is also an Oklahoma product.

Langston started his career as a Texas high school coach before becoming the head coach at Trinity Valley Community College and Central Oklahoma, a Division II program.

Langton earned his master’s at OU in 1999, when Littrell was also at the school.

 

NFL scouting combine invites out, UNT getting close on another assistant

Conference USA NFL scouting combine invites

Player Position School
Trey Hendrickson Defensive end Florida Atlantic
Jonnu Smith Tight end Florida International
Carlos Henderson Wide receiver Louisiana Tech
Trent Taylor Wide receiver Louisiana Tech
Xavier Woods Safety Louisiana Tech
Larry Ogunjobi Defensive tackle Charlotte
Zach Pascal Wide receiver Old Dominion
Aaron Jones Running back UTEP
Hayden Plinke Tight end UTEP
Forrest Lamp Offensive lineman Western Kentucky
Taywan Taylor Wide receiver Western Kentucky

The NFL scouting combine invitations are out.

The chart at the top of this post is a list of Conference USA players who were selected.

Unfortunately, North Texas was passed over again this year. I am almost sure that Cody Spencer was the last player UNT had invited back after the 2003 season.

Spencer was also the last player UNT had selected. The Raiders took him in the sixth round in 2004.

Spencer went on to have a nice NFL career.

Just because a player is not invited to the combine does not mean that they will not be drafted, but it certainly doesn’t help. Patrick Cobbs, Zach Orr and Craig Robertson all went on to have good NFL careers after starting out as undrafted free agents.

UNT does not have many highly regarded prospects this year. The fact UNT won five games and made a bowl without having a senior worthy of a combine invite makes what Seth Littrell did in his first year with the program all the more remarkable.

Louisiana Tech had three players selected to lead C-USA. The Bulldogs have had seven players drafted since 2013 and had a first-round pick last year in Vernon Butler. They have also won bowl games in each of the last three years.

There is usually a correlation between top NFL prospects and team success.

Western Kentucky might have the top overall prospect from C-USA this year in offensive lineman Forrest Lamp.

UNT will break through eventually. Kishawn McClain may have a shot next year.

And in a side note, it sounds like UNT is getting close to filling one of its two remaining openings for an assistant coach.

Stay tuned.

UNT running back outlook for 2017: Can Wilson stay healthy?

North Texas will lean on senior running back Jeffery Wilson to power its offense next season. (DRC file photo)

North Texas will lean on senior running back Jeffery Wilson to power its offense next season. (DRC file photo)

Key returnees: Jeffery Wilson (senior), Andrew Tucker (senior), Anthony Wyche (junior)

Key losses: Willy Ivery (left program after failing to remain academically eligible)

Newcomers: Nick Smith (redshirt freshman), Tre Siggers (freshman), Evan Johnson (freshman)

Biggest unanswered question: North Texas has one of its top offensive weapons coming back in Wilson. The senior has been terrific throughout his time with the Mean Green, but has struggled to remain healthy. Wilson has never played a full season. He rushed for 936 yards and 14 touchdowns in 11 games last year. He missed three games after undergoing knee surgery. He enters his senior season with 1,909 career rushing yards.

Wilson’s struggles to remain healthy makes UNT’s backup job vitally important. The Mean Green lost their second-string running back when Ivery left the program. UNT could turn to Tucker, who rushed for 153 yards last season, as its second option. Another possibility is Smith, a player the Mean Green’s coaching staff has been high on since his arrival.

Why 2017 production could be better: There is always a chance that Wilson could remain healthy the entire year. Wilson has had a series of tough breaks throughout his career, including missing time with a broken finger. There is no reason this couldn’t be the year he is healthy throughout the season. Smith was also a highly regarded recruit, who could make an immediate impact. UNT coach Seth Littrell said late in the 2016 season that there were a few redshirt freshmen on the roster who would make an immediate impact in 2017. There is little doubt Smith is among those players.

Why 2017 production could be worse: Wilson has gone down in three straight seasons. It doesn’t seem like a stretch to think that he will miss time again as a senior. He carries a heavy load for UNT’s offense and isn’t the biggest running back at 193 pounds. The loss of Ivery was a key blow. He rushed for 489 yards and six touchdowns in his final season. Smith may have potential, but he isn’t a proven player like Ivery was.

Overall outlook: UNT’s running back situation hinges entirely on Wilson and his health. He is a solid Conference USA back when he is healthy. If UNT loses him for any length of time, it could be in some trouble.

Ivery was a perfect insurance policy. Without him, UNT is looking at an uncertain situation. Smith has a ton of potential, but isn’t a proven player like Ivery was.

Interesting tidbit on Texas-San Antonio, school president put on leave

Well, this could get interesting.

Texas-San Antonio president Ricardo Romo has been put on administrative leave for alleged misconduct, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

UTSA has quickly developed into one of UNT’s biggest rivals in Conference USA.

The Express-News is updating their story as new information comes in. Stay tuned.

UNT players begin offseason program

The North Texas football team began its offseason conditioning program this week.

College football is a year-round endeavor these days for coaches and players.

Each team’s strength and conditioning coach essentially runs the ship between the end of the season and the beginning of spring practice.

UNT strength coach Zack Womack is in charge to a large degree until the end of the month.

It’s an important part of the year that is overlooked at times.

UNT has a group of players who could really stand to put on some weight or improve their bodies in general. Quarterback Mason Fine really needs to get bigger to hold up to the pounding he takes.

Running back Jeffery Wilson has yet to play a full season in three years at UNT due to injuries. The next few weeks will be big for him as well.

The video at the top of this post is some video UNT put out of the first workout of the offseason.

It is something of a UNT tradition to declare through every offseason and every switch of conditioning coaches that the latest offseason was by far the best.

I highly doubt this one will be any different.

But that doesn’t lessen the importance of these next few weeks as UNT prepares for spring drills.

Monday night notes — UNT picks up deep snapper, et cetera

There are a few items of interest to come down in the last day in the world of North Texas athletics.

First off, deep snapper Nate Durham announced today that he has committed to UNT. He is a Marty Biagi recruit. Biagi took over as the Mean Green’s special teams coordinator a few days ago.

This is one of his first additions.

Be sure to check out Durham’s Twitter account, which has several highlight videos.

I will get into this more tomorrow, but point guard Ryan Woolridge was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Week today.

Woolridge averaged 13.5 points per game last week, when UNT snapped its 11-game losing streak with a win over Florida Atlantic.

Woolridge followed up A.J. Lawson, who won the award for the second time this season last week.

UNT quarterback outlook for 2017: Can Fine stay healthy?

North Texas quarterback Mason Fine launches a pass before being tackled by Texas-San Antonio linebacker Josiah Tauaefa in the Roadrunners win over UNT last season. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas quarterback Mason Fine launches a pass before being tackled by Texas-San Antonio linebacker Josiah Tauaefa in the Roadrunners win over UNT last season. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

Key returnees: Mason Fine (sophomore)

Key losses: Alec Morris (graduation)

Newcomers: Cade Pearson (freshman, Texarkana Texas High; Devlin Isadore (Navarro College)

Biggest unanswered question: There isn’t a bigger question for UNT heading into the second season of the Seth Littrell era than if Mason Fine can stay healthy and improve. Fine is undersized at 5-foot-11 and 173 pounds. He enjoyed a good freshman season while throwing for 1,572 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games, including nine he started. Fine was knocked out for the season with a shoulder injury in a loss to Western Kentucky late in the year. He will have to prove he can stay healthy and improve on his performance in his freshman season.

Why 2017 production could be better: Fine was thrown to the fire as a freshman and will benefit from the experience he gained. He had several solid games last season, including throwing for 303 yards in a loss to Middle Tennessee. UNT also has some intriguing players to push Fine, including Isadore and Pearson. Isadore was playing well at Navarro before suffering a knee injury that cut his season short, while Pearson was a standout high school player who will be around for spring practice.

Why 2017 production could be worse: When UNT lost FIne last year, it had an experienced player to turn to in Morris. The Alabama transfer came on and led UNT to a win over Southern Miss. That victory ended up being the one that vaulted UNT into the Heart of Dallas Bowl as a five-win team. UNT doesn’t have a proven player behind Fine like it did last season.

Overall outlook: UNT should be better at quarterback this year, as long as Fine remains healthy. He looks like the odds-on favorite to win the job. If Isadore or Pearson beat him out, that would be a testament to the talent whoever wins the job possesses. The place UNT could run into trouble is if Fine is lost due to injury for any length of time and its backups don’t come along quickly.

The Sunday leftovers

North Texas guard Terriell Bradley goes up for a layup in a win over Florida International on Saturday at the Super Pit. Bradley posted her first career double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

North Texas guard Terriell Bradley goes up for a layup in a win over Florida International on Saturday at the Super Pit. Bradley posted her first career double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Tomas Gonzalez)

After a brief break and a much needed — and extremely rare Saturday night off — we are back at it here on the blog.

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

The good news for UNT is that Jalie Mitchell’s women’s basketball team continues to come on. The Mean Green beat Florida International on Saturday. Brady Keane did a nice job filling in for me while I took the annual post signing day mental health break.

I have made this point in the paper more than once, but UNT is smack dab in the middle of the softest part of its Conference USA slate. The Mean Green are riding a three-game winning streak after knocking off Rice, Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

UNT’s run has boosted the Mean Green to 9-14 overall, but more importantly, 6-6 in Conference USA play. UNT went 5-13 in conference play last season.

UNT is sitting eighth in the C-USA standings. The top 12 teams will make the conference tournament. The point is that if UNT can continue to play well down the stretch, it will have a better seed and a chance to hang around for a while in the conference tournament.

UNT will face UTEP on Thursday in another winnable game. The Miners are in last place in the conference standings at 3-9.

The news is decided less positive for the UNT men’s basketball team. The Mean Green escaped last place in the C-USA standings with a win over Florida Atlantic last week.

They moved up into a tie with Florida International for a tie for last place. And then promptly got hammered by Florida International 90-71 to end up back where they started.

UNT is 1-11 and three games back of Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss in the win column for the last spot in the conference tournament.

While basketball is at the top of everyone’s minds at this time of the year, I also wanted to point out a milestone moment for the UNT tennis program from over the weekend.

Maria Kononova knocked off Lily Miyazaki of Oklahoma 6-2. 6-4 this week. Miyazaki was ranked No. 16 nationally at the time of the match. Kononova now has knocked off the highest ranked opponent in singles in program history.

That means a lot considering the UNT tennis team has some really good history under Sujay Lama.

And finally, the UNT softball team began its season over the weekend. We ran a little preview in the paper.

UNT finished last in the C-USA standings a year ago and missed the conference tournament that it hosted.

The Mean Green got off to a bit of a tough start by finishing 1-3 over the weekend in a tournament it hosted. UNT was whacked twice by Arkansas by a combined score of 18-0, but did manage to split with UMass-Lowell.

UNT won its lone game of its first tournament of the season 6-0.

Chalk talk — UNT at Florida International

North Texas guard J-Mychal Reese will lead the Mean Green when they look to win their second straight game today when they travel to Florida International. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

North Texas guard J-Mychal Reese will lead the Mean Green when they look to win their second straight game today when they travel to Florida International. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

North Texas at Florida International

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: FIU Arena

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1

Records: UNT 7-16, 1-10 Conference USA; FIU 5-19, 1-10 Conference USA

Last game: UNT 70, Florida Atlantic 64; Rice 89, FIU 78

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: J-Mychal Reese, 6-2, Sr. — Reese came up with one of the best games of his career at UNT in the Mean Green’s win over FAU. He scored 21 points and made a series of key plays down the stretch that helped UNT pull away. Reese is averaging a season-high 10.3 points per game and had 75 assists on the season.

G: Ryan Woolridge, 6-3, Fr. — Woolridge has started UNT’s last three games. He scored six points and handed out four assists in the Mean Green’s win over FAU. Woolridge is averaging 8.7 points per game and has 30 assists in 14 games.

G: A.J. Lawson, 6-5, Fr. — Lawson exploded for 31 points in a loss to Rice on Feb. 4 and has scored in double figures in three of UNT’s last four games. He scored 10 points in UNT’s win over FAU. Lawson has hit 14 of his last 16 free throws and is averaging 11.0 points per game

F: Shane Temara, 6-9, Jr. — Temara scored a career-high 18 points in UNT’s win over FAU and has scored in double figures in two of the Mean Green’s last three games. He is averaging 6.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

F: Derail Green, 6-7, Sr. — Green scored six points and his all four of his free throws in UNT’s win over FAU. He has scored just 14 points in the Mean Green’s last three games combined. Green is averaging 6.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

Scouting FIU: The Panthers have lost four straight heading into their showdown with UNT. FIU is led by a trio of players who are averaging double figures in scoring. Senior guard Donte McGill is averaging 19.2 points per game. Senior forward Michael Kessens is adding 13.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while senior guard Eric Nottage is adding 11.6 points per game.

What you need to know: UNT came out of nowhere to snap an 11-game losing streak and win just its second road game since the beginning of last season on Thursday when the Mean Green knocked off FAU.

The win lifted UNT out of sole possession of last place in the C-USA standings and into a tie for last with FIU.

UNT’s chances of making the C-USA tournament are slim. The Mean Green need wins in a hurry and will have one of their best chances to win another game before the end of the season when the take on the Panthers.

Reese was terrific for UNT down the stretch in its win over FAU, hitting a series of big shots.

What was largely overlooked was the play of Temara, who continues to come on. The senior scored 18 points in UNT’s win over the Owls.

If UNT can knock off FIU, the door would be open for a late run. The Mean Green will play four straight at home after taking on the Panthers.