Conference USA media day running blog

Update 11:00 — The morning session, which had UNT’s coaches and players wrapped up a few minutes ago. Here are a few highlights:

– Dan McCarney called UNT’s incoming freshman class maybe the most athletic that he has brought in during his time at UNT.

– The quarterback race is wide open. When practice begins, Andrew McNulty and Josh Greer will rotate with the first and second teams. Dajon Williams and Connor Means will rotate with the third and fourth teams. UNT isn’t close to deciding who to go with at this point.

– McCarney, Lemon and Akunne all said that UNT is starting to develop an identity as a team. A few guys who were never leadership types in the past like Carlos Harris are moving into those roles after the departure of Zach Orr and guys like him.

– Reggie Pegram looks like he has fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of the last five games of last season. McCarney indicated that UNT will rotate backs again this year and that Antoinne Jimmerson still has some work to do.

– Lemon that UNT will always start with the base goal of winning six games, but he would like to win a conference title.

– Linebacker Sed Ellis and tight end Chris Loving are still suspended, but are working out on campus. They are not with the team. McCarney said he would decide before the beginning of two-a-days is both will be reinstated.

Update 8:50 — Executive playoff director Bill Hancock says that the playoff will not detract from Saturdays in college football.

Update 8:45 — C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said that the model for college athletics is under review and that change is on the horizon. The move to full cost of attendance scholarships is a change the league supports.

Today is the big day, or at least one of the big days leading up to UNT’s season opener at Texas. It’s Conference USA media day.

I will update the blog throughout the day with notes and tidbits.

Leading off — The one news item that I haven’t mentioned on the blog yet is that David Ash has been named the starter at Texas. That kills one of the interesting storylines of UNT’s season-opener — UNT taking on Texas with Guyer grad Jerrod Heard starting at quarterback for the Longhorns.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Heard at least sees the field in the opener, though.

I just ran into Dan McCarney, Cyril Lemon and Derek Akunne in the lobby. The trio will represent the Mean Green today during interviews later in the day. Lemon was named to the preseason all-conference team along with fellow guard Mason Y’Barbo.

3 UNT media-day storylines to follow: Can UNT build on a breakout season?

North Texas coach Dan McCarney will join offensive lineman Cyril Lemon and linebacker Derek Akunne at Conference USA media day on Wednesday in Dallas. (DRC/David Minton)

When: Wednesday, July 23

Where: DFW Marriott North

Who: Dan McCarney, LB Derek Akunne, OL Cyril Lemon

North Texas will enter its second season in Conference USA with the goal of proving that last year’s 9-4 season capped by a win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl was no fluke.

The Mean Green was flat loaded last season, when several of the better players in recent program history were seniors, including wide receiver Brelan Chancellor, linebacker Zach Orr, safety Marcus Trice, quarterback Derek Thompson and running back Brandin Byrd. Those key players led UNT to its first winning season since 2004 and just the third bowl win in program history. UNT will look to a few key veterans and a host of young players to help the Mean Green continue its rise under McCarney.

Two of those key veterans will represent UNT at media day. Cyril Lemon will start at guard for the fourth straight year and is on the watch lists for the Lombardi and Outland trophies. Akunne is headed into his third year as a starter.

Here are three storylines to keep an eye on when it comes to UNT.

1. Where does the quarterback race stand? UNT ended spring practice without making a whole lot of progress when it comes to picking a replacement for Thompson, the MVP of the Heart of Dallas Bowl and a three-year starter who threw for 7,447 yards in his career. UNT entered spring practice with four players in the hunt for the starting job before junior Andrew McNulty and JUCO transfer Josh Greer emerged as the top two candidates. Redshirt freshman Dajon Williams might have more talent than any of UNT’s quarterbacks, but was inconsistent and then suffered an ankle injury that prevented him from playing in the spring game. Despite that injury, McCarney and offensive coordinator Mike Canales said Williams will be involved in a three-way competition with McNulty and Greer this fall.

2. What is the status of players charged with theft in the off-season? Linebacker Sed Ellis and tight end Chris Loving were both charged with theft following an incident involving a pair of televisions at a Denton Walmart this summer. Both were suspended indefinitely. UNT lost six of its seven starters in its defensive front seven to graduation. Ellis was one of UNT’s few backups with experience and was listed as a co-starter after spring practice at one outside linebacker spot with Jamal Marshall. UNT has solid depth at tight end, but could use an extra weapon in Loving, a highly regarded JUCO prospect who has fought injuries since arriving at UNT. The Mean Green could use both this season. McCarney could provide an update on the status of both players.

3. Who will UNT’s playmakers be on offense? UNT lost a 1,000-yard rusher in Byrd and its top two wide receivers in Chancellor and Darnell Smith, who combined for 123 catches, 1,583 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Antoinne Jimmerson returns and is expected to start at running back, where UNT will also have Reggie Pegram. The Purdue transfer missed the last five games of the 2013 season with a knee injury and will be back this fall. Carlos Harris returns at wide receiver, but there is little doubt UNT needs some young players, including freshman Tee Goree of Carthage, to contribute.

UNT signees in action in tonight’s all-star game

Kishawn McClain and Jeffrey Wilson, who will both be freshmen at UNT this fall, will play for the South tonight in the Texas High School Coaches Association All-Star Game.

The game will be played at 7 p.m. at the Alamodome and will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest.

Wilson is a running back from Elkhart who rushed for 2,749 yards last season when he was the MVP of District 11-2A, Division I and a Class 2A all-state selection. Here is the story we wrote about Wilson when he committed to UNT.

UNT lost Brandin Byrd to graduation, but has Antoinne Jimmerson back and Reggie Pegram set to return from injury. Wilson looks like a redshirt candidate.

McClain is an interesting prospect who will play safety for the Mean Green. He was a two-way player and quarterback in high school. UNT plans to move McClain to safety this fall. He is listed as a linebacker on the roster for tonight’s game that includes a list of where all the players in the game are headed to college.

McClain could have a chance to play this fall, considering UNT’s situation at safety, where the Mean Green needs some help after the graduation of Marcus Trice. Matthew Dash, a JUCO safety out of California, could end up helping fill that void and give UNT a chance to redshirt McClain. It will all depend on what happens in two-a-days that start Aug. 5. Here’s the story we wrote when McClain committed that talks a little about what his role will be at UNT.

Some follow-up tidbits, look at where UNT stands in recruiting

It’s been an eventful couple of days on the recruiting front in the land of the Mean and the Green. Considering Friday Night Lights, UNT’s annual recruiting extravaganza, is this week, I’m sure UNT is just getting started.

And yeah, I’m actually sure that is the case.

With that being the case, this seems like a good time for a couple of follow-up notes on the two prospects who committed to UNT today and a look at where things stand (who’s committed).

The two prospects who committed to UNT today are Keller Central cornerback Taylor Robinson and Southwest Mississippi JC cornerback Zavian Bingham.

Bingham is has the more interesting/complicated back story. We went over the basics when it comes to Bingham on the blog earlier today.

Bingham is a Mississippi native and had a pretty good first year at Mississippi Gulf Coast, posting 20 tackles. He ended up running into some academic problems and transferred to Southwest. He has since done a terrific job in the classroom and boosted his GPA to 2.9, which is pretty darn good anyway one looks at it for someone playing a sport on the college level.

Bingham is a burner and has the kind of physical tools that could make him a really good player, if he can put it all together. That is the reason he had offers from quite a few schools at different points over the course of the last couple of years.

Middle Tennessee came in and picked up a commitment from Bingham, but UNT and new safeties coach Perry Carter put in the work to flip him. Bingham said that he felt like UNT made his a priority.

Bingham said his options other than UNT and MTSU when he committed were Troy and Utah State.

Playing time was a big selling point for Bingham. UNT has some good corners, but James Jones will be a senior this year. Kenny Buyers and Zac Whitfield will be juniors.

As far as Robinson goes, he was about as sure a UNT lock as one can imagine. Robinson is not only a solid mid-major prospect who wanted to stay close to home, he’s also close friends with UNT freshman defensive lineman T.J. Tauaalo.

UNT worked that connection, one we talked about in our on-going UNT recruiting target series, and landed a player who had offers from Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State.

And let’s not forget that UNT picked up a commitment from Allen offensive lineman Cody Wheeler just a few days ago.

This is what UNT’s commitment list looks like now:

Player Position School last attended
Rodney Bendy WR Tyler John Tyler
Zavian Bingham CB Southwest (Miss.) CC.
Nate Brooks CB Whitehouse
Cade Erwin S Flower Mound Marcus
Sam Miller DE Canton
Ashton Preston CB Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe
Taylor Robinson CB Keller Central
Cody Wheeler OL Allen

UNT is expected to go heavy on linemen in this class. The Mean Green lost pretty much everyone off its defensive line after last season and will lose two more in seniors Alexander Lincoln and Daryl Mason this year.

UNT will have the same issue this fall with its offensive line that will lose Mason Y’Barbo, Cyril Lemon and Antonio Johnson, not to mention Shawn McKinney, who might also start this fall. McKinney’s a pretty good player we often forget to talk about.

UNT will have a ton of key prospects in for its camp this week, including San Antonio guard Abdul Beecham, who we talked to not too long ago.

It’s been quite a run for UNT in the last few weeks. Stay tuned.

Taylor Robinson talks about decision to commit to UNT

UNT picked up a second commitment from a cornerback today when Keller Central’s Taylor Robinson elected to play for the Mean Green.

Robinson chose UNT over Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State.

We wrote about Robinson a while back in our on-going UNT recruiting target series

Robinson and UNT defensive lineman T.J. Tauaalo are close friends. Robinson described them as brothers.

Robinson talked with his parents and Tauaalo about his options and elected to commit.

“I felt like North Texas is my best option and I wanted to commit before the season,” Robinson said. “I talked to my parents and T.J. about it as well. I felt good about it.”

Robinson finished with nine interceptions last season and a first-team all-district pick in addition to being an honorable mention all-state selection.

Robinson was recruited by Perry Carter, who helped set up the reunion of the two old friends. Tauaalo posted hit picture of the two on the sidelines at Keller Central on his Twitter account today:

“It will be cool to play with T.J. again,” Robinson said. “We are really good friends.”

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

UNT lands JUCO corner (updated with player quotes)

UNT picked up a commitment from JUCO cornerback Zavian Bingham of Southwest Mississippi this morning, adding depth to a position where the Mean Green will have several players in the latter stages of their careers this season.

James Jones will be a senior this fall, while Kenny Buyers and Zac Whitfield will both be juniors.

“I talked to the coach and he told me about all the spots that are going to be available when I come in,” Bingham said. “I can start. I also like the program and where it’s headed.”

Here are a few of his highlights from Hudl

Bingham transferred to Southwest from Gulf Coast Community College this year.

“His greatest asset is his speed,” Southwest defensive backs coach Donald Dykes said. “The first time I clocked him I saw him run a 4.36. That is something you can’t coach. In terms of football, he has a lot to learn, but he can run.”

Bingham was committed to Middle Tennessee, but backed out of that pledge to commit to UNT.

New UNT safeties coach Perry Carter recruited Bingham.

“North Texas was recruiting me harder than Middle Tennessee and showing more interest,” Bingham said.

Bingham played for Terry High in Mississippi. He plans to visit UNT in the next few months.

See tomorrow’s edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle for more.

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.